Living in a Violent Society
What can we as gay people do when we are confronted by the face of hate simply for being gay and living our lives openly in a neighborhood which has been synonymous with gay freedom since Stonewall?
Just last week, a young man was brutally murdered on the streets of Greenwich Village while walking with a friend on a Saturday night. The tragedy was strikingly similar to a previous attack on a gay couple days before for doing exactly the same thing, walking.
In the face of such hatred, I struggle to understand, as a gay man living in supposedly one of the safest and most tolerant cities in America: Why this sudden surge in gay violence?
As I struggle with these tragic circumstances, I know that many within the GLBT community are also trying to understand why these small groups of "homophobes" are back on our streets and when is all this violence going to stop or, at least, diminish?
As a therapist and Interpersonal Communication professor at Hofstra University, I know that violence is viewed by many in our society as a viable solution to resolve conflicts, and as an outlet for aggressive self expression for those struggling with their own "inner demons."
One such "inner demon" which may be the case in this most recent murder could be attributed to internalized homophobia (gay shame) among the shooter who callously laughed when caught by the police that he "killed a fag." Such a hateful and self-justified response for such a senseless action had to have had some mental illness that prompted his hateful and pre-meditated actions.
But what, exactly, provoked this man to kill gays in particular? What thoughts raced in his mind to view gays as the enemy, or as a justified target for his hatred? Could they have been: "I’m having a real bad day and want to hurt someone! Look at those two fags!" And if those were truly his thoughts, then is this man’s insanity representative of only a few hatemongers or representative of an increasingly dysfunctional culture?
As I have recently heard said within the GLBT community, we gays are still considered by many within this country as the one minority it is still acceptable to discriminate against without reprisal. This belief system is clearly in evidence with all the hateful rhetoric against gay marriage legislation as of late.
But just because we are discriminated against, does that prompt the response by several within our own community toward arming ourselves against our attackers?
In a recent article "NY Gay Man Killed in Fifth Hate Crime This Month" in Queerty, the statistics on hate crimes are clearly not diminishing, but rather increasing. But what was most concerning about this specific article were the comments made by several of its gay readers, advocating carrying a firearm as a preventative measure toward deterring attacks. Have we really come to that? Maybe they have?
As our representatives in government fight between themselves on the subject of gun control, innocent civilians are being murdered in ever-increasing numbers, and episodes of gun violence seem to be happening everywhere around us for inexplicable reasons.
Some of the violence has struck uncomfortably close. The horrific Sandy Hook tragedy occurred only a few miles from my Connecticut home; in another incident, an officer trying to save her following a terrifying home invasion recently killed a young woman named Andrea Rubello. Rubello was a student at the college I have been teaching at for the past twenty years.