On Being Gay When That’s Enough to Make You a Target

Image c/o ABCLocal.com
Image c/o ABCLocal.com

Someone texts you to see if you’ve seen the news. You have, and you’re horrified. You know gay beatings happen all the time because you read gay websites that seem to feature a new one every day. But you’re never heard of one happening so close to your home. You walk past that intersection all the time. You look over your shoulder sometimes because you know you have to, but you’ve never felt truly in danger of imminent, physical harm where you live.

You pull up the news story and look at the bruised and bloody eye of the anonymous victim. You wonder if you know him. You feel a little guilty about just how glad you are that it isn’t you.

You’re disheartened that it happened so close to you. You’re disheartened that it can happen anywhere. You’re disheartened, but you’re ultimately not surprised.

People around you say they can’t believe this kind of thing can happen in 2014. None of the people who say this are gay. You think about how many times you’ve seen people stare at you on a date just a little too long. You remember all the times you’ve heard someone mutter faggot as you pass by. You remember walking home at night when you lived in the Gayborhood and seeing cars drive by filled with people who made the journey just to gawk at you. You are other, and people will always find ways to remind you, even if it’s subtle.

God help you if you are gay and have the audacity to enjoy yourself too much. Double that if you’re a gay man of color.

When police release the video, you watch it a couple times. Your original notions of gay-bashers are challenged by the demographic make-up of the suspects. You see the people you went to college with, well dressed, upwardly mobile Caucasians. Some of them could have even been your friends.

While people are shocked by the white gang of hooligans simply for being the color they are, you’re not shocked. You know something they don’t. You know that the last group of people you’d want to run into at the end of the night is a group of drunk, straight, white men full of equal parts insecurity and liquid confidence.

You post the surveillance video, and the most wonderful thing happens. Your timeline fills with support. Everyone you know in Philadelphia, gay or straight, is disgusted with the suspects’ actions. Your Facebook page is flooded with the videos. Your allies sharpen their pitchforks. Maybe they wonder how they’d react if you were the one who was beaten. These events shed light on the daily safety many of your friends enjoy.

When the remarkable twitter detectives unearth the photo of the suspects at dinner, your heart stops. You see how happy they are, unaware of where their privilege is about to lead them. You imagine the mob of them descending on gay couples you know. You know if they attacked you that you’d never be able to escape. You want to punch them all. You want them to be shamed in the eyes of their community. You want their parents to suffer for not raising them right. You are not a violent person. You want them to die.

It’s not fair, but you’re especially disappointed in the girls. Girls have always been there for you. Girls are the first ones who listened to you. They’ve always looked out for you. You think about how they should have stepped in and done something. You can’t believe that all of them failed to come forward. You hope they can’t sleep at night.

You never thought you’d be so inspired by Twitter, of all things, as people worked together to solve the mystery of who the suspects are. You actually tear up as you watch it all unfold. You’re used to relying on the kindness of others. You’re overwhelmed by the decency of others. You want to believe there’s more good than bad.

You blanch as friends continue to call the episode a hate crime. You know that in Pennsylvania gay people are not entitled to the same protections as other minorities in hate crime legislation. You can still be fired from your job in parts of the state for being gay. You know people are sickened by your boldness in wanting more rights now that you’ve already been granted marriage. You are different enough to be legally set apart from others, but you are not eligible for the same kind of security. You are disposable.

You realize more acutely than ever why when you came out at home, your mom held your chin in her hand, stroked your hair, and told you how worried she’d always be for you. You are not welcome in everyone’s life.

You are hopeful for justice. You imagine the suspects turning against one another. You’re resigned to the fact that if the suspects are found guilty, they will not receive the proper punishment. You’re aware that these young men and women will get off easy because of who they are. You know they’ll use self-defense. You know they’ll claim to not be homophobic. You know if they were black, they’d already be in jail. The news about their fate can’t reach you quickly enough.

You’ll continue to look over your shoulder because you have to. Sometimes you’ll see people walking toward you and wonder if today is your day.

You push all these thoughts away as you try to fall asleep. You have to. You’re exhausted.

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31 Comments Add yours

  1. TravelMore75 says:

    #WhitePrivlege means having your face blurred out by the news when you’re a suspect. (That wouldn’t have happened if this group was a different color).

    Like

    1. Mike Zaleski says:

      Here you go.

      Like

    2. Jenny says:

      Bullshit. Get the fuck off it. Just another jab at reverse-hate. THIS WASN’T EVEN A SUBJECT OF RACISM AND THAT’S ALL YOU PULLED OUT OF YOUR FRIGGIN’ ASS. Get a hobby. Your moronic sense is banned from the internet.

      Like

      1. pissed off says:

        i did NOT mean to “like” this comment, disregard the 3rd up vote…i wanted to see what other douche-canoes agreed with this dumb, bro-friendly girl. She’s an idiot. This article was a well- written response to the events that happened.

        Like

      2. Nina G. says:

        What is reverse hate? Love?

        Like

    3. Nick says:

      You’re an idiot. Our attackers get off every single day and we rarely make national news coverage. This wasn’t even about race. Also, Privilege*, because you’re still an idiot.

      Like

      1. TravelMore75 says:

        Wow, I obviously got you stirred up with my comment. Ask some friends who are minorities, what their opinion is on how this news story would have been handled had it been 15 African American Men and Women walking down the street.

        Like

      2. Brian Fender says:

        Yes you certainly pushed some buttons, and such articulate responses. You are right they are criminals and shouldn’t have the privilege of having their faces blurred. That would happen to a minority.

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      3. clarknt67 says:

        Notably missing from the media commentary are the usual essays on what to do about violent thugs on our streets.

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      4. dave_slc says:

        Actually, they are alleged criminals. I think innocent until proven guilty should still mean something even though the media prefers to bypass that annoying trial thingy.

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      5. Antony says:

        Philly is about 45% African-American and those white folks with their eyes open here know that these white suburbanites are definitely going to get the standard easy touch treatment. While if the young folks in this gang were dressed exactly the same but were black, all 12 (whatever number) would have been arrested the night of the the attack.

        Like

    4. Honeymaid says:

      Fuck this privilege shit, it’s always used to either A) shut a conversation down or B) make it about race when it isn’t. Get lost.

      Like

      1. TravelMore75 says:

        Are you a minority? If this was a group of 15 African American individuals:
        a) There would’ve been a dragnet for the group
        b) There wouldn’t be a delay in brining them in/making arrests
        c) The headlines would have sounded much different.

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      2. require truth says:

        While I agree with your post in general about white privilege, the original post here was not about race at all.

        As a society, we have difficulty focusing on one issue, because we ourselves are affected by other issues. We need to be careful not to muddy the waters, else the correct attention to each issue may become blurred and therefore lose its validity as a result. In this case, when the focus is drawn back and forth between issues, the end result is that unfortunately neither issue is afforded the focus they deserve.

        Just a thought.

        Like

      3. Josh says:

        I’m gay AND black, so I welcome BOTH discussions because both are relevant.

        Like

      4. Frank says:

        This author decided to make it about privilege when they decided to post a blurred pic of the suspects. If you think the blurring would have happened regardless of race, you’re deluding yourself.

        Like

  2. Guest says:

    I think you meant to post this photo.

    Like

  3. Mike Zaleski says:

    I think you meant to post this photo:

    Like

  4. Mary says:

    Great article Zach

    Like

  5. Brian Fender says:

    Very powerful. Thank you

    Like

  6. Guest says:

    Didn’t you mean to post this photo?

    Like

  7. LAguy323 says:

    Didn’t you mean to post this photo? Poor Fran, forced to resign from his basketball coaching job.

    Like

  8. Mike McGettigan says:

    Some years back, walking along Spruce in the Gayborhood late at night, an SUV veered to the curb, and crawled along next to me; the white dudebros packed inside called out, “Hey FAGGOT,” … “Want to suck this?” first quietly, then happily shouting… to the lone, skinny, middle-aged, white male they had incorrectly decided was gay. Tried to put on my most West Philly hard guy stroll and probably failed miserably. The deadliest thing I had was a ballpoint pen; there were no bottles, no nothing on the sidewalk to pick up (damn you, Center City District!) ; and no lights to run to if those car doors popped open, which I knew they would if I even looked over or worse, said, “Fuck off!” They peeled off, laughing, at Broad Street–as I staggered on, shirt soaked with fear. To this day, I wonder whether, if they broke my face for fun, whether it would be a hate crime or sorry-we-accidentally-beat-up-a-straight-crime. Bit of an instant consciousness-raiser, must say. mcget/trophy bikes

    Like

  9. clarknt67 says:

    And you get to watch fan clubs develop around George Zimmerman, Darren Wilson and Fran McGlinn where they are lauded for their heroism. #McGlinnocent.

    Like

  10. Nina G. says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I did not know gay beatings happen all of the time. I think it is important to know because I think sometimes those of us who do not walk in the shoes of a minority naively think things are better than they are which could lead to discussion being dismissed.

    Like

  11. Sue Galeone says:

    I remember back in high school when one of my best friends came out to me. My reaction was more like “so what?” and he was taken aback at how nonchalant I was about it. I didn’t really get it at the time, as like Nina says we’re often naive to what others are going through. But I did get a taste when the whole school found out and he was the subject of a lot of hate afterward. I remember someone telling him that he made a choice to be gay, and he responded “Why would I ever choose to be this way when so many people hate me for it?” That has stuck with me for a very long time. If I say I can’t believe this happened in 2014, I really say I can’t believe this is still happening in 2014. It’s time for everyone to evolve.

    Like

  12. 1bar1 says:

    Thumbs Down on “hate crimes”.
    Crimes are crimes, and should be vigorously prosecuted without favoring any group.
    Favoring me is disfavoring you.
    Either the Fourteenth Amendment is for everyone, or some are more Equal than others.

    Like

    1. Josh says:

      I’m sorry, your white privilege is showing. Ridiculously out of touch.

      Like

      1. 1bar1 says:

        All that is showing is my respect for the 14th Amendment.

        Like

  13. Antony says:

    ^this times infinity!

    Like

  14. Yesterday, a bud posted about this subject and made a point that even though we as gay people have been violently targeted by homophobes, that we should be careful of letting the lynch mob thinking infect the entire gay community. I agreed with him 100%, HOWEVER, what he failed to understand is that when delusional sociopaths using to religion on TV to con everyday people like Pat Robertson, the duck dynasty assholes, Matt Barber, Rush Limbaugh, and lying platforms leading the pack are fox news among many others that spew hate, I’m not saying that we as a community should become violent against the very bigots that target us, but it is inevitable that we will have had enough and we fight back against those that want to kill us.

    He also didn’t seem to understand that even when we think that places like San Francisco are safe havens to us where we can truly be ourselves, news stories of recent spate of attacks remind the community that we need to remain vigilant.

    Like

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