My Story

Growing up in conservative West Michigan, I watched lesbian and gay friends and family members struggle to be accepted and be treated equally. There are gains and losses in this fight every day, and it is vital for LGBT individuals and their straight allies to stand up and to pay attention.

26 April 2011

Ignorance and Hate Leads to Violence-What Can YOU Do?

The threat of violence for LGBTQ people is very real, as the following stories of recent violence show. Especially in conservative communities, LGBTQ people feel threatened. But you can help (see end of post). As a warning, several of the videos below show real violence, and some readers may find them shocking.

Last week, a Texas man killed his daughter's girlfriend and the girlfriend's mother (Norma and Maria Hurtado, pictured below) because he was angry about his daughter's lesbian relationship.

Last year, Tyler Clementi committed suicide after his roommate filmed him during an "intimate encounter" with another man. Tyler jumped off of the George Washington Bridge on September 22, 2010, just days after the video was posted online. Last week, the roommate, Dharum Ravi, has been indicted on 15 counts, and prosecutors are alleging the incident was a hate crime. (Pictured below: Ravi on left, Clementi on right.)

On April 9th, Joshua Esskew, 19, was attacked by a group of at least eight men in South Carolina. Esskew happens to be gay. Esskew was walking into a convenience store when another man shouted a gay slur. Esskew tried to walk away, but someone threw a bottle at him. Eight men came running and beat him. The FBI is considering this a possible hate crime.

About 85% of LGBTQ teenagers are harassed in high school because of their sexual orientation. 61% feel unsafe in school, according to the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network. These percentages are likely underestimated.

On April 18, a 22-year-old transgender woman was beaten at a McDonald's restaurant. A McDonald's employee filmed the whole incident (see below). Allegedly, the woman was attacked after trying to use the bathroom. The first half the video recounts the attacks, the second half is about whether the attack should be considered a hate crime. It certainly seems like a hate crime to me.

In March, Damian Furtch, a 26-year-old gay man, was brutally beaten by two men outside a McDonald's. The men were shouting anti-gay slurs the whole time. 

In conservative communities without LGBTQ support groups, a new study finds that LGBTQ youth are more likely to attempt suicide than in more liberal, accepting communities. A supportive environment was also accompanied by a 9% decrease in heterosexual attempted suicides.

   "Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth were significantly more likely to attempt suicide in the previous 12 months, compared with heterosexuals (21.5% vs 4.2%). Among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth, the risk of attempting suicide was 20% greater in unsupportive environments compared to supportive environments." 

At the same time violence, ignorance, and hate are seemingly everywhere, a recent CNN poll has indicated that a majority of Americans (51%) support same-sex marriage. There are steps forward every day.

Will you join me in my fight against ignorance and hate? The social environment of a LGBTQ youth can greatly impact whether or not they attempt suicide, and an environment of acceptance can be achieved with your help. Here are some very simple things you can do:
  • If an individual calls something "gay" as an insult, tell them they're wrong. 
  • If someone says they don't care if LGBT people do their "thing", as long as they don't do it in front of him/her, say something like, "Man, those straight people too. I really wish they wouldn't do their thing in front of me."
  • If someone says, "Hey, is that girl a lesbian?" Exclaim something like, "I think that guy over there might be straight!" People make being LGBT abnormal, and they act like deviating from the heterosexual norm is something that should define a person's entire identity. Really, it's just one small part of a person, not their whole being. 
  • If you hear gay-bashing, be an ally and a friend. There's not much you can do to change a hateful person's mind, but you can be aware of those around this person. Don't be afraid to say you disagree with the speaker. You never know who is listening and hurting as a result of this ignorance.
  • If you are straight, recognize your heterosexual privilege. If you are a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender individual, reach out to people (especially teenagers) who might need your guidance.
  • If someone goads you into a religious argument, say something like, "Nothing as pure as the love of another person or the love of family could be a sin." (Or read this, for better arguments)
  • Make yourself available to those who need it. Advertise that you're an ally in subtle ways (like those above), and you will be a safe place for LGBTQ people. 
  • Participate in activities like the Day of Silence (or other activities available in high school, college, or other communities) to help raise awareness of this issue. 
  • Be aware of LGBTQ groups in your area (such as PFLAG). If you have time, attend meetings or events. 
The actions above are painless for most people, but you may never know the pain you are preventing or alleviating in other individuals.

My constant advice: 
Speak up. This is not something we can afford to be quiet about. 


  1. Wow. Thank you for this post. Did you watch any of the related videos? Outrageous. I really appreciate your suggestions at the end as well. As a homosexual, I have been threatened and discriminated against, but I still have (what is the antonym for transgender?)-privilege. The trans community needs our support.

  2. I have never really been aware of the transgender community's problems until I started researching for this blog. Have you heard that Texas may take away transgender marriage rights? And there's wacky stuff going on in Maryland, too.



  3. i found the term i was looking for: cisgender privilege.

    Also, here is a great blog that can really be a mind-opener: