Gemmel Moore. Timothy Dean. These are the names of two Black, queer men found dead in a white, gay man’s apartment.
I’m an advocate for victims of sexual violence and a white, queer person, and I’ve seen this story get some traction in some places on my social media feeds. But it hasn’t been enough, mainstream media has covered it only minimally, and not enough of us in the queer communities are naming sexual violence as a central issue to what is happening here.
We need to actively name the sexual violence, racism, classism, and homophobia that have conspired here to harm and kill Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean, and that have so far prevented any accountability through the criminal justice system.
If you’re still unfamiliar with the story, this is what has happened:
On August 7, 2017, WeHo Times published a breaking report about Gemmel Moore’s death and the LA County Coroner’s report that it was an accidental overdose.
LaTisha Nixon says she learned that her son, who was unemployed, had recently been doing sex work. She told the WeHo Times that her son’s friend was also engaged in similar activity—and that they had a client in common.
“When he calmed down, he told me that Ed Buck was one of my son’s clients and that Ed Buck was one of his clients as well,” Nixon said. “[Buck] would have my son to go out to… Santa Monica Boulevard looking for young gay Black guys so he could inject them with drugs, see their reaction and how [they] would react and take pictures of them.”
The lack of traction this was receiving through the criminal justice system did not go over well in the local community. On August 25, the LA Times explored ways race and class impacted the investigation:
Moore was 26, Black and poor. He had been homeless and had worked as an escort. Buck was 62, white and wealthy, a well-known figure in LGBTQ political circles.
Now, Moore’s family and friends — who have questioned whether the drugs that killed him were self-administered — are wondering whether those differences in race, class and connections factor into how the investigation into his death is being handled.
About a year and a half later, with Buck facing no court action for Moore’s death, another black man was found dead in Buck’s apartment. On January 7, 2019, the Advocate reported the developing story Timothy Dean (who hadn’t yet been identified) was found dead in Ed Buck’s apartment:
Since Moore’s death was classified as an accidental overdose, numerous young Black gay men have alleged that Buck has a fetish for shooting drugs into Black men he picks up off the street or on hookup sites. Moore had written about Buck injecting him with dangerous drugs before his death.
On January 11, NBC News published an interview with Jasmyne Cannick, who has consistently covered the story since Gemmel Moore was found dead in Ed Buck’s apartment. Transgender activist Ashlee Marie Preston also contributed insight. Cannick and Preston put into context the lack of attention this story was getting in mainstream media, and offered explanations for racism and other factors that have impacted the narrative:
“Our stories aren’t told and our lives are seen as expendable. It’s very easy to write off someone who dies of a drug overdose who was working as a sex worker, but Gemmel was as much a part of our community as the many other young men like him,” said Cannick, who like both Moore and Dean is Black and gay. “It may not be pretty, but white gay men taking advantage of young black men in our community is not unusual—it’s just not talked about in mainstream America.”
“There’s a larger story there that people aren’t looking at, Preston said. “It’s really about money, power, chemsex culture, and raceplay, and it’s this underground thing that many people aren’t talking about, and essentially it’s murder rebranded.”
There are a lot of sexual violence topics at play in Moore’s and Dean’s stories: racism and sexual violence, classism and sexual violence, abuse and hookup apps, the vulnerability of sex workers, issues of housing and sexual violence, addiction and sexual violence, and more. We need to know and remember the names Gemmel Moore and Timothy Dean. We also need to know that their stories are not isolated incidents.
Queer fam, it can be uncomfortable to take a look into our own communities and acknowledge where sexual violence is going unchecked. How can it be that we’ve found safety and liberation where some of us find abuse and exploitation? Part of the discomfort in addressing violence in our communities comes from the harm we’ve endured from the big lie that our queerness is bad. It isn’t, but sexual violence is part of every community, including ours. Young, poor, Black, gay men are dying, and so are others on the margins of LGBTQ communities.
The queer ancestors would want us to remember that Silence = Death and speak out about this violence in our communities.