‘The one thing we should change is hate’

// 4 March 2008

Another guest post from Helen G.

The murder of Lawrence King at a California school a couple of weeks ago has served to highlight the increasing intolerance of anyone who ‘dares to be different’ (if only we had the choice) by what seems to be an increasing proportion of society.

In the Lawrence King case, the homophobic aspects of the alleged murder of one teenager by another teenager are emphasised. This was sufficient for Ellen DeGeneres to make this heartfelt plea on her television chat show recently.

She is absolutely right, of course, when she says: “And when the message out there is so horrible that to be gay, you can get killed for it, we need to change the message. Larry was not a second-class citizen. I am not a second-class citizen. It’s ok if you’re gay.” (Transcript here)

That said, I disagree with her when she says, “This is not political”. Of course it’s political! This is a human rights issue. How could it not be political?

But it’s a start – we may roll our eyes and say, “Oh it’s ‘only’ daytime television”, but remember that people like Ellen, Oprah and even our very own Richard & Judy, have become famous as a result of appearing on daytime television and consequently are in positions of influence. The point is that daytime television, like many other forms of today’s mass media, can have a profound effect on shaping people’s views – and it is attitudes that need to change, and be changed. It’s all very well for the Obamas and Clintons of this world to boast about their involvement (however ephemeral) in safeguarding the civil liberties of GLBT people, but until there is a sea-change in the attitudes of so-called ‘ordinary people’, then hate crimes like this are not going to stop.

I think what disturbs me most is that this murder was apparently carried out by a 14 year old. How are things ever going to change for the better when teenagers believe that it’s okay to shoot someone in the back and in the head and then drive around town in the victim’s stolen, blood-soaked car, bragging to their friends that they’ve “killed a fag”? I can only hope that this is in not indicative of the mindset of the majority of young people, then the numbers of attacks on, and murders of, LGBT people can only increase. I have a 1 in 12 chance of being murdered? Deep joy…

Y’know, sometimes I despair of the human race…

By way of a postscript, I was interested to read this comment by RachelPhilPa on the post at Feministe. I only wish she had cited her sources for asserting that “King was killed not just for being gay, but more importantly for being gender-variant” and “[t]here’s also the possibility that ze was trans”. But I think she may have a point when she says “the media and much of the public conflate being gay/lesbian with being trans; ‘gay’ and ‘trans’ are the same to these people – in both cases the victims are ‘faggots’ or ‘dykes'”.

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