When we were still children, most of us saw the world through very naive and innocent eyes, never imagining the level of cruelty that lurks out in the world. As we grew older, however, we caught little glimpses of reality, of a world in which people can be very mean to others. In young adulthood we quickly realized that the bullies, once only on the playground, continue to harass and belittle in the real world too.
LGBT people have had more than their share of being bullied. Every day, someone is picked on, beaten or even killed simply because of who they are, simply for just being gay or transgendered.
In recent years, the gay community has come so far, in acquiring acceptance and obtaining some basic legal rights, yet hates crimes against LGBTs have risen to their highest level in five years*. And generally speaking, a hate crime is committed every hour in the United States.
It hits close to home too. Earlier this year a friend of mine, and his boyfriend, were holding hands as they walked down the street in South Beach, during Winter Party weekend. On several separate occasions, people (adults) yelled, "faggots" at them. And this was in South Beach, of all places (where gays roam free in their natural habitat). One of the perpetrators was a middle-aged woman!
That story, from my friend, turned my stomach. Some times I feel so removed from situations like this, mostly because I live in Miami and New York City, where peoples' differences are usually embraced and where acceptance, or at least tolerance, is the rule. But this time, it happened right here, and to someone I know.
Then I recently heard, on the news, that despite Broward county's (the next county north of Miami) diverse population and large gay community, it has one of the highest hate crimes rates in the country. I really couldn't believe my ears. Right here in my own backyard. What is wrong with people that they feel so threatened or repulsed by someone different than themselves, that they have to lash out at others, at those just going through life minding their own business?
This is horrible and completely unacceptable, yet it happens everyday, here in my own backyard, and throughout America. But the next story is even more heart breaking and crosses every line that exists in society.
This morning when I woke up, I checked my Youtube account and saw that my young cyberfriend, Quinn, had produced another video. But something unusual caught my eye. The video was entitled, I'm Very, Very Scared.
Just for quick background, Quinn is a nine-year-old gay boy, who produces insightful Youtube videos about his experiences growing up gay. See my earlier posting, How Young is too Young to Know if You're Gay?, for more background.
In young Quinn's latest video, he was awake in the middle of the night, because of a threat he had received through his Youtube vlog. Some pathetic, cyberbully threatened to kill him because of who he is, a young gay kid growing up in California. He was rightfully scared, and confused and couldn't sleep. Remember Quinn is only nine years old. He was brought to tears, as he tried to make sense of it. It brought tears to my eyes, as I watched this young kid worrying about some low-life, emotional terrorist with the goal of scaring Quinn into silence.
As different as we all are, we really are just the same, made of the same cosmic dust, particles and genes. We're all in the game of life together, just trying to survive. Why make it harder for anyone? Pass on the message of "live and let live". And, encourage your Senator to vote in favor of the Matthew Shepard Act.
Have a look at Quinn's video for yourself.
*Confronting the New Faces of Hate: Hate Crimes in America 2009