The Filipino-American Press Club and other groups held a prayer vigil and press conference at the Consulate General of the Philippines on Fifth Avenue in Midtown for Randy Gener, an out gay Filipino-American arts journalist who was attacked in the early morning hours of January 17. The January 27 event was at times uplifting, with gospel singing and multi-denominational prayer drawn from Muslim, Protestant, and Catholic liturgy, representing a range of Filipino expressions of faith.
Speaking to the nearly 100 people in attendance, the consul-general of the Philippines in New York, Ambassador Mario de Leon, called Gener someone who “lends his support to others,” adding that he is a “valuable member of the Filipino-American community, a good friend, and a world-class talent.” He read a statement from José L. Cuisia Jr., the Filipino ambassador to the United States, which said in part, “This despicable crime has caused much sadness and uneasiness in the Filipino-American community, especially in media circles.”
Father Julian Jagudilla of Midtown’s Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, originally from the Philippines, was among the speakers at the program. He said his church had taken a stand beginning last year against what it saw as an increase in violence against gay men in New York City, commenting, “Our Catholic faith commands us to protect the lives and dignity of all people,” adding, “Every act of gay-bashing or violence against homosexuals because they are gay or lesbian is a sin and a crime against human dignity.”
At second vigil for gay journalist recovering from brutal assault, family emphasizes hate motivation for crime not definitively established
It is still unclear whether the attack against Gener was a bias crime, a point Gener’s sister, Jessica Blair-Driessler, addressed during the press conference.
“We are not 100 percent sure,” Blair-Driessler said, adding, “It is a possibility, but because I don’t know myself, it wouldn’t be a fair representation to label it so. So I think at this stage we are keeping our minds open to more than labeling the situation, but rather to finding out the truth of what took place.”
At a rally the evening before, Blair-Driessler said a member of the NYPD’s Community Affairs Bureau LGBT liaison team was on hand and had spoken to her.
Stephen Nisbet, Gener’s partner of 19 years and husband for the past two, said that when police found Gener, “He had all of his possessions, everything,” which is part of what has fueled suspicions that the attack was a hate crime.
Blair-Driessler and Nisbet both indicated they did not know who called 911 to report finding Gener, Blair-Driessler explaining, “The police will have it, but we don’t.” The police had also not explained how they were able to come up with a sketch of the perpetrator released that morning, 10 days after the crime, she said. Still she said that the release of the sketch and a description of a gray, four-door Nissan with Mississippi license plate number KAT397 meant “the investigation has picked up and they are making great strides, even today, in uncovering this mystery.”
The NYPD has not responded to a Gay City News request for information about how the information on the suspect was developed.
During the press conference, Nisbet detailed circumstances about the evening of the attack, saying that Gener was returning home from the opening night party of the play “Machinal” in Times Square, a performance delayed due to technical difficulties. Gener’s last Facebook post before the attack was a photo of himself at the party with Maria-Christina Oliveras, one of the play’s stars. Nisbet said the delayed opening explained the late hour of Gener’s return, with the 911 call to police happening after 2 a.m. The site of the attack at 840 Seventh Avenue near 54th Street is cattycorner from their apartment and visible from the lobby door. Nisbet said that the EMS on the scene came immediately to their apartment after noting the address in Gener’s wallet.
The brain surgery following the attack, aimed at easing pressure resulting from the trauma to the head, involved a four-hour operation at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital in Hell’s Kitchen, according to Nisbet.
Blair-Driessler said what makes Randy’s current condition difficult for the family is that, “he’s been really the rock of our family, especially since our mother died,” as he is the oldest of four children. “It’s been difficult not being able to see him be that rock, so to speak, for the family, so we have had to carry that torch.”
She added that she was “stunned, grateful,” that so much money was raised so quickly for Gener’s medical care. “We realize that it is going to be a long road to recovery and we are very grateful to the generosity,” she said.
While the family did not want to talk at the press conference in detail about Gener’s current condition and prospects for full recovery, Nisbet said that he believes the vigils and other attention toward Gener’s attack and current condition are helping him to heal.
“I have come from massaging my husband in the hospital,” he said. “He has been on his back for ten days,” and for the first time had turned over that day.
“He is being healed and he is getting better and better,” Nisbet added, saying, “I thank you for that, because I truly believe he is being healed by these prayers.”
The family will hold a fundraiser on February 23 at the Filipino restaurant the Purple Yam Filipino (purpleyamnyc.com) on Cortelyou Road in Brooklyn, with more details to follow.
The family has set up a charity link to raise funds for Randy Gener’s care at youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/for-randy-gener/130589.
Information about the crime can also be reported anonymously to the police department at 1-800-577-TIPS. The Anti-Violence Project’s bilingual hotline is 212-714-1141 and its website is avp.org.