(National edition)
May 24, 1996

Doug Saunders

Life harsh for teens in drag
Slayings shock sexual outcasts

TORONTO - For teen-agers Shawn Keegan and Chad Vivian, the streets and haunts of Toronto offered a close friendship, an independent life and the chance to dress as fabulous, beautiful women.

Bored with school and alienated by family life, the two young men left home to make their way to Toronto's lively drag-queen community, estimated by some to be the third largest in North America.

While they craved moments of on-stage beauty and glamour, they quickly learned that most of Toronto's tranvestites live difficult, impoverished lives, shunned by many mainstream gays and most heterosexuals and subject to random hateful violence.

The challenges of transvestite life brought the two teen-agers together last September, and Mr Vivian (known simply as Vivian) gave Mr. Keegan lessons in lipstick, bust-padding and other secrets of drag-queen beauty. At 19, they were friends, lovers and struggling street kids.

Eight months later, Mr. Keegan is dead, the victim of an unknown murderer who shot three prostitutes, two of them transvestites, on Monday night.

Like many drag queens, Mr Keegan -- known to his friends as Junior -- led a difficult life that included bouts of homelessness, drug use, illness and prostitution. But none of his friends considered murder a possibility.

"I've never felt my life at risk," Vivian said in an interview yesterday, wearing a high-cut floral dress and deep-red lipstick. "You certainly can't get away with this in Newfoundland, where I went to highschool, but Toronto is a very safe place."

Indeed, the city of Toronto has become a magnet for young sexual outcasts from across Canada, who are drawn by the city's relatively liberal standards, large affluent homosexual community and comparatively tolerant population.

Many drag queens perform in the bars and cabarets of Church and Wellesley streets, north of Maple Leaf gardens.

A drag queen known as Mallory gets a makeover with the help of Paddy Aldridge, owner of a Toronto store catering to cross-dressers. The city has one of the largest transvestite communities in North America. (Fred Lum/ The Globe and Mail).

(p. A5)

Toronto a magnet for outcasts

But police and neightbourhood pressures have forced the transsexual prostitutes eastward to Transvestite Alley, as it is known, along the tree-lined residential streets such as Homewood Avenue, where Mr. Keegan's body was found.

Mr. Keegan was forced into a dangerous and marginal existence during his final year, in spite of his taste for glamour and style.

He had lived with dozens of other street youth in a downtown Toronto squat (an abandoned building converted into a make-shift home) until they were evicted two weeks ago. Then he turned to prostitution, spending evenings on Transvestite Alley. The area where transvestites ply their trade is between Wellesley and Carlton Streets.

"He was just a kid, and he really wanted to be a performer," said Joanne Amos, manager of Pembroke Residences, a low-rent rooming house where Mr. Keegan had briefly stayed. "I know for sure that he had only been on the stroll [selling his body] for three days."

Vivian said he was also forced to work the streets four years ago, but had never encountered the threat of death.

"I've never heard of this kind of behaviour before. When I was working the streets, you didn't have to think about getting killed. I knew there were a lot of sick people out there, but I didn't worry about getting shot or anything like that."

More common were gangs of suburban teen-agers who drive into Toronto to beat and abuse men who appear to be gay or transvestite. Such incidents have become increasingly common in recent years, social workers say.

Nevertheless, Toronto is still considered one of the few places in Canada where homosexuals and sexual outcasts can live in relative safety.

"There's more safety in Toronto, and more hope for the possibility of freedom and space for sexual minorities," said Gary Kinsman, a Laurentian University sociologist who has studied the history of homosexual life in Canada.

"Still, there's a dilemma: Just as sexual minorities have become culturally accepted by many people and legally protected in Canada, at the same time you have these voices of hate and intolerance appearing."

There is another dilemma faced by transvestites (men who dress as women) and transsexuals (who have made efforts, surgical or hormonal, to become women): While drag queens are admired and celebrated as performers by many in the comparatively affluent mainstream gay community, they are just as often shunned and rejected.

"Even though it was cross-dressers and 'swishes' who first fought for homosexual rights in the sixties, many gays now reject them because they wear the clothes of an inappropriate gender. An unfortunate macho attitude has developed."

And gay prostitutes are especially at risk, since police and neighbourhood pressures have forced prostitutes into increasingly remote and dangerous neighbourhoods.

Some social workers blame the more conservative mainstream gay community for moving prostitution into the margins. "The gay community has to take responsibility for pushing the stroll eastward," Anastasia Kusic of the Sex Trade Workers' Alliance of Toronto told reporters yesterday.

For some politicians, the three murders bolster the argument that soliciting for prostitution should not be a criminal act. Toronto Mayor Barbara Hall said yesterday at a press conference: "People who society considers outlaws or outsiders are forced into very vulnerable positions."

But for most of the transvestites in downtown Toronto, Monday night's killings are simply a terrifying and inexplicable addition to an already difficult life.

"I was completely horrified when I learned of the death the next morning," Vivian said. Junior was a very warm and special person. I didn't know him a really long time, but long enough to give him my heart."

The two had planned to perform together at a gay cabaret next weekend, where they hoped to sing a favourite song, Madonna's Give Me One More Chance. Now Vivian said through tears, he will have to sing the song alone.

Profile suggests killer 'on a mission'

Sean Silcoff

TORONTO - The killer of three prostitutes on Monday night was like a man "on a mission" who is between 25 and 35 years of age, lives and works in the area of Carlton and Jarvis Streets and is equally repelled by and drawn to prostitutes an expert in criminal profiling says.

John Douglas, the former chief of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's investigative support unit and one of the foremost criminal personality profilers in the United States, made the assessment yesterday after hearing a description of the publicized facts of the killings.

Mr. Douglas, 50, also said the killer was likely someone who had lectured prostitutes about their profession in the past.

"There's no remorse here. He's doing a community service, in his mind, his way of thinking. ...This person is on a mission. He decided on this night ... there had to be some kind of conflict [based on] some trigger, some interaction he had with these types of people in the very immediate past."

Police say Thomas Wilkinson, 31, Shawn Keegan, 19, and Brenda Ludgate, 25, were all shot in the head with the same gun within three hours on Monday night. The bodies of Mr. Wilkinson and Mr. Keegan, both transvestites, were found on Homewood Avenue in the area known as Tranvestite Alley. Ms. Ludgate was found in a parking lot near Bathurst and King Streets.

Police said yesterday that they have no new leads in the shootings. The killer "doesn't just come out of the suburbs. He circulates in this area," Mr. Douglas said. "He's made contact with other prostitutes in the past, maybe lecturing them, trying to clean up the city or the neighbourhood. ... He would have been on foot, walking around" the areas where the crimes were committed.

Mr. Douglas speculated that the person behind the "assassin style, spree killing" has had sex with prostitutes in the past. "You usually find that, then at some point they get on the [antiprostitution] bandwagon."

He suggested that the suspect could kill again, particularly if police don't come up with any leads. Investigators should concentrate on "developing sources within the community" -- in particular, other prostitutes who may have come in contact with the killer, he said.

Mr. Douglas and other experts said the suspect probably should not be called a serial killer. Most serial killers don't use firearms, instead choosing a more personal way of carrying out the killing, such as strangulation, said Jack Levin, professor of sociology at Northeastern University in Boston and the author of three books on serial killers.

The crimes of serial killers are the realization of a "sexually charged sadistic grudge" in which they act out of "fantasies of vengeance" against a target group of people "they feel has denied them what they want," Elliott Leyton, a professor of anthropolgy at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the author of Hunting Humans: The Rise of the Modern Multiple Murderer.

"Every serial killer chooses a group they are mad at and prostitutes are among the classic victims of these kinds of killers," said Mr. Leyton, who would not comment specifically on the Toronto cases.

Mr. Douglas also speculated that the killer is a "suspicious, non-trusting" and nocturnal individual who was probably off work the night of the crimes.

The killer was likely agitated, angry, and possibly under the influence of alcohol at the time, subject to "a triggering impetus to have him go out on his ... blitz-style attack."

But he is also "bright enough" to choose an ideal time for the killings, Mr. Douglas said. All three victims were shot in the same time period as Victoria Day fireworks and rolls of thunder filled the sky.

"There is a sense to his nonsense. He picked a very good day to shoot a weapon."

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Created: May 29, 1996
Last modified: February 8, 1997

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