Homophobia and Murder – Gary Young MySpace Blog

Homophobia and Murder
Category: News and Politics

It’s almost the end of February, for goodness sake.  Come on, Time.  Show a little mercy.

This is long and contains some adult-only themes.

MURDER
Chillin’ on this Sunday morning.  Surfing the web, as we used to say, and I came across a news story.  Maybe you’ve heard about it.  Oxnard, California.  A 15 year old boy is in class.  A 14 year old walks in and shoots the 15 year old in the head.  He runs out and is arrested a few minutes later.  Another school shooting, a tragedy for the nation.  Another family’s tragic nightmare.

The 15 year old, Lawrence King, had on occasion worn high heel boots and makeup with his school uniform.  He was teased and harassed of course for being gay.  He was living in a foster care situation at the time.  The 14 year old shooter, Brandon McInerney, is being tried as an adult and isn’t talking to investigators.  His home life is … parents arrested repeatedly for domestic violence and drug abuse.  Back and forth between two dysfunctional homes.

How do you make sense of this?  Apparently, there was an issue between the two.  The most clear cut thing I read was that Lawrence King was teased and taunted, of course, and that his response was to say that Brandon McInerney must like him.  Others then teased Brandon McInerney saying that he must be gay if the gay kid liked him.

Now, up to this point it seems like typical (typically senseless) verbal abuse and back and forth.  How does that turn into a kid taking a gun into school in front of a room full of people and shooting someone in the head?  There’s no way that you’re going to get away with it.  Everyone saw you and everyone knows who you are.  Are you proving something to someone?  Was that his way of proving to his friends and maybe family that he’s no “fag”?  He’s being charged as an adult — first degree murder plus a hate crime.

Those are the facts as I understand and interpret them.

Lawrence King was murdered.  Brandon McInerney’s life, as we think of life with its freedoms and opportunities, is pretty much over.  He’ll likely receive a heavy sentence and will spend the next few decades in a brutal, dehumanizing institution.  That is, if he survives the first few months in a real prison as opposed to a juvenile correction facility, which is bad enough.  You do not want to be young and fresh-faced in a correctional facility.

This story is being politicized.  Gay organizations are claiming this for their own.  Lawrence King is being co-opted as a martyr for a cause.  King’s family has said that they don’t want Lawrence to be remembered as “the gay kid”, but as a human being.  They don’t want him to be trivialized and one-dimensional-ized, as if there was nothing more to him than his sexual identity, which he was apparently exploring.  He had hobbies, interests and a life bigger than a day of high heel boots and makeup.  They don’t want his death to be used as political ammunition.

Meanwhile, all of the typical reactions are flying about: gun control, teaching tolerance in schools, metal detectors, etc.  As if there’s a political solution for kids gunning each other down.  As if the public school system is going to solve anything.

HOMOPHOBIA
Homophobia is racism but for sexual orientation.  You can have as many Black History Months or diversity and tolerance classes as you want and it’s not going to make a racist think any better of black people.  In fact, it may increase their resentment.  Homophobia isn’t something you can just fix.  Even with all the exposure and increasing acceptance of gay people, if you sit down with a few other guys — and I mean college-educated working professional socially liberal types — you will quickly get to gay jokes and accusations made as comical insult impugning each other’s sexuality.

I was surprised by one guy I know using the word “fag” recently and other derogatory terms for gay or effeminate men.  Another wouldn’t even talk about “Brokeback Mountain” and basically said there’s something wrong with me for having watched it.  Rote machismo.  That’s how you’re supposed to talk as a young man in some circles.

When I was growing up I was taught that if a guy came on to me I should punch him.  And this was at an age when I was too young to know what a “come on” is.  When I was in college I would study with some Ethiopian guys.  One of them, after hanging out enough to be comfortable with straight talk (no pun intended), said that gay people should be put to death.  Death!  Jesus.  This same guy then asked me to cheat on an exam.

The weird thing is that this brand of gay-phobia has nothing to do with religion or morals.  Not really.  I know guys who are disgusted by the idea of gay sex but have told me with fond nostalgia of anal sex with a female partner.  You know, some manhood-affirming kinky freaky sex.

I’m trying to remember what my point is.  In societies all over the world there’s an irrational, reactionary homophobia, which sometimes turns deadly.  Is it some kind of genetic, evolutionary hate?  Like cats and dogs kind of?  Why the ancient, historical social resentment and violence?

Another gay teenager, dressed as a woman, was shot and killed in Fort Lauderdale recently.  Why is cross-dressing worthy of a death sentence?  It’s disconcerting to me, personally, but come on.  We’re all making our way through life the best we can.  I’m not one of those people who think that gay people are somehow better, happier, more noble than others.  I don’t see gayness as glamorous, is what I’m saying.  But I also don’t see gay people as somehow worse than others.

I don’t know the solution.  Some school districts are trying to teach tolerance of diversity starting in first grade or kindergarten.  I don’t think it will work.  I know some guys who once were very homophobic but are now a lot more open-minded because they have friends who are gay.  Friends, family members, co-workers.  Maybe people just need to see that homosexual doesn’t inherently mean alien sub-human child violating destruction of civilization.

The same way that once the blue collar racists I grew up with realized that a black guy actually is a human being, not a stereotype.  It didn’t stop them from using the word nigger or telling racist jokes and believing stereotypes, but it was a start in that direction.

Anyway.  Thoughts?

Yo tengo hambre.  I’m outta here.

3:44 AM – 9 Comments – 4 Kudos – Add CommentEditRemove

Michelle

Wanted to mention my own homophobia. Being judged myself everyday you’d think I wouldn’t judge others, but unfortunately I too am guilty of judging something I don’t understand or know. I do have a few friends who are “gay” and I have no problem with that. A few years ago I must admit I felt uncomfortable around homosexuals. Mostly because I didn’t know or understand it. Until recently, within the past 5 years have I started to feel there is nothing wrong with someone who is a homosexual. It doesn’t change who they are nor does it make them “scary”. They are as human as you and I are. They just attracted to their same sex rather than their opposite. Love is love in this world and you can’t control if it’s a man or a woman. I used to believe if you watched “The L word” or “Queer as folk” you have to be gay, but realize that is not true. Even though I still know people who still believe that. I just started watching the “L word” myself recently and now it’s one of my favorites shows. BUT I prefer men and Paul Newman is still my boyfriend. 🙂 Even though he’s like 83 and wrinkly. You’d have to watch “A long hot summer” and “Cool Hand Luke” to understand my love for Paul Newman. 😀 That is my 2 cents…

Posted by Michelle on Feb 24, 2008 4:41 PM
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Gary Young

I remember your staunch defense, your stand, against homo-ignorant and homophobic comments at work. It’s crazy how such smart people can be so … lame.

I watched part of the first season of “Queer as Folk” and an episode every now and then. I must admit it made me uncomfortable. It’s so gay. There was some hot sex every now and then (discomfort 1), I will admit, but aside from that after a while I felt like I was being propagandized (discomfort 2). The straight people were one-dimensional props of prejudice for the gay characters to interact with. And all the guys seemed shallow and trite to me after a while.

I haven’t seen the “L word”.

Ha. Paul Newman is responsible for some amazing iced tea and lemonade half-and-half goodness. I approve of your relationship with him even though he is 83 and wrinkly. 🙂

Do you have Paul Newman posters in your room?

Posted by Gary Young on Feb 24, 2008 5:02 PM
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Michelle

I recommend “The L word” especially since most of you males like girl on girl action. HA! It’s similar to Sex and the City I think. Just there’s no “Mr. Big”. hehehe

Paul Newman posters on my wall? um…no…I don’t…

Posted by Michelle on Feb 25, 2008 12:43 AM
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Tony

I honestly don’t think that homophobia is genetic, and I have reasons along a couple of lines.

1) Homosexuality was accepted in many major cultures before Christianity and Islam took over the world. The Roman Empire and The Greek Empire are the most obvious of these, but there are studies suggesting it was common and accepted in ancient Egypt and China as well. In Hawaii it was apparently expected for the king to have a gay lover. The oft disputed number that’s thrown around is 10% of the population, historically, has been gay. My own experience suggests that number is NOT too high, presuming it includes bi-curious. (I’ve run into homosexuality in some unexpected places… during my time working in a foundry in Indiana, for example.)

2) I was raised in sub-rural Indiana. It’s about as homophobic as you can get there, so naturally I grew up with a “healthy” dose of homophobia. Not violent, mind you… the “ew, get away” kind. To my shame (now), when a friend of mine came out to me as being bisexual some time around my freshman year in high school I completely broke contact with him. Flash forward 25 or so years and I believe I’ve managed to shed the vast majority of this shameful prejudice. Yes, I lived in California for 15 of those years, and yes, I was exposed to more gays and gay culture during that time, but it’s not like I was hanging out in The Castro. I think it was the effect of just living in a generally more tolerant culture that made me see homosexuals as people, not the freaks that they’re often painted as. So, if I can overcome said redneck upbringing, I think anyone should be able to.

The thing that really makes me angry now is when people (usually conservatives) throw around the phrase “lifestyle choice”. I don’t believe homosexuality is a choice any more than I think heterosexuality is a choice. I know *I* don’t have a choice. I couldn’t suddenly wake up one morning and find men attractive. Personally, I think men are disgusting and I don’t know how you women out there put up with us. (Though I’m glad you do. 🙂 ) I was struck by this the other day when I saw a “poster” (it was on the web) for Step Up 2: The Streets. What struck me was that, in my eyes at least… women look like artwork… and men look like apes. Given that basic, visceral instictive love for the female form, and the utter disdain for the male form, it’s obvious to me that sexuality is not something that was taught to me. It’s instinctive. Now why would I, or anyone, think that it would be different for anyone else, whether their reaction is for the opposite sex, the same sex, or both? It’s just another case of people equating what they believe with morality, and then believing that they’re morally superior to everyone that’s different than them. (Which only makes conservative republican gay sex scandals more hysterical, imho.)

I think I’m rambling a bit, so I’ll stop. I do want to say that I hope people don’t take that last paragraph as latent homophobia on my part. I don’t want to come off as saying, “yeah, gays are fine, upstanding members of the community… but I’m straight, dammit.” That’s really not what I’m saying. “Lifestyle choice” is just a hotbutton issue for me that comes up every time gay rights is mentioned. It just seems so obvious to me that it angers me that it comes up as an issue so often.

Posted by Tony on Feb 24, 2008 4:41 PM
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Gary Young

Oh wow. Juicy comments. Thanks, Tony. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I think homophobia is a form of xenophobia. I can not say that it’s genetic, but it’s an innate (in the implications of the word and not it’s definition) part of the human experience. Any population that is different, ends up being discriminated against and sometimes feared and sometimes reviled. Immigrants, gays, minorities, little people, cleft lips, people with gigantism, crossed eyes, etc.

What I’m saying is that homophobia is not the result of Judeo-Christian-Islamic religion. That’s part of my premise. It isn’t the underlying reason for xenophobia, racism, homophobia. They’re basic traits of the human condition. Like war. Lion prides fight each other for various reasons. They don’t require religion, I’m going to assume, to fight and kill each other or other species over territory and mates. Resources.

But wait. Wait, wait, wait.

Let me go back to my theory, my belief. I don’t believe sexuality is binary. I believe that sexuality is a spectrum. I don’t believe that homosexuality is a choice but I don’t believe that it’s necessarily genetic either. Humanity in general is somewhat omnisexual or try-sexual depending on the context. Put a bunch of tough, macho, hetero dudes together in a facility with no women for a few years and what happens. Administrators start talking about condom programs to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted disease. Whoa.

You said the following better than I ever could: “people equating what they believe with morality”. It’s that moral superiority that is a flavor of -ism or -phobia.

I know I’m rambling big time. I’m also watching “Mystery Diagnosis” at the same time. Oh wow. There’s a guy who had a hole in his skull and part of his brain was sagging down into his ear canal. Good grief.

Eh. Anyway, thanks for the comments. Well said, as always.

Posted by Gary Young on Feb 24, 2008 6:33 PM
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Tony

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Judeo-Christian-Islamic religion is responsible for homophobia. I agree with your assertion that it’s a form of xenophobia. Virtually any group that makes up less than 10 percent of a poplulation will suffer from prejudice from the other 90%. (Actually, that prejudice can go both ways, but odds are the smaller group will actually suffer for it.) The larger the differences (perceived or otherwise), the greater the prejudice. (And given the nature of the drive to reproduce, one could see how differences in sexual orientation could be perceived as, well, significant.) What I’m blaming at least Christianity and Islam for (not as sure about Judaism) is the intitutionalized vilification of homosexuality.

Posted by Tony on Feb 24, 2008 7:54 PM
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Gary Young

Point taken.

Institutionalized vilification of homosexuality. Amen. And the hipcrosy makes it fun!

You should have a blog.

Posted by Gary Young on Feb 24, 2008 8:01 PM
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Rob

$DIETY, Mr. McS, you do post some seriously good thoughts.

From my own sordid past and present:

School is a different world. I don’t want to sound like there’s no upside, there is, to be sure and I wish I’d made better use of it, but the down can be unbounded due to the effective indifference of the alleged adult supervision. My experience of this is freshest with my own kids. These days, schools have all sorts of policies and mottos and feel-good sentiment about how teasing, bullying, etc isn’t tolerated, but in practice unless you, as the parent, are on the phone or in someone’s office raising a modicum of hell, it is absolutely tolerated.

Kids also have much thinner skins than adults, and limited social venues. If my work life is hell, I can leave. Kids need to engage someone to make that happen for them (Mom/Dad, get me out of here), they know that someone is likely to resist (getting your kids in another school is expensive in one of several ways) and there’s probably going to be a huge internal conflict–the situation’s bad, but I also don’t want to be the kid who ran away, so I’ll stick it out and fight back.

School is eternal. That’s one bit I look back on with fondness. These days, a month flashes by in the time an hour used to take. Whole species of dinosaurs rose and fell during a single school year. Summer vacations lasted decades. With that lengthened view of time, and having yet to experience anything after high school yet, I can see where kids feel the need to do *something*. Not to say I remotely condone this sort of thing, but the more I see the less I’m surprised by it. A small population of kids is incredibly unhappy, are convinced they can’t fix the problem, and it will last forever. It’s a recipe for badness.

I do think there’s a solution, and it’s to stop taking kids and packing them 1,000+ to a school with minimal supervision and negligible consequences for emotionally savaging each other on a daily basis. It’s reconstructing the community we’ve lost in favor of our own little work/home islands. I held a kids birthday party recently, and as an amateur sociologist, it was so interesting to watch these people who had something in common–a lot, actually, pair or single off into separate areas of this big playground-like facility. I have to wonder what the world would look like if parents knew each other well enough to just pick up the phone and say “Billy and Jimmy are having some kind of serious disagreement. Wanna get together and see if we can help them sort it out?” We probably get the opposite when kids model hostility in their own homes.

You’re absolutely right that teaching diversity is a poor substitute to experiencing it. You know, I’ve long been an opponent of the word “homophobia” because I think the underlying emotion isn’t fear, but hate or contempt. Sexism was already taken, I suppose, and sexualpreferencism is too unwieldy. I think this ties into the first half of my reply. When we’re young, we’re striving to differentiate ourselves, to put ourselves on the top–or at least not the bottom, of some social pile. It’s as if everyone feels an irresistible need to hold someone in contempt to justify their own status. I think it takes strength of character to get beyond that, which seems to only come with experience and age.

Posted by Rob on Feb 25, 2008 12:43 AM
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Gary Young

Hey Rob! Thank you mucho for the comment.

It’s good to get the perspective of a devoted parent. While writing about the kids’ interaction I failed to think about the parents, teachers and administrators. Schools are too often cattle calls. They can be as dehumanizing or isolating as any other large scale social institution.

Then there’s the home life. In this case, the parents and families were dysfunctional. How can kids be expected to resolve conflicts and be civil when their lives are full of malfunctioning adults.

Community.

What took me a paragraph to say, you said in one clean sentence: teaching diversity is a poor substitute to experiencing it.

Good to hear your thoughts, Sir Rob.

Posted by Gary Young on Feb 25, 2008 7:51 PM

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