Unfortunately, horrific tragedies hit LGBTQ families as well. We are not exempt from heinous attacks, poverty, urban malaise, or gang violence. At a Halloween party in 2009, DePaul University honors student and senior, Frankie Valencia, Jr., was murdered by local gang members. No, he was not a gang member. He was a young, committed humanitarian trying to better the world.
It was yet another senseless murder (of the hundreds that kill our Latino and African-American men each year) in the city of Chicago. Why do we continue to prey upon one another? When will we learn that we are sometimes the problem that we complain about? Now, instead of being the next brilliant mind that effects positive change in society, Frankie Valencia, Jr. will be remembered as the beautiful son with all of the unrealized potential, while he leaves behind his two moms, his father, and brother (his biological parents were divorced when he was younger and he was raised in the home by Joy and Siu, his lesbian parents and co-parented by his biological father). It is wonderful to see that all of the parents raised him and that they didn’t succumb to the kind of post- heterosexual divorce drama that sometimes disconnects and fragments the children in LGBT homes. It is important that I clarify who his whole family is because oftentimes, the media glosses over who our families are and it is situations like this that can add insult to injury. Even if a parent is not a biological parent, it does not mean that they are not parents. Parents are the people who have raised you and loved you. Sometimes, it has very little to do with eggs and sperm. That is not what makes a family. It’s more beautiful, textured and committed than that. Frankie was lucky enough to have three parents who loved and supported him.
Hopefully, the mainstream media will acknowledge not only the horror of the tragedy, but the reality of our families. LGBT families are dynamic and complex and we will not remain invisible. We are here and as illustrated in this tragic story, we experience the same joys and pains as other families. Joy McCormack said her family plans to start an organization called Chicago’s Citizens for Change to help the city fight gangs by introducing a curriculum in Chicago Public Schools that includes classes on nonviolence, humanity and social service. Their new organization will also create a Web site where parents can find information on afterschool programs, counseling and support. McCormack was quoted as saying “The police alone can’t save our children — we have to. We need to stand up and take action.” I couldn’t agree with her more.
Rest in peace, Frankie Valencia, Jr. and our deepest condolences to his parents, Siu Moy, Joy McCormack, and Francisco Valencia, Sr.
Note: On September 29, 2010, one of the suspects (who provided the gun for the murder) was convicted of first degree murder. The perpetrator is awaiting trial. May justice be fully served.