Gay Bashing on the Rise?
Gay bashing isn’t just mean or hateful. It can be deadly. The saddest part is, many people in society still do not know what gay bashing means or constitutes. Gay bashing is defined as an expression use to designate verbal confrontation with denigration or physical violence against anyone who is thought to be gay, bisexual, lesbian and even transgendered because of their obvious or apparent sexual orientation or gender identity. (Roth 2010)
Week after week we as a society are still hearing news stories about gay bashing which can not only be physical, but emotional and psychological which at times can be worse than physical harm. One year ago, Obama signed an federal anti-hate crime law into effect that included specific language protecting the LGBT community. Sure there is federal law in effect, but has it done more harm than good. Has it done any good for that matter? Does the gay community feel safe?
October 2010, a freshman committed suicide at Rutgers University after being humiliated by having his sexual encounter with anther man broadcast over the internet. Two teenagers in California hanged themselves after being bullied at school for being gay. Furthermore, nine men were recently arrested in New York for the savage and amoral beating of three men because the men were homosexual. All these current attacks tells the LGBT community that gay bashing is still a very real reality that needs to be addressed much better than it currently is.
To make matters worse, NY Republican Gubernational candidate firmly believes that gay bashing would be non existent if men and women would do what they were supposed to be doing. He believes if they would go out and get married and raise family and not ponder whether or not homosexuality is a valid successful option, then gay bashing wouldn’t be an issue. Amoral or inconsiderate politicians aren’t the only possible reason for gay bashing, we also have our very own religious leaders whom gay bashers seem to worship. Fred Phelps continues to preach hate against the LGBT community. He is regarded as one of the worst but there are many more out there whom society often finds out are closet homosexuals as well as hypocrites.
The gay community has come a very long way in regards to how society perceives them. There have been Oscar winning films such as Milk and Brokeback Mountain that portrayed homosexuality in a very positive light. These films have also stirred up some very real emotions on both sides of the current gay rights debate. In early cinema, gays were portrayed as victims, then they were portrayed as victimizers. One good thing is that the entertainment industry has stopped focusing on the labels because child molesters come in all shapes and sizes as do serial killers.
Recently the Attorney General made headlines by suspending his assistant attorney general who attracted media headlines for a controversial blog where he ridiculed a college student for said students religious beliefs and gay advocacy. Supposedly, the assistant condemned the student for their anti Christian behavior and claimed they were “trying to recruit the publics sons and daughters”. (Berman 2010)
On a positive note, the attorney general felt he was more at fault for not directly reviewing his assistants behavior and admitted to knowing that something wasn’t right with his stance. This is a rarity especially when it comes to politicians admitting fault. Michigan’s own governor has publicly said that she would’ve fired the assistant. (Berman 2010)
Jennifer Granholm, the current governor of Michigan enacted policies that bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The only downside is that these rules only apply to the workplace, not what is said and done during after hours.
Its actions taken like this that society needs to see more and more of. It lets people know that this level of hate and hate speech will not be tolerated and is punishable by law. In early 2010, two teenager girls kicked an elderly gay man until he died. They hurled homophobic slurs at the sixty two year old man as he walked by them with his partner. The girls were not alone, they were in the company of an eighteen year old African American male as well, but the girls were the primary assailants. One blow to the head and the victim as unconscious and after that, the girls repeatedly stomped on his chest. Afterwards, he remained in a coma for three weeks and died. (Cohen 2010)
To make matters worse, its been argued that scene from the film A Clockwork Orange was to blame in which a character is attacked in a similar fashion. Its been said that alcohol intoxication was to blame. Some people have come forward and revealed that the girls had been plotting and targeting several people to attack. The mere fact that someone would blame violence on a film that came out almost forty years ago is insulting. These assailants are almost twenty years old and know right from wrong. Don’t blame television for their actions and it didn’t appear that the jury was buying that. (Cohen 2010)
The don’t ask don’t tell policy within the military only makes things worse. This policy has also been debated on whether or not it should be abolished in recent political avenues. Ten years ago, Pfc. Barry L. Winchell was brutally murdered in his bed while he slept by a fellow soldier who was wielding a baseball bat. He struck him in such a savage manner that there were pieces of Winchell’s brain and bone and blood on the bat and on his bedside wall. Winchell himself never woke up and died the following day when his mother turned off the machines keeping her sons heart pumping. Winchell was only twenty two years old at the time of his death. His murderer was only nineteen years old. (Rowe 2009)
Winchell has been viewed as one the original martyrs of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Several months before his murder Winchell who indentified himself as a straight man had become involved with a transsexual woman named Calpernia Addams who was a nightclub performer. When several soldiers learned of this, Winchell began to be harassed and rumors were spread. Winchell was afraid to say anything to his commanders because of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy so he endured the cruel torments. (Rowe 2009)
Winchell’s victimization continued to escalate until his brutal murder. Afterwards, many were shocked at the heinous crime and felt that if that policy hadn’t been in effect, Winchell may still be alive. It also posts the question on if a man falls in love with a woman who used to be man, does that make him a homosexual and would that have given the army the legal right to terminate him? Currently, seventy five percent of Americans support the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell but the Obama administration hasn’t done anything. The real cost of Don’t Ask, Don’t tell is human life and Winchell was one of them. (Rowe 2009)
So many men and women have been discharged from the military for being gay or lesbian and so many haven’t enlisted or tried to enlist because they are gay or lesbian and don’t want lie. Why is there a law that says if you want to serve your country, you must be heterosexual? Of course the law doesn’t actually say that, but it really does when one thinks about it. On a lighter note, the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy made headline news when a federal judge ordered the military to suspend and discontinue any investigation or discharge or other proceeds underway due to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. The department of Justice responded with an appeal and a request for a stay of the ruling. Its been heavily argued that the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy has led society to view the military as anti-gay and condoning discriminatory acts against known or alleged homosexual servicemen. Basically, its been a legal way to torture someone.
Only a day after the policy made national headlines did the Air Force become the first military branch to stop enforcing the don’t ask don’t tell policy. Furthermore, they also urged closeted servicemen and women to withhold announcing themselves at the moment which is largely due to the negative backlash that came with the notion. Currently, many groups want the motion reversed and are in the process of doing whatever they can to make it happen. (Huffington Post 2010)
Gay bashing isn’t about beating up someone who is gay or suspected of being gay. Many people still think that gay bashing is just horsing around or male play in the yard. Its much more than that. So many lives have been lost from Matthew Shepard and Brendon Teena to the shooting of Larry King and many more. Often times, those who survive or aren’t injured much don’t report it for fear of retaliation. Its sad that the justice system that is supposed to protect members of society, often times, fails at the same time.
Psychological torture is sometimes worse than physical torture because wounds heal, but emotional damage and scarring can last a lifetime and serious effect someone’s ability to move on and establish successful relationships in life. Many times, parents and other members of society tell teens to man up, ignore the teasing or don’t take insults so personally. These types of responses may or may not be work but they effect teens greatly. Being psychologically bashed is just as bad, it falls into the category of emotional torture and abuse. If society doesn’t do something to stop this harassment and cruelty, America’s teen suicide rates could increase dramatically. Five recent gay related suicides in the past week is enough to get society concerned, or at least it should be. If this is the message that society wants young people who have yet to come out or are questioning their sexuality, what will they think?
As a society, what can be done to stop or at least began the process of diminishing gay bashing and gay hate altogether? One of the saddest things is that so many people believe that homosexuality is a choice while also a majority believe that it is biological. Who in their right mind would choose a life that is full of hardship and could end up killing them? Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and even transgendered individuals endure so much hate and pain because there attractions differ from what is considered the social norm. Although many in society do not condone homosexuality, no one on this earth deserves to be treated in such hateful ways. Society is surrounded by things that they see happening and disapprove of, but its really none of their business and the fact that they try to make it their business is downright sad. (Hari 2007)
The interesting thing is that many in society don’t feel that gay bashers should be prosecuted unless it results in someone’s death. That’s odd considering that in the United States, making idle threats to anyone can get someone put in prison. It’s been argued that hate crime legislation could never really be a solution to end gay bashing. Going the political right, the right wing would argue that the law wants to punish those for their religious beliefs while the left wing would argue that the right wing condones hate. It could also be said that asking to be protected against things that offend homosexuals could spawn groups that want to be protected from gay pride marches that they feel promote sexuality. For decades, homosexuals have been asking to have the same rights as heterosexuals. They want to get married, have children or adopt them and enjoy the benefits of family and marriage. Is there really something so wrong with that? (Hari 2007)
One of the best ways that society can help to stop or begin the process of healing when it comes to gay bashing is through education. If we stop to think about where gay bashing comes from, it can be viewed as a learned behavior. This statement can also be refuted because it can be argued that all violent behavior is learned and that someone is to blame. Many times, the only person to blame for violent behavior, is that person committing the crime.
Overcrowding within our educational systems seem to be on the rise and many children are not getting the attention needed. So many times, and this begins in as early as grade school where children are verbally attacking and emotionally torturing other classmates for being different. The kids viewed as been nerdy and not into sports are called names such as sissy. This starts and stays within the victims for years to come. In the past, this behavior was usually associated with boys, but in recent years, girls have been viewed as been equally, or perhaps even more vicious. This was cleverly portrayed in the 2004 film Mean Girls which critics and society hailed as extremely right on as to the portrayal of high school girls.
Its easy to say that this behavior starts at home or starts with the parents when it actuality, that’s far from it considering the fact that between the ages of six and eighteen, children spend the majority of their time at school around teachers and their own peers. True, many times something probably is going on at home and the bullies take it out on someone they perceive as weak. Also, they hear things from their parents such as the words “fag” and “gay”, though not directed at them, they begin using the words commonly. Education is the key when it comes to putting end to this. Everyone experiences bullies while in school and if people don’t believe this, look at all the gun violence that has occurred in schools because someone was so afraid to come to school, they thought they needed a weapon, or someone wanted revenge because a student wasn’t punished for something. (Worsham 2010)
Teachers and the school faculties really need to step up when they witness students tormenting other students. The problem with this is the same when it comes to the parents of a victimized student confronting the abusers parents. It turns into a he said she said sort of deal and furthermore, many parents often are in denial about their child’s behavior because they honestly don’t believe their “Suzy” would do such a horrible thing. Parents forget that their children’s persona and behavior change completely when they are around their peers because school is all about being popular and being admired and being the best.
When incidents like this occur in school, the faculty needs to take steps to punish said student and all those involved. So many children are scared to tell because they know that those same children will taunt them sooner or later and do something much worse in retaliation for telling. These students need to be punished or even given warnings and perhaps sessions with school counselors, and if that doesn’t work, get the law involved and expel those students. If they aren’t punished, then in their minds, they will not believe they have truly done anything wrong except for horseplay or goofing around.
In 2009, over seven thousand middle school and high school students were surveyed and it was discovered that about nine out of ten students who identified themselves as lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgendered experienced harassment on a daily basis. This is outrageous and probably proves that not much is being done to make these kids feel safe. (Worsham 2010)
If the school doesn’t try its best to stop the abuse and educate its students, the victims end up becoming isolated because they are too busy trying to shield themselves. Schools need to start having programs or presentations on the effects of bullying and the serious possible ramifications of not just gay bashing, but all crimes especially those related to hate. Sure students get some of their thought processes from their own parents, but as that child grows and matures, they eventually learn to think on their own. If the school can get involved early enough, they can promote tolerance and perhaps even acceptability.
In society, each and every individual will always have his or her own personal beliefs. In society, we will never see eye to eye on everything and what we need to realize is that society doesn’t need to see eye to eye. Society doesn’t have to agree on everything. What we need to agree on is that its not okay to hurt someone for not sharing the same views. Gay bashing may or may not be on the rise, but it is a constant issue and everyday that society learns about another youth who has taken their own life in response to abuse, or has had their life taken by the ramifications of hate, that is another day that society has to live with the thought of knowing what kind of people are being raised in this world. Too many lives have been lost and most likely more will continue and the fact that society can’t see it, or won’t admit it is just as bad.
Berman, Laura (2010) Assistant AG suspended over gay-bashing blog Retrieved October 10 2010 from http://detnews.com/article/20101001/METRO/10010401/Assistant-AG-suspended-over-gay-bashing-blog
Brown-Worsham, Sasha (2010) Gay Bashers and Bullies Are The Real Losers Retrieved October 15, 2010 http://thestir.cafemom.com/in_the_news/110223/gay_bashers_and_bullies_are
Cohen, Tamara (2010)Girls 'kicked gay man to death in attack like scene from A Clockwork Orange' Retrieved October 11, 2010 from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1267283/Girls-kicked-gay-man-Ian-Baynham-death-Clockwork-Orange-style-attack.html
Hari, Johann (2007) Hate Crimes Legislation is not the Solution for Gay Bashing. Retrieved October 15, 2010 from http://www.johannhari.com/2007/10/10/hate-crimes-legislation-is-not-the-solution-to-gay-bashing
Huffington Post (2010) Air Fore DADT Enforcement Has Stopped. Retrieved October 14,2010 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/14/air-force-dadt-enforcemen_n_763192.html
Roth, Daniel Shoer (2010) Gay Bashing Isn’t Just Mean…It Can Kill. Retrieved October 12, 2010 from http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/10/10/1865466/gay-bashing-isnt-just-mean-it.html.
Rowe, Michael (2009) Remembering Pfc. Barry Winchell on the 10th Anniversary of His Murder. Retrieved on October 13, 2010 from http://www.sldn.org/blog/archives/remembering-pfc-barry-winchell-on-the-10th-anniversary-of-his-murder/
Stein, Sam (2010) Bloomberg Pleads For Tolerance Amid Gay-Bashing, Violence. Retrieved October 11, 2010 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/11/bloomberg-tolerance-gay-bashing-violence_n_758808.html