Sunday, May 6, 2007
As I watched the twin towers tumble to the ground on 9/11, I couldn’t help but think how much my own life mirrored this devastation. Less than a month prior, I too was struck by tremendous violence, born of hatred for who I was, robbed of my sense of innocence and security, and left bloodied and sifting through the rubble on the ground. My planes were two angry young men, no doubt troubled by their own feelings, perhaps for one another, who went looking for a victim on this dark and windy summer night.
I was choking on blood face down on the ground before I even realized what was happening to me. As I struggled to crawl to my feet, I was greeted by thunderous kicks to my ribs and my temple and the venomous and inconceivable cry, “die fucking faggot.” Here in Palm Springs, alone and without warning I was being gay bashed. Two strangers filled with hatred, and clear intent, were trying to end my life simply because of who I am. As I began to realize that my life could end here in this rocky, abandoned lot where they had dragged me from my car, my survival instict surged from the very core of my being. I began to fight back, take swings, kick, scream. I threw rocks. I grabbed a pipe on the ground and brandished it as a weapon. I'm quite certain that my animalistic rage and the sheer volume of my screams surprised them. Eventually, they slunk back into the night from which they came.
Unlike Matthew Sheppard and countless others, I survived to tell my story. Crumpled in a heap with my clothes ripped and my nose flattened to my face, I survived to face police, firemen, and E.M.Ts who approached me with distance and distain, suggesting with their tone and indifference that I had somehow brought this upon myself. Their homophobia was as palpable as the blood and dirt that stained my teeth. This realization was almost more painful to endure than the beating itself. Feeling helpless, but proud, I drove myself to the emergency room that night.
Today, almost six years later, I am angry, and I am sad. I thought I had put this behind me, with years of therapy, wanderlust and sometimes self-destructive revelry, not necessarily in that order. I am angry at my country and its leaders for not upholding and propagating the founding principle of this land, that all men are created equal. I am angry with the vast numbers of supposed Christians who lead with hatred and fear, rather than the beauty and simplicity of Christ’s message to, above all else, love your fellow man, without judgment. I am angry at our President who, as a Christian and our leader, consistently marginalizes and undermines gay Americans. Lastly, I am saddened by the American people who allow this all to be, with complacency and indifference.
In recent years we have rightfully passed laws in this country which seek to protect minorities from being persecuted, harmed and victimized simply for who they are. We protect women, people of color, people who believe differently than ourselves, and those who are disabled. We assign stiff punishment and harsh sentences to the perpetrators of these crimes. In doing so, we take a stand, collectively as a nation to say, unequivocally, we do not tolerate the transformation of hatred into violence and persecution, period. That is, unless you happen to be born gay.
On Wednesday, May 3rd our country took a step in the right direction when the House of Representatives passed the Matthew Shepard Act, also known as the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 (LLEHCPA). Although this is the first major step to passing inclusive hate crimes legislation in response to the unrelenting and under-addressed problem of hates crimes against individuals based on sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability, we have a long way to go to ensure this legislation becomes law. Over the last few weeks, this bill has been threatened by misinformation and lies spread by anti-gay organizations trying to block the passage of the bill. President Bush has already promised a veto if it passes the Senate, which is by no means a sure thing.
My goal in writing this, and in creating this blog, is to put another face to this blight on our national consciousness. I want to inspire others to share their stories and photographs, to build an online community of survivors, and those whose lives were taken in hatred. I want to incite more visibility, media coverage and debate on what should be national goals of inclusion, tolerance, love and acceptance. If you believe in these ideals and want to live in a country which espouses them, please send this to everyone you know and encourage them to do the same. Sadly, there are thousands of new victims every year. I want to find them and include them on this page. Hopefully we can change some hearts and minds, and perhaps save some lives.