PORTLAND, Maine — A Portland woman said she has struggled to understand why someone mailed an anonymous homophophic letter to her home — one of several received by area residents last week that police are calling a hate crime.
She and her partner, who moved here in 2019, aren’t exactly obvious targets. They identify as queer but don’t outwardly display LGBTQ signs or emblems on their house or car, while neighbors who post Pride emblems publicly did not receive hate mail.
“We’re pretty freaked out,” said the woman, who didn’t want to be identified.
The Brighton Avenue victim was one of at least seven in Portland and South Portland who received targeted anti-LGBTQ letters last week, according to police. The letters included a homophobic death threat and a rendering of the Satanic Temple logo over a rainbow Pride flag.
Police are investigating the letters as criminal terrorizing, which rises to the level of a hate crime. There were 19 federal hate crimes in Maine in 2019, seven of those related to sexual orientation, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“I feel like it’s someone who has been in close enough proximity to me and my partner that they know that we’re queer,” she said.
She doesn’t know the other victims who received letters but said a straight couple who flies the Pride flag in support of the LGBTQ community was among those targeted.
Another baffler was the “convoluted” use of the Satanic Temple logo.
“My first reaction was that it was pretty dumb. I started laughing because these people don’t know that the Satanic Temple are huge supporters of LGBTQ rights,” she said.
The victim or her partner has no affiliation with the Satanic Temple, who did not return a request for comment.
On Friday, Portland Mayor Kate Snyder and all eight city councilors denounced the acts.
“I stand with my fellow LGBTQ community and I condemn this act of hate as a city councilor, as a gay man, as a resident, and as a human being,” Councilor Andrew Zarro said. “To those who respond ‘this doesn’t happen here,’ I ask you to challenge why you believe such a notion. This type of threat happens to our community daily, and we have been conditioned to expect it every time we leave our homes and enter the world. These malicious threats were delivered to the homes of Portland and South Portland residents, and we must reject this hate from our communities, and lead with compassion and empathy toward a brighter, more inclusive tomorrow.”
After a harrowing week, the victim feels a sense of relief that her neighborhood has looked out for her.
“All our neighbors have told us that they’re gonna be keeping an eye on our house and would call the cops immediately if they see anything,” she said.