A Teen Lesbian Couple Is Shot and Left For Dead: What Matters Most Now Is How We Respond

On Friday night, as the LGBT community and their allies celebrated Pride throughout the nation, a teenage lesbian couple in Texas were both shot in the head and left to die. Mollie Judith Olgin, 19, died from her wounds, and Mary Christine Chapa, 18, is in serious but stable condition after surgery.

The women were shot in a park in Portland, Texas. They lay in knee-deep grass for nine hours before being discovered by visitors to the park.

Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten and left to die in 1998, fourteen years ago.

At this point police have no leads on a suspect, but are saying that the attack appears to have been targeted.

The teenage couple had been openly dating for five months. In MSNBC video coverage of the story, friends stated that they were at a loss as to who would do harm to the couple, and that the two girls faced no open discrimination while they were dating.

The MSNBC online coverage broke last night and spread like a wildfire of heartache across social networks. It’s impossible to look at the picture of the two women and imagine the horror that befell them.

Matthew Shepard was attacked and left for dead in 1998.

Mollie and Mary were attacked and left for dead last Friday, June 22nd, 2012.

So much has changed in the United States between 1998 and 2012, and yet the similarities between the tragedies are undeniable.

What is different between 1998 and 2012 – what has to be believed to be different – is how we collectively respond to such a tragedy.

Activists in the LGBT community – and, really, any organized community that faces discrimination – have learned that it is important for there to be a swift and clear response and raising of awareness about these acts. Awareness coupled with public mourning, grief and a demand for justice are necessary.

Cleve Jones, a protégé of Harvey Milk, sent out word on Facebook last night – announcing a vigil to be held in San Francisco on Wednesday, and encouraging communities around the country to also gather locally.

The world has changed so much for LGBT youth in America since 1998. But even all of that change cannot stop a hateful and violent individual from committing such a disgusting act. It breaks my heart, but no matter how much work has been done to make the world better, nothing accomplished could protect those two girls that awful night.

What we can do in the wake of such tragedy is to make clear that such evil, such careless disconcern for two teenage women, does not occur without our notice.

The only way we can make this 2012 situation different from the 1998 heartbreak is in our response. In a collective and loud and unified public statement that this matters. That the lives of Mollie and Mary matter. That no one should face the horror that they did. That communities, regardless of political leanings, will not allow such hate to occur without outcry and outrage.

Mollie and Mary matter. The story of what happened to them matters. What we do now in response matters. The only potential for progress between 1998 and 2012 is now in our collective hands.

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  • laura80

    This story has striking similarity to the murder of Rebecca Wight: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rebecca_Wight


  • coralsea

    This is terrible.  That anyone should meet such a tragic fate is horrible.  That two young women, who are just beginning their lives should be attacked like this is outrageous — especially if it proves to be a hate crime. 


    My prayers are with Mollie–may she be at peace wherever she is–and with Mary.  I so fervently hope that she can somehow survive this and be able to live the rest of her life in happiness.


    While it is true that hate is toxic for the haters as well as the persons who are targeted, we cannot forget who the real, innocent victims are here: these two young women.  The hate rhetoric bandied about has consequences, and those who make such remarks as well as the people who brush them off as mere bluster, need to consider just what may well be at stake. 


    Unstable people can and do take hate messages to heart, and they do things they might not otherwise do.  We need to call out the hate-mongers for their utterances.  This isn’t a matter of trying to stiffle free speech, it’s a matter of making clear to those who make hate statements that there are consequences and that people who don’t agree with them are watching.  (Note: by consequences I DO NOT mean violence against them).  


    What is hate speech? I might not agree with the comment, “Gay people are sinful,” but it’s an opinion, and although I don’t agree and I might SAY that I don’t agree, it isn’t hate speech.   But when comments evolve into statements such as “Gays should not be tolerated,” this should (depending on context) considered bordering solidly on hate speech, and we need to call out the speakers and ask them just what they are trying to do by making such comments?  If they don’t realize that such rhetoric can have consequences, such as actual, violent attacks on persons who are gay or who their attackers believe are gay, then perhaps letting them know that such links are there will cause them to tone down their rhetoric.   However, if they do realize the consequences and either don’t care or willfully hope that violence will occur, then legal or political remedies should be sought–and the speakers should know that they will be sought–so that if their words are converted into conduct, they, too, will suffer consequences.

  • coralsea

    I followed the link and read the sad, dispassionately told story about an incident that is, indeed, similar to this new incident.  One has to wonder how often crimes like this, by people who are “offended” by the concept of homosexuality, are committed.  I would expect that there are many that occur that are never reported for what they are, either because the police didn’t figure it out or out of “respect” to the families.   I also wonder whether anyone has escaped arrest, prosecution, or punishment because the victims were gay?  I expect this has happened too, although I hope not within the last few decades.


    Awful, awful crimes that simply add to the “usual” carnage from robberies, heterosexual lover’s quarrels, family disputes, and the like.


    Too many guns floating around, in my opinion. (Guns just make it that much easier to kill someone, and unlike a baseball bat [yes — I know the argument, baseball bats can be used to kill people, too, so why don’t we outlaw them, too?  Huh?  Huh?], if you swing it at your target and miss, the bat isn’t going to kill a grandmother or a two-year-old sitting on a porch a block away.)  Sorry for the rant — but I tossed it in.  Deal with it if you don’t agree (this is my opinion, but I’m not going to threaten you if you don’t agree).

  • meadowgirl

    i live in Corpus Christi. sadly, there is still homophobia but hate crimes aren’t the norm. thank you for finally showing these girls as more than just “teen lesbians shot”. people here won’t stand for this kind of hate crime happening. South Texas is my now home, i grew up in Northern Cali outside of SF/Oakland. a lot of people here don’t think being gay is ok, but i have a hard time seeing people actively being horrible to LGBT here. i’m devastated. i hope there is justice for them. they deserve it. i hope the rest of the USA realizes we need help down here.

  • tanene-allison

    meadowgirl – thank you for your comment. i fully agree that the stereotypes about texas are often uninformed and biased. i think that there is a lot of anti-gay sentiment in the state – but also that most average citizens in the state would never want to see any such harm being done to anyone and are outraged and sadenned by what happened. there’s a rally organized in portland on friday evening, if you’re interested in joining up with those who support the sentiments you wrote about.


  • coralsea

    I have done a lot of work in Texas and, as the previous commenter says, even though it has some very outspoken conservatives, it also has some of the coolest most interesting people I’ve ever met.   For every nasty little town (and you can find them in every state), you will find other places that are wonderfully embracing of others.  As horrible as this crime was, perhaps it will at least help like-minded people to join together and convince some of those who have never really spoken out against hate to do so. 

  • bj-survivor

    And this heartbreaking, enraging, stupid fucking bullshit is the reason that I am not only atheist but antitheist. How many more people have to be senselessly murdered because of groundless belief in edicts of an illusory omniscient, omniprescent, supposedly all-loving being? The fallacy of holding faith as a virtue foments a runaway trainwreck that has no limit. It has fueled, throughout the centuries, egregious genocide and unbelievable cruelty – pogroms, inquisitions, witch hunts, etc., ad nauseum. It should be to no one’s surprise that the most secular nations are also the ones with the best standards of living for all, the best records in regards to civil rights and equal treatment, poverty, etc., ad nauseum. Religion provides stealthy cover to the despot. Reason, empathy, and compassion, on the other hand, are the natural enemy of the tyrant.

  • bj-survivor

    I look at this picture and I see two people who seem to be very much in love. That, to me, is a thing of beauty, of joy, of bliss. It is something to be celebrated, not denigrated. It’s unfathomable…Except that I am 99.9999999% certain that the waste-of-oxygen who cold-bloodedly executed these beautiful young lovers considers himself a “Christian.”