Category Archives: Hate Crime & Violence

Bullying and Suicide

cmimg_74970Bullying is an extremely complicated — and emotional topic. There is some conflicting evidence out there and it is hard to figure out what is really true about bullying. This article helps us understand some of the science and research behind bullying. This includes that those who are bullied are at higher risk for mental health problems, including suicide. And, those from minority groups such as LGBTQ youth, youth with disabilities, and from racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to be bullied. While there has been some backlash to the topic of bullying, it is important to not lose sight of the very real and horrible impact that severe and chronic bullying can have upon youth who are already made vulnerable through being part of a targeted group. Read more at Oxford Univerisity Press’s article Youth suicide and bullying: what’s the connection?

The New Witchhunts

The Witchcraze, which peaked around 1600 in Europe, was an attempt, according to some, to consolidate Christian religious power by “conquering” the heathenism of the peasants.  As struggles for religious power often do, this one was waged on the backs of those considered the most threatening: unattached, especially older women.  Women were targeted in much greater numbers than were men. Most of them were older, widowed women, wise-women, and midwives. They were accused of “mischief making” — of souring milk or making men impotent.

Joan of Arc burned as a witch

The accusation of mischief making was only enough in the early years of the Witchcraze.  By about 1560, those in power had made it about sex.  Accused witches were said to be sexual slaves of Satan, participating in orgies and “perverse” sexual acts.  The Witchcraze was not just about consolidating power by terrorizing the poor and women, but by projecting the culture’s fear and loathing of sex onto the least powerful amongst them.  Neighbors and families turned in others in an attempt to rid their lives and towns of “evil.”  The more elaborate and heightened the fears about sex became, the greater the percentage of women amongst the accused, up to 80%.   Women were seen as the “weaker link” — that lured Adam in the garden.   As the culture shunned sexuality in an attempt to become more religious and more “pure”, witches became the holders of the “unnatural” — of taboo sexual acts. (From Servants of Satan: The Age of the Witchhunts by Joseph Klaits)

In Western culture today, the witch hunts go on.  They’re now in the form of terrorizing children about the “horrors” of homosexuality.  They’re in the form of “exorcising” gay demons from young men and women in often violent ceremonies.

Rev. Irene Monroe writes for The Bay Windows on the use of “Hell Houses” by evangelical Christians:

Hell houses” are today’s contemporary form of witch-hunting. Created in the late 1970’s by fundamentalist pastor Rev. Jerry Falwell, “hell houses” are religious alternatives to traditional haunted houses. They are tours given by evangelical churches across the country design to scare people away from sin. And one of those sins is homosexuality.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force issued a report in 2006 entitled “Homophobia at ‘Hell House‘”.  It describes scenes depicting young lesbians committing suicide and burning in hell, a gay man dying of AIDS after getting married with a demon at his side, laughing maniacally.  Not only do these scenes do uncountable harm to LGBTQ youth, but they misinform all youth and encourage further harassment toward youth for their real or perceived sexual orientation.  There is no question in my mind that witnessing violence and terrorizing images such as these would leave any youth with residual trauma.  The Hell Houses are about keeping youth and sexuality “in their place” just as the witch hunts of the 1400’s and 1500’s were about keeping women, paganism and sexuality in their places.

The witchhunts go on: it is still about anxiety about sex and gender, distortions and projections by a culture on it its most vulnerable.  They are about turning people against one another out of terror and fear of “going to hell.”  Now, instead of targeting women, the new “witches” are those who do not fit sexual and gender norms.  Instead of neighbors turning in neighbors, youth bully children at school who don’t fit gender norms.  This results in trauma, physical injuries and at times, death.  Some things don’t change.  Is it not time to stop terrorizing one another, and harming the most oppressed amongst us in a useless effort to export our own fears onto others?

Read more:  New York Times article from 2006 on Hell Houses

An episode from NPR’s This American Life on Hell Houses.

Huffington Post — Be Who You Are

As many youth excitedly or reluctantly begin a new year of school, some queer youth feel more trepidation than they should.  For them, school can be a scary, violent place where they experience harassment on a regular basis for being non-heterosexual.  Here is an inspiring piece from the Huffington Post on your right to be who you are in school and be safe from harassment and bullying.

Online Producer and blogger at Campaign for America’s Future.

Posted: August 5, 2009 03:08 PM

School will soon start again, and countless LGBT youth will return to classrooms all over the country. Some will return to schools where they find support and protection from harassment — where administrators and teachers work together to ensure a safe learning environment to all students.

Some won’t.

Some students will return to schools where officials turn a blind eye to bullying and harassment. Some will face administrators who tell them “it’s only words and words can’t hurt you”. Some will return to schools in communities where people oppose protecting LGBT students from harassment. Some will contend with people who believe some students should be harassed — and that some harassment should be permitted — “for their own good.”

Some of those students will make it, but some won’t.

Some will have no one to stand up for them, or to show them how to stand up for themselves.

I hope someone tells them about Rochelle Hamilton.

From The San Francisco Chronicle :
“A high school student who says that she was harassed by her teachers in 2007, because she is a lesbian has won a legal settlement from the Vallejo City Unified School District, officials confirmed Monday.

Under the agreement, the district will pay $25,000 to Rochelle Hamilton, 16, who had come out as a lesbian at age 13. The district will also bolster its anti-gay-discrimination training and complaint procedures for all staff and students and be monitored by the American Civil Liberties Union for five years.

… Rochelle began attending Vallejo’s Jesse Bethel High School as a sophomore in the fall of 2007, and was accosted with verbal harassment that continued for months. Most of the attacks, she said, came from her teachers and school staff.

According to Rochelle, a teacher approached while she was hugging her girlfriend and said, “This is ungodly, and you’re going to hell.”

Another teacher allegedly asked her, “What are you, a man or a woman?

She was required to participate in a school-sponsored “counseling” group designed to discourage students from being lesbian or gay.”

I hope they have adults like Cheri Hamilton in their lives.

From New Media America :
So tell me, what’s this journey been like for you?

Cheri: It has been long and painful. With the support from De-Bug and the ACLU, I felt I finally had people who understood our pain. I had to write many letters and make many phone calls, not allowing the district to run from this. Every issue Rochelle faced and every tear she dropped, I brought it to their attention.

Meanwhile, I held Rochelle, reminding her that nothing was wrong with her, that she was beautiful inside and out. As Rochelle asked me why the teachers wouldn’t stop, I reminded her what her father and I endured for being a black and white couple, and if we would have given in to a hateful society then she wouldn’t be here. As Rochelle listened, she realized that she also had to stand up for herself and others. I was not backing down and reminded the school administrators that my daughter has a right to be herself and receive an education in their district. While Rochelle grabbed her strength from me and as I counseled her through every putdown, she gained strength, and became a shoulder or a ear for LGBTQ (lesbian gay bisexual transgender queer) friends wanting to offer any support that they needed. It reminded her how important it was for her to continue the fight for change.

What was the school’s reaction to the case and to Rochelle? Were at least any of them sympathetic or apologetic to Rochelle?

Cheri: The school and the district chose to be sympathetic, but (they were) not willing to apologize. The settlement agreement speaks loudly. Rochelle and I have not focused on a pacified five-letter word “SORRY,” but rather we fought for a six-letter word: “CHANGE.” That was our goal, and we won what we really wanted, to make Vallejo a safer learning environment for all students.

Is there a message you have for other parents of gay teens who have to go through this and don’t know what to do?

Cheri: Always have the will! You are your child’s voice! They are not heard unless you speak. Always be proud of your kids and remember how special they are. Smiles last forever in a mother’s heart. Listen to your kids and find out what is going on at their school, who their teachers are, and if your child is complaining, upset or withdrawn, find out why.

I hope someone shares with them her words of encouragement.

From the Blog of Rights:
A gay friend told me recently that his teacher said to him, “You just want to be a girl.” I told him to write a complaint. I was so proud that now there’s something we can do. There are too many students who are harassed. Students have rights too. Young people are strong. We have a voice. There are students like me all over California who are working to make their schools and their lives better. When something is wrong, we need to stand up and make a difference. Young people like me, we’re not looking for a five letter word, “sorry.” We’re looking for a six letter word: “change.”

I go to school to learn, but the experience of standing up for myself and for my rights taught me some important lessons.

Lesson Number One: Students can take a stand against adults who discriminate. And they can win. Even when those adults are teachers.

Lesson Number Two: I have the right to be myself. You have the right to be yourself. We all have the right.

So this is my message to everybody else being discriminated against: keep fighting, be who you are ’till the day you die, always stand up for yourself. Or, as I say in a poem I wrote: “I’m happy with my sexuality and I say it with pride you see because this is my life and this is me.”

I can tell you from my own experience that they really need to hear it.

It can make all the difference in the world.

Young, Queer and Terrorized

On Halloween in 1998 I decided not to go out to the party-in-the-streets extravaganza that is Halloween in The Castro.  It was just a few weeks after Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered in Wyoming and although I lived in San Francisco, the world no longer seemed like a safe place to be out, queer and playing on a night that is traditionally about hauntings, restless spirits and unfinished business.

I wasn’t the only person that felt this way.  In one of the “Gay Meccas” of the world, a shadow had fallen, and it wasn’t the first.  That shadow could be described as trauma — or an experience of coming in direct or indirect contact with an event that terrorizes and renders you helpless.  Judith Herman, in her highly respected book on trauma, Trauma and Recovery states that “Psychological trauma is an affliction of the powerless. At the moment of trauma, the victim is rendered helpless by overwhelming force.” Trauma is when you fear for your life and there is nothing you can do about it.  The mind’s response to trauma — anxiety, vigilance, numbing, disconnection and intrusive thoughts of the event — are the way that the mind attempts to “keep us safe” from re-experiencing the event, but never really allows us to integrate what has happened.  When this persists, it is called “post traumatic stress disorder” (PTSD).

Trauma strikes the LGBTQ community in a variety of ways.  On August 1st, two young people were murdered and about 15 others badly injured when a gunman opened fire on a group of LGBTQ youth at a Tel Aviv gay centerReports roll in of friends and family of the young people standing vigil, waiting for news of their injured loved ones.  Certainly those that were present at that attack will suffer the effects of trauma.

What of the young people who, each day they attend school, fear for physical harm and threats of physical harm because of their real or assumed sexual orientation?  GLSEN reports that 4 out of 5 gay youth experience harassment at school.

When we hear of violence against LGBTQ youth such as the murders of Angie Zapata, Lawrence King, Matthew Shepard, Sakia Gunn, and the Tel Aviv youth we can experience trauma as well.  When we’re exposed over and over to the video of the “exorcism” of a young gay man that became so physically intense that he vomited, or to pictures of the aftermath of a ant-gay murder, we can experience trauma.  Although it hasn’t happened directly to us, it is a threat to our lives.  “When,” we might wonder, “will I say the wrong thing, be in the wrong area, encounter the wrong people and be the next victim?” We are helpless to prevent this violence although many of us try by hiding ourselves: refusing to hold hands with a partner in public, not showing up to events, keeping our identity a secret, trying to dress and act in ways that are as gender-normative as we can manage. We trade ourselves for a modicum of safety.

When youth are threatened daily at school, when you avoid certain areas, are afraid to hold hands in public, or narrowly miss a bottle being thrown at you, when you hear on a regular basis of horrifying crimes against those like you, this has an impact on your health, your wellness and your life.

Hate crime is terrorism.  It is terrorism because it creates an entire class of people who live in fear.  Emotional trauma contributes to PTSD When the airwaves are full of talk of “gay marriage” (which suddenly sounds frivolous when we contemplate the deaths of young people) we might forget that acceptance of LGBTQ people is a life and death issue.  LGBTQ youth everywhere experience fear, trauma and even terror on a daily basis.  The mind’s response to that trauma is anxiety, depression, isolation, withdrawal, constriction of emotion, inability to sleep, relationship difficulty, anger and agitation, failure to attend class or missing work and at times, suicidal or self-harming behavior.

Whether we live in fear because we have seen the horrifying pictures, because our own safety is regularly threatened or even because we’re alert at all times to possible danger as a result of homophobia in our culture, terror against LGBTQ youth exacts an enormous price.  The price is our ability to be healthy and happy and worse, the lives of our young people.

If you’ve experienced or been exposed to violence or emotional trauma and experience symptoms such as flashbacks, nighmares, extreme jumpiness, emotional numbness, intrusive memories, loss of memory of the event, feeling that you will never live a normal life-span, irritability, weepiness, thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please seek professional help.  There are many effective treatments for PTSD.  Read more about PTSD here. PTSD Support Services is also a helpful resource.

KRXQ Hosts Rob Williams and Arnie States Apologize

Press release from our friends at GLAAD who did so much to make sure this apology happened.  Courtesy to Tips-Q

GLAAD MEDIA RELEASE

June 11, 2009, New York, NY – The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy organization, today responded to an on-air apology from KRXQ-FM radio hosts Rob Williams and Arnie States of the Rob, Arnie & Dawn in the Morning program. Williams and States apologized for a May 28 broadcast where they made defamatory and dehumanizing comments about transgender people, including advocating child abuse of transgender children. The show is broadcast on KRXQ-FM in Sacramento, California and also heard on KDOT-FM in Reno, Nevada.

GLAAD issued a Call to Action on June 2, calling on our constituents to contact KRXQ management and demand that the hosts take accountability for their May 28 comments. The two hosts spent the entire June 3 program addressing the issue, but failed to apologize for their comments. Following the June 3 broadcast, GLAAD continued asking members to speak out. Community response motivated 12 sponsors to pull advertising from the program, prompting the show to issue a statement on its Web site telling its listeners it had crossed the line, failed them and that no new episodes would air until Thursday, June 11.

In addition to the apologies from Williams and States, today’s two and a half hour program featured transgender advocate and Pam’s House Blend contributor Autumn Sandeen and Executive Director of TransYouth Family Allies Kim Pearson. Hosts Williams, States and Dawn Rossi asked numerous questions, took listener calls and oversaw a robust discussion about transgender people and issues.

Here are some of their excerpted remarks from today’s show; you can listen to the full audio at http://robarnieanddawn.com.

Rob Williams [5:03 – 5:54]: “Our audience made it clear that we had actually made it seem as though we endorse or allow, or in a worst case scenario from some of the comments I’ve heard from our fans, encourage the harming and abuse of children, the bullying and vilifying of those who are different and singling out of transgenders for harm and/or mocking. And for that, for the education that our audience has supplied to me, I want you to very clearly understand that I proudly and fully apologize, apologize for those comments completely. I’m sorry that this show in any way made it sound like we would ever tolerate any of those things that I described.”
Rob Williams [6:12 – 6:26]: “If you hurt a child in any way, if you joke about hurting a child in any way, if you advocate or tolerate hurting a child in any way, the Rob, Arnie and Dawn show has always and will continue to stand against you.”
Arnie States [18:49 – 19:20]: “I didn’t realize that my words could really affect and hurt as bad and as negatively as they did – not only to the transgender community but also to our audience – our listeners, our backbone, if you will. My ignorance prevented me from understanding how hard a transgender’s life is day to day — I never understood that and I’m very sorry for that. I ignorantly thought that name-calling was just that – name-calling. And due to my ignorance, I was wrong about that.”
Arnie States [19:46 – 20:08]: “I just want to echo something that Rob said earlier, and it’s the God’s honest truth, I’m not here to change people’s minds on things, I’m here to entertain people, and I didn’t do that. I hurt people. And that wasn’t my goal. I stupidly tried to think that I was entertaining people by the things that I said and I hurt people in the process.”

Full text of the release here:

Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) – Media Release: KRXQ Hosts Rob Williams and Arnie S.

KRXQ Statement on Encouraging Violence Against Transgender Youth

KRXQ of the “Rob, Arnie & Dawn Show” in Sacramento has published a statement on the front page of their website.  They will make their formal statement and apology on the air this Thursday at 7:30 am (Pacific Time, I assume). 

An excerpt of their statement:

WE HAVE FAILED YOU. AS A SHOW, AS PEOPLE, AS BROADCASTERS, WE HAVE SIMPLY FAILED ON ALMOST EVERY LEVEL.

WE PRESENTED OUR OPINIONS ON A VERY SENSITIVE SUBJECT IN A HATEFUL, CHILDISH AND CRUDE FASHION; AND THEN, GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO RETRACT THOSE REMARKS, WE DEFENDED THEM….

See the rest at http://www.krxq.net/

A fairly humble and appropriately chagrined statement, I’m curious to hear what they say this Thursday.

When transpeople and allies come out against violence, we are saying that the time is over where gender variance is an easy target.  It is also important to consider the impact on youth.  When youth hear statements like those made by Rob & Arnie, they often feel doomed to be hated by the world including the people upon whom they rely the most: Their parents.  However, when there is an outcry against remarks like Rob & Arnie’s and youth hear an apology that can also be very powerful.  To hear someone with as much clout as a radio DJ say “I was wrong” means a lot.  It means that even if other adults say cruel or ignorant things, they could be wrong too.  This apology is heavy with importance.  I hope that Rob and Arnie take the opportunity to make this gesture powerful for all those trans youth who are waiting to hear “I was wrong.”

Meanwhile, thank you to all of those who blogged about the issue, called the radio station and even just informed others.  Thanks to the advertisers, Snapple, Chipotle,  Sonic, Bank of America, Wells Fargo & AT&T who were amongst those who pulled advertising in protest to the anti-trans remarks (as reported by GLAAD)

Below is just a very small collection of the terrific blogs and their statements and reactions. These blogs and others helped spread the word very quickly.  When you stop by, be sure to thank them.

The Daily Kos

The GLAAD Blog

TransGriot

Gendersaurus Rex

Alas! A Blog

Bird of Paradox

Like a Whisper

Thank you!

KRXQ Statement on Encouraging Violence Against Transgender Youth

KRXQ of the “Rob, Arnie & Dawn Show” in Sacramento has published a statement on the front page of their website.  They will make their formal statement and apology on the air this Thursday at 7:30 am (Pacific Time, I assume). 

An excerpt of their statement:

WE HAVE FAILED YOU. AS A SHOW, AS PEOPLE, AS BROADCASTERS, WE HAVE SIMPLY FAILED ON ALMOST EVERY LEVEL.

WE PRESENTED OUR OPINIONS ON A VERY SENSITIVE SUBJECT IN A HATEFUL, CHILDISH AND CRUDE FASHION; AND THEN, GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO RETRACT THOSE REMARKS, WE DEFENDED THEM….

See the rest at http://www.krxq.net/

A fairly humble and appropriately chagrined statement, I’m curious to hear what they say this Thursday.

When transpeople and allies come out against violence, we are saying that the time is over where gender variance is an easy target.  It is also important to consider the impact on youth.  When youth hear statements like those made by Rob & Arnie, they often feel doomed to be hated by the world including the people upon whom they rely the most: Their parents.  However, when there is an outcry against remarks like Rob & Arnie’s and youth hear an apology that can also be very powerful.  To hear someone with as much clout as a radio DJ say “I was wrong” means a lot.  It means that even if other adults say cruel or ignorant things, they could be wrong too.  This apology is heavy with importance.  I hope that Rob and Arnie take the opportunity to make this gesture powerful for all those trans youth who are waiting to hear “I was wrong.”

Meanwhile, thank you to all of those who blogged about the issue, called the radio station and even just informed others.  Thanks to the advertisers, Snapple, Chipotle,  Sonic, Bank of America, Wells Fargo & AT&T who were amongst those who pulled advertising in protest to the anti-trans remarks (as reported by GLAAD)

Below is just a very small collection of the terrific blogs and their statements and reactions. These blogs and others helped spread the word very quickly.  When you stop by, be sure to thank them.

The Daily Kos

The GLAAD Blog

TransGriot

Gendersaurus Rex

Alas! A Blog

Bird of Paradox

Like a Whisper

Thank you!