Tag Archives: hate crimes

Weekend Update 6/18/2016: Compassion, mourning, and an epic vogue battle

Ernesto Vergne prays at a cross honoring his friend Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado and the other victims at a memorial to those killed in the Pulse nightclub mass shooting a few blocks from the club early Friday, June 17, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Ernesto Vergne prays at a cross honoring his friend Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado and the other victims at a memorial to those killed in the Pulse nightclub mass shooting a few blocks from the club early Friday, June 17, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
I’m going to be an emotional wreck because of the Orlando shooting for a while. Usually on Saturday I’ll post a few news items that I would have included in Friday Links if I had found them in time along with more commentary than links usually get in the Friday post. Or I post links to stories with new developments related to a story posted previously, also with more commentary.

Most of today’s links are things that made me cry, not because they’re about something awful, but because the story is about something wonderful and loving that people have done in response to something awful. Two of the links were sent to me by one friend. After the second one I replied back, “You keep sharing things that make me cry. Don’t stop.”

What happened when an Orthodox Jewish congregation went to a gay bar to mourn Orlando.

I included this one in yesterday’s post, but it’s worth sharing again to remember that we’re human, and we’re most human when we show each other compassion: Jetblue passengers write letters to Orlando victim’s grandmother.

LGBT community raising millions for Orlando victims.

These Are Some Of The Heroes Of The Orlando Shooting.

Some people are either outright ignoring the fact that this happened in a queer club, on a Saturday night, during Pride month, and otherwise was clearly a hate crime. Many of the jerks trying to further the myth that Islam is attacking America or freedom or whatever. Never mind that of the last thousand or so mass shooting in America, two were committed by muslims, and the other 990-some have been committed by white Christians. Anyway: The Other Group Mourning The Orlando Massacre: LGBT Muslims.

Gay rabbi: We can all mourn Orlando, but this was terrorism against gay people.

Orlando shooting prompts outpouring of blood donations. It’s a good thing all these straight people feel such compassion, seeing how gay men are banned for donating blood. Some pedants point out that technically gay men are allowed to donate blood if they swear they haven’t had sex for an entire year, but as one of my local TV stations reported, Some Seattle blood banks still ban all gay men from donating even if they meet the no-sex in 12 months criteria. I bring this up because the vast majority of medical experts agree that the 12-month rule is ridiculous. Straight people can (and do, lots more than you think) carry the virus that causes AIDS, and no one has suggested a 12-month ban on them. Also, a lot of bi people are closeted, and some so closeted that they would never admit it even in a confidential medical situation, so they’re not going to say. And all blood donated is screened precisely because people may not know that they’ve been infected or may lie about their sexual activity for the reasons stated above.

Enough about that. Another of the “it’s not a hate crime” craziness has been a claim that it can’t be a hate crime because maybe the shooter was a closeted gay man. First, if you don’t understand that a society in which the phrase “closeted gay man” describes a real phenomenon, then nearly all queer people live with a lot of internalized homophobia because of societal pressure, you’re really in a deep state of denial. Also: FBI ‘Increasingly Skeptical’ That Orlando Shooter Was Gay and Closeted.

The case that he was a closeted gay man was built on the fact that he had a user profile on at least one gay hookup app, and reportedly had been seen in the club previously, angrily drinking alone and sometimes becoming belligerent. Oh, and one old college classmate thinks he might have been gay and might have hit on him once. We already know that at least one of the conversations that shooter had on the hookup app with a local gay man consisted of the shooter asking, repeatedly, “what are the most popular gay clubs” and “where could I find the biggest crowds of gay people?” This would hardly be the first time that someone planning an anti-gay hate crime used a hookup app or online gay chat services to scout out potential victims. Or hung out at gay clubs to get the lay of the land. And the old classmate? Please! Both gay and straight men misread signals all the time.

But, we need to end this on a high note, so: Orlando Shooting Vigil In London Turns Into Epic Vogue Battle.

#TwoMenKissing and why the Orlando Pulse shooting was a punch in my gut

d790a0602a60bb6dc97326d6fe8334a0Michael and I had only been dating about four months when it happened. It appeared to be a day just like any other. Back then he lived and worked in Tacoma. Because he worked in a bar, his “weekend” was in the middle of my workweek. He didn’t own a car, so he would often take the bus up for Tacoma, we’d spend a day or two together, and he’d take the bus back. Sometimes I drove him, but most of the time it was the bus. On this one morning, for various reasons, I drove him into downtown Seattle and dropped him off at one of the big bus stops there, and then went on to my office. When I pulled over to the curb we said “good-bye,” leaned in and gave each other a quick kiss, and he got out of the car. I drove off, sad that it would be several days before I saw him again, but happy about the day we had had.

I was oblivious to the fact that as I drove away, a random stranger at the bus stop started harassing him for being queer. Because he’d seen me kiss Michael.

One of our friends has described my husband has “the most capable guy I’ve ever known.” His job history has included working as a bouncer at a not entirely savory bar. He bikes. When he was younger, he rode bulls in rodeo for fun. He’s not a small man. He can take care of himself.

But none of that matters if someone takes you by surprise. Or if you’re outnumbered. Or if you’re just not as good as them. And don’t think that being armed himself changes that equation. You can’t shoot another person’s bullet down in midair. You can’t safely defend yourself with a gun in a location crowded with bystanders—such as a very busy street in front of a bustling office building on a bright sunny weekday morning.

Even though the guy didn’t physically attack Michael that day. Even though Michael survived the incident to tell me about it after, sixteen years later I still have nightmares about how that situation could have gone down differently. All because I kissed him.

That was only one of the nightmares I’ve had this week, thanks to the news out of Orlando.

Eighteen years later, every time we are out in public and I feel an urge to tell my husband that I love him, or to hold his hand, or give him a quick kiss, I have to do that calculation. Are we safe here? Will someone say horrible things? Will someone threaten us? Will someone do something even worse?

A friend shared someone else’s blog post about why the Orlando shooting has so shaken him this morning, which makes substantially the same points:

If I kiss Matt in public, like he leaned in for on the bike trail the other day, I’m never fully in the moment. I’m always parsing who is around us and paying attention to us. There’s a tension that comes with that… a literal tensing of the muscles as you brace for potential danger. For a lot of us, it’s become such an automatic reaction that we don’t even think about it directly any more. We just do it…

We live constantly with the knowledge that there are people all around us who hate us enough to kill us. And this event isn’t merely a reminder of that, it carries another message:

Additionally, now we just got a lesson that expressing our love could result in the deaths of *others* completely unrelated to us. It’s easy to take risks when it’s just you and you’ve made that choice. Now there’s this subtext that you could set off someone who kills other people who weren’t even involved. And that’s just a lot.

That’s why I’m personally a bit off balance even though (or because, depending on how you look at it) I live in Texas and was not personally effected by this tragedy.

The day Michael and I got our marriage license, after 15 years together, thanks to 54% of the voters of our state saying “yes” to marriage equality.
The day Michael and I got our marriage license, after 15 years together, thanks to 54% of the voters of our state saying “yes” to marriage equality.

This is part of why I’m taking this shooting in Orlando so personally: the constant knowledge that there are people who will kill me, my husband, and so many more because of who we love. Worse than that, there are more people who will encourage that hate. They may say they don’t hate us personally, and of course they don’t condone violence, but they also say that violence is the natural consequence of our sin. In the same breath they condemn the violence, they declare the violence a result of divine will, and apparently don’t see the contradiction in that. And there is an even larger group of people who sincerely believe they are not prejudiced against us at all, but they enable guys like the Orlando shooter in thousands of little ways, whether it be opposing hate crime legislation, or anti-discrimination laws, or any form or gun policy reform.

This is why I’m long past the point where I can be silent about the hateful rhetoric of people like Ted Cruz, the Family Research Council, the Pope, and everyone else who says that queers are sinners. This is why I can no long sit silently polite and bite my tongue (yet again) when people say that I’m the bad guy for thinking that maybe a guy with a history of domestic violence who was also on the FBI watch list should not have been able to legally buy an assault rifle with no questions asked.

If your first reaction to me or any queer person you know expressing our feelings about this mass murder is to argue with us about gun policy, or to tell us we’re over reacting, or anything other than, “you seem to be taking this really hard, are you all right?” then you may well be part of the problem.

To answer the question that some people I thought were my friends didn’t ask before launching into attack mode this weekend: No, I’m not all right. I’m mad as hell. And I have more than ample reason to be mad.

It is not unreasonable to be upset at this mass murder. It is not unreasonable to ask questions about why fairly simple, non-draconian measures that are supported by a solid majority of voters—and that have been proven to work in other countries—are constantly being opposed by absolutists. It is not unreasonable to want to hold people who have enabled the hatred responsible. It is not unreasonable to hold people who keep enabling a toxic society that turns young men into festering piles of self-loathing and anger responsible. And it is not unreasonable to hold people who don’t just enable, but encourage, the easy availability of assault weapons to people that even they agree shouldn’t have guns in the first place responsible.

I’m not all right. I’m mad as hell. And you should be, too.

Oppressed oppressors, part 3

CBbs1thUsAALYOrMat Staver is the head of the anti-gay Liberty Counsel, featured speaker at several Values Voter Summits over the years, a man who has gone to court many times defending laws that discriminate against gay people, and someone who as recently as June has testified to congress about why gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered people shouldn’t be included in anti-discrimination law, and has many times on his radio show praised laws in places like Russia and Uganda that criminalize gay people and even talking about gay people. For example, last year he was on another radio show, ranting about those Christians who have said that gay rights and marriage equality are losing battles. “To assume that you can go against the created order is hubris, it’s arrogance, it’s dangerous and it is not something in which we can simply say, ‘the battle’s over, we need to figure out how to coexist.’ There is no coexistence.”

“There is no coexistence.” If he insists that his side can’t co-exist with us, that’s another way of saying either we have to cease to exist or he does, right? And I’m pretty sure he isn’t suggesting that all true believers (his side) should commit mass suicide.

When Staver says “there is no coexistence” that means he’s ultimately willing to kill. The reason Staver’s organization encourages things like Uganda’s kill-the-gays laws, and talks up the rhetoric of how dangerous we are to society is because he believes we should not be allowed to exist. Which means killing us. Or at least, scaring us with a credible enough threat of death that we all go back into the closet.

Just like the people who regularly go to Seattle’s old gayborhood (Police investigating weekend hate crimes on Capitol Hill) every weekend (‘Not one more’ — March strikes back at anti-queer violence on Capitol Hill), the aim isn’t to kill each and every queer person, it’s to scare the rest of us back into the closet. When rightwing Texas preacher Rick Scarborough announces that he’s willing to be burned to death to oppose gay marriage, he doesn’t mean that he’s going to set himself on fire; he wants to whip up fear and anger so that people who agree with him will do horrible things to some of us to frighten us into silence.

It’s the same tactics used by the hate leaders who radicalized Dylann Roof into shooting nine innocent people in a church in Charleston: making members of the majority believe that a historically oppressed minority somehow has all the power. Roof told the lone adult survivor of his shooting, “I have to do it. You’re raping our women and overrunning our country.” In a country where white police officers gun down unarmed black children in the street without facing murder charges, he believes that black people are the ones threatening the existence of white people.

Similarly, in a country where:

  • 1500 queer children are bullied into committing suicide every year,
  • where thousands of queer children are thrown out onto the streets by so-called Christian parents whose religious leaders have told them they have to show tough love,
  • where the authorities don’t investigate those parents for child neglect,
  • where the numbers of homicides of LGBT people have climbed to record highs,
  • where more than half of hate-motivated murder victims are trans people of color,
  • where state legislators are rushing to enact religious-belief based “right to discriminate” laws,
  • where in most states it is perfectly legal for employers to fire someone simply because they think the person might be gay (and where landlords can evict gay tenants or refuse to rent to them, et cetera),
  • where queer people are 2.4 times more likely to be victims of hate crimes than jews, and 2.6 times more likely to be victims of hate crimes than muslims,
  • where the number of hate crimes against all groups except lesbian, gays, trans, and bi people is going down while all categories of anti-queer hate crimes remain the some or are rising,
  • where the overwhelming majority of elected officials at the federal, state, and local level are Christian (far out of proportion to their percentage of the population),
  • where state and federal tax dollars are funneled into “faith-based” charity organizations that are often allowed to discriminate in how they administer those tax-funded activities,
  • where religious schools are often supported by tax dollars diverted from public schools,
  • where high school kids are threatened with expulsion for wearing “Gay OK” t-shirts to school after a bunch of Christian bullies beat a gay classmate (but the bullies weren’t punished),
  • where a public school teacher responding to an incident of anti-gay bullying read a book about acceptance to his class, then was forced to resign for “promoting homosexuality,”
  • where Christian organizations rally and raise money to combat anti-bullying policies unless said policies include exemptions that allow their kids to bully gay kids in the name of their faith,

…Christians are claiming that queers are persecuting them.

Seriously? Not being able to bully, discriminate against, and torment their gay neighbors is oppression?

Shootings

Ahmed Said (upper) and Dwone Anderson-Young (lower) were murdered, execution style, together.
Ahmed Said (upper) and Dwone Anderson-Young (lower) were murdered, execution style, together.
On the night of May 31st, two young men, Dwone Anderson-Young and Ahmed Said, spent an evening dancing at a gay bar, then were seen together later at a nearby pizza place. Dwone was the great-grandson of jazz legend Ernestine Anderson. Ahmed’s family immigrated more recently from Somalia. Dwone was less than two weeks from graduating from the University of Washington and already had a job lined up at Microsoft. Unfortunately, not many hours after they left the pizza place together, in the wee small hours of June 1st, they were both murdered on the street, not far from Dwone’s home.

The motive for the crime was unknown at first, though robbery was immediately ruled out. Neither young man was linked to any gang and neither had a criminal record. They were both openly gay and well-known in the neighborhood. While there are gay gang-bangers, they tend to be deeply, deeply closeted.

Witnesses placed another young man, one with a rather long and violent criminal record, near the scene…

Continue reading Shootings