Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Clayton, North Carolina gives us one such reminder. Recently the home of a gay couple there was burned down in what is being ruled as arson...and wonder of wonders...a hate crime. Fortunately for the couple, who's names have been kept anonymous, they were out of town at the time the fire was set. A Neighbor who also chose to remain anonymous for fear of her own safety claims that the couple had also experienced harassing notes dropped in their mailbox...had their home defaced with anti-gay slurs...and tires slashed on a vehicle in their garage. According to an Towleroad update, police are looking for a White Chevy S-10 pickup pulling a trailer containing ride on lawn mowers stolen from the home. The couple is being put up in a hotel by the Red Cross who is also helping out with food, clothes and insurance contacts.
This whole event just angers me. Who should have to live their lives in fear that something like this will happen? And what if this couple had been home asleep? The consequences of events like these are not merely the burning of a home...or the loss of possessions...It's the damage done to the soul that can take so much longer to repair.
One facet of this story that amazes me is that it was actually being investigated as a possible hate crime. So many blatantly awful things have happened to gay people this year that had elements of homophobia that did not even get considered as a hate crime that it's beginning to make hate crimes laws look like a toothless joke. Often, obvious examples of hate based motivation can be relabeled as something else and the whole thing tossed aside. For example, accounts of people being brutally beaten after leaving a gay bar and while being called slurs...and at least two other stories of homes being lit on fire after conflicts with homophobic neighbors and in most cases, authorities dither on whether or not these should be considered hate crimes. It doesn't take a genius to connect the dots but maybe some just don't want to.
Everything these men owned....Everything that represented the life they built together, sits in a pile of brick and ash....all because of someone who felt like their actions are justified because they were done to gays. While the couple may not have been physically beaten, what happened to them can have many of the same psychological effects. The world becomes an unsafe place in which the hatred that used to be hidden behind sideways glances and whispered comments has just reduced your home to ash. The message "you don't belong" comes through loud and clear. If this was me I'd be checking for locked doors and windows, installing security lights, and laying awake at night anyway for months to come.
When I read of stories like these, they usually come from states that are not known for their tolerance or acceptance of gay or transgendered people. But there isn't a one of us, that upon reading their story can't feel concern, anger, and the instinctual fear that this could happen to you too....far too easily. Hell, I live in a really progressive part of California, but I know that walking down the street holding my husbands hand, or a casual kiss seen by the wrong person can mean violent confrontation in a heartbeat. So, if I can't let my guard down even in a place like this, then were can I? Where can anybody? Is the answer to move to some place like the Castro?....That may be the answer for alot of people. Moving to a big city where there's lots of people like yourself is one way to carve out a small chunk of the world and turn it into a safe place. A place where you can find work...maybe love, and live in relative peace. For some of us that come from overwhelmingly homophobic places, getting out is just the best option.....but with all that we gain from carving out our own neighborhoods there are some things we lose as well.
Speaking only for myself..I love the place I was born in. Every year it gets more crowded and more expensive but all my best memories have taken place within its borders. My family is here and many of my friends....and In the evening when the sun sets, it's like magic to me. It falls on rolling hills and vineyards, turning everything golden. No matter what insanity might be happening in my life, I can see that and feel at peace. I know I am home. If I put myself in the shoes of these men, I think I would try to find some way to rebuild my life, because why should any of us give up the lives we build..or the memories we have made to find a place where you are allowed to exist in safety? We should not give them that power over us.
This story touches my heart. I guess because there have been so many other stories of violence to gay and trans people this year that the weight of it all begins to pile up on me. In the wake of telling everyone, "It Gets Better" we have to acknowledge that...yes, it does get better..but that's because we have the ability to make it better by our own choices and by a certain amount of courage to live in an uncertain world....a world that is still deeply imperfect at the best of times and sometimes just downright dangerous for us. It does indeed get better...but it takes balls too.
Until next time dear readers...