Samy Nemir-Olivares, a prominent LGBTQ activist, district leader and candidate for Assembly District 54, was verbally attacked with an anti-gay slur during a fundraiser last week that took place over Zoom. The individuals responsible for the attack have yet to be identified.
Nemir-Olivares, a Puerto Rican-Dominican, queer candidate, would be the first openly gay Assembly member of color and the first genderqueer person in the state legislature. Because Nemir-Olivares is genderqueer and an advocate in furthering LGBTQ rights, many on the call viewed the incident as a targeted attack aimed squarely at Nemir-Olivares’ identity.
The attack began with loud, explicit music being played by an unmuted account on the call. When the host of the call – a member of Nemir-Olivares’ team – attempted to mute the account, the account in question began unmuting itself, according to Nemir-Olivares. While this occurred, an account wrote in the Zoom chat “F— you.”
After this exchange, Nemir-Olivares announced their decision to cancel the call, saying they would form a new call. This promoted the malicious account to unmute and voice an anti-gay slur directed at Nemir-Olivares, saying “f— you, you f—king f—-t,” according to those on the call.
“Even if you do not agree with my political views, with my being, who gives a license to someone to be such an intrusion and attack?” said Nemir-Olivares.
According to Andy Praschak, an activist who has worked on multiple campaigns for LGBTQ candidates in New York and a member of the advisory council of Equality NY, homophobic attacks are not new in New York City politics. Praschak was on the call last week when the attack occurred, and while he is a supporter of Nemir-Olivares, he does not work for their campaign.
“I’ve been a queer/gay activist for over 40 years. It’s never something you get used to, but it’s always something that’s out there,” said Praschak. “I’ve seen these kinds of harassment remarks, hate speech, ebb and flow over the years, but it is definitely something that’s increasing now.”
Praschak said he sees the attack during the call as emblematic of a larger trend of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and action by far right, white nationalist movements growing in popularity across the nation.
In 2021, more than 250 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced to state legislatures across the United States, with 17 being enacted into law – the most in recent history, according to Human Rights Campaign (HRC). These bills, according to HRC, do not originate from local legislators, but rather from a coordinated push from anti-LGBTQ organizations.
The HRC also found that the past year set another tragic record, with the country seeing the murders of at least 50 transgender or gender non-conforming people, the highest yearly number of homicides since the organization began keeping track in 2013.
In September, two men were attacked in a Bushwick bodega, suffering numerous injuries after being stabbed and called anti-gay slurs. According to Gay City News, one of the suspects allegedly said “I don’t f— with f—-ts” before allegedly assaulting the two victims with a glass bottle and a screw driver. A rally in response to the attack was held days later in Bushwick.
As new waves of coronavirus variants continue to sweep across New York, new forms of campaigning have been adopted and implemented. But some believe that the protections put in place for candidates have not caught up to the rapidly evolving campaign landscape.
“I’m very surprised. I haven’t heard about any others condemning this,” said James Foley, a supporter of Nemir-Olivares who attended the event. “If that would have been in person, the police would have been called, there might have been pictures being taken.”
“Where are the protections for a candidate, where’s the accountability?”
At present time, the incident has not been reported to the police. Instead, Nemir-Olivares decided to report the incident to their supporters on Twitter.
“Different openly gay candidates treat situations like this differently. Some choose not to raise it for a couple different reasons, not to put it out to the public,” said Praschak. “But others, like Samy, choose to put it right out there. That’s this new generation of young people, [they are] choosing to put it right out there and deal with it.”
“A lot of my activism comes from being bullied for being gay when I was in middle school. So I have a lot of experience with bullying and attacks,” said Nemir-Olivares. “What you do is you try to divert, reduce the significance, and also suppress some of the emotions, but it’s not healthy.”
“And that’s why I continue the events, because we are unstoppable, we’re here for a larger, greater purpose, and we cannot give them power over us. I’m not going to be intimidated.”
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article stated that Nemir-Olivares would be the “first LGBTQ Assembly member of color. In fact, Nemir-Olivares would be the first openly gay Assembly member of color and the first genderqueer person in the state legislature. The correction was made on Jan. 7 at 9:24 a.m.
Featured Image: Samy Nemir-Olivares (right) with Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso (left). Credit: Jackson Schroeder.
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