Episode 305:

You Heard It Here Last

Tthe Murder of Amanda Milan


The Toronto Circus Riot of 1855


Episode 305: You Heard It Here Last

This week, Karen and Georgia cover the murder of Amanda Milan and the Toronto Circus Riot of 1855.

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The Murder of Amanda Milan

Tthe Murder of Amanda Milan Notes:

Header Image Source: Photo by Adrien Olichon on Unsplash 

Other Images:

Amanda Milan (via Trans Griot)

Amanda Milan memorial (via Trans Griot)


"The murder of Amanda Milan took place on June 20, 2000, when two men killed Milan, a 25-year-old trans woman, in the street near the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City. The event provoked outrage within the transgender community, has been remembered in public demonstrations, and discussed in print.

At 4 a.m. on June 20, Milan was walking to catch a cab after leaving a group of friends at the bus terminal when, according to witnesses, a man, later identified as Dwayne McCuller, walked up to her and began to harass and threaten her. Milan stood up to him and asked him if he wanted to fight. According to police reports, he threatened to shoot and punch her. Witnesses said he declined. As he walked away, another young man, Eugene Celestine, told McCuller that he had a knife. McCuller grabbed it, and stabbed her in the neck. A man named David Anderson allegedly helped McCuller escape from the scene.

A passerby attempted to stop the bleeding and an ambulance arrived to take Milan to the hospital; however, despite their attempts, she died in less than an hour at St. Vincent's Hospital.

The murder took place days before the annual LGBT pride parade. Transgender activist Sylvia Rivera worked towards seeing that Milan's death was investigated and organized Milan's political funeral along with other demonstrations claiming a disconnection of transgender rights from the larger LGBT communities. According to queer activist and author Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore "Milan came to symbolize the unfinished business of a LGBT movement that had all too often, 'left transgender people in the back of the bus.' Because of Milan's murder Rivera reformed a transgender activist group, Street Trans Activist Revolutionaries (STAR). Rivera cited the crime amongst the reasons to add a broad definition of gender to the New York City Human Rights Law.

Long-time trans activist Melissa Schlarz explained that since the mid-1970s, she had read about trans women being murdered in Times Square, but "what makes the Milan case significant is that until Amanda Milan no one responded." Schlarz said that usually the newspapers were "dropping hints of transpanic" ambiguously. Schlarz concluded that "Milan has become not a martyr, but a rallying cry. The activism around her death showed the world transgender people belong in the queer community – the message from activists is that there is no difference between Matthew Shephard and Amanda Milan. The response to her death tells the non-queer community: enough, today the violence stops."

According to Benjamin Heim Shepard in Amanda Milan and The Rebirth of Street Trans Activist Revolutionaries the case and the resulting media attention helped "galvanize the transgender community and instigated change"..."

— Source: The Murder of Amanda Milan Wikipedia

The Toronto Circus Riot of 1855

The Toronto Circus Riot of 1855 Notes:

Header Image Source: Photo by Laura Louise Grimsley on Unsplash 

Other Images:

Toronto, Canada. 1854 (Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1970-188-1478 via Britannica School Toronto)

Toronto Circus Riot article from The Jeffersonian, 1855 (via Newspapers.com)


"In the mid-19th century, “Toronto the Good” was still an aspirational nickname. The prudishness of the late Victorian era had yet to tighten its clammy grip around the city, and frontier Toronto’s agglomeration of muddy shacks boasted a wealth of saloons and brothels.

On the night of July 12, 1855, members of the Hook and Ladder Firefighting Company descended on the house of Mary Ann Armstrong on King Street (suspected, according to newspaper stories from the day, of being a “house of ill-fame”). Firefighting at the time was as much a social club as a profession, and the volunteers were often rough-and-tumble types. There had been a minor scandal only two weeks earlier when members of the company fought with competing firefighters after both groups showed up at the same blaze. Eventually, the two sides joined forces to thrash constables trying to break up the melee.

As Toronto’s heroes settled down to business, several men entered the bordello. The new customers were clowns from the S.B. Howes’ Star Troupe Menagerie and Circus, which was in town for a two-day engagement. Led by a man named Meyers, these were not sad clowns or seltzer-spraying buffoons, or God help us, mimes. When not clowning, they were roustabouts, tough characters charged with the hard physical labour of setting up and tearing down the circus as it moved from town to town.

Accounts vary about what exactly happened, but all agree that a drunk fireman named Fraser either accidentally or intentionally knocked Meyers’ hat off. When Fraser failed to pick up the hat as requested, he was assaulted by the clowns, and a full-scale donnybrook broke out. Fraser and another local were seriously beaten before the carnies escaped into the night..."

— Source: Torontoist article by Patrick Metzger