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Homophobia and Hate Crimes

Beaten while walking with his lover in New York City

Matthew Shepard

On October 7, 1998, two men approached the 21 year-old openly gay Matthew Shepard at a local campus bar in Laramie, Wyoming. They told Shepard that they wanted to become "better acquainted" and lured him into a truck. When they drove away, one of the men pulled a handgun and said, "We're not gay, and you're jacked."

They then tied Shepard to a fence, tortured him, and beat him. They beat his skull with the handgun, while Shepard begged for his life. The two attackers even took the twenty dollars in his wallet and his shoes.

He was found nearly eighteen hours after the attack at approximately 6:22 PM by two mountain bikers. They mistook his 5 feet two, 110-pound body for a scarecrow Halloween prank. Shepard was unconscious and his face was covered in blood except where his tears partially washed his blood away. The temperature dropped into the low thirties causing his body temperature to drop to the point of hypothermia. His hands were tied to the fence so tightly that the officer that cut him down had trouble.

After being on full life support for five days after the initial attack, Matthew Wayne Shepard died on October 12, 1998, at 12:53 AM, with his family at his bedside at Poudre Valley Hospital in Wyoming.

This tragic story is only one example of hate crimes against gays and lesbians. Hate crimes are steadily on the rise, and it is becoming unbearable for homosexuals. Not all hate crimes are to this extent. Some are merely name-calling. Some are vandalism, robbery, assault, rape, or arson.

A 1984 survey shows that 19 percent of all homosexuals were assaulted at least once, 44 percent were threatened, and 94 percent were victims of another form of hate (punching, hitting, shoving, or name-calling).

Homophobia is the main cause of anti-gay hate crimes. Although homophobia is not a phobia in the clinical sense, it is still widely used. Another common term is heterosexism. Either way, it is pure ignorance. Many people fear that homosexuals are trying to recruit their children. They think that the homosexual "lifestyle" is so much different from theirs, and that it contradicts their religious beliefs. Some people even go as far as believing in "homosexual takeovers" where homosexuals will run entire companies.

This ignorance is everywhere, even in the United States government. The US government was created to serve and protect its citizens equally, but they are not with their anti-gay laws. The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Policy gives people the idea that homosexuality is wrong and unaccepted, as does the "Defense of Marriage Act," which only allows opposite sex couples to marry.

Hate crimes occur almost everywhere. Thirty-one percent of all anti-gay hate crimes occur in the victim's home, and 26 percent occur on a highway, road, alley, or street. Thirty-three percent of all anti-gay hate crimes take place at a school.

School is the worst. It is bad enough that gay and lesbian teens are two to six times more likely to commit suicide. Schools do not know how to handle gay and lesbian students, because they are not educated in that matter. Even so-called professional counselors are not educated when confronted with a teen's homosexuality.

Teens even have a difficult time at home. One parent told their child, "If I thought you were gay, I'd smother you with a pillow." The hate needs to end.

There are no laws that protect gays and lesbians from hate crimes. Even the statistics are difficult to obtain because many times the definition of hate crime does not include "sexual orientation." Even if it did, many victims are afraid to take it to the authorities in fear that they will be exposed and everyone will know.

The government is neglecting the matter of anti-gay hate crimes more than they are trying to do something. There are too many instances of the police not doing anything. Laws need to be passed before more innocent people die. How many Matthew Shepards do there need to be before the United States government finally wakes up and takes charge of this matter just as they did with racism?

The Fight for Equality
Famous Les/Bi/Gay People throughout History
Lesbian Poetry
Same-Sex Marriage
Links for Parents Trying to Deal with Their Teen’s Homosexuality
Links for Teens Trying to Deal with Their Own Homosexuality
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Copyright © 1998 D.E. Wojo