Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Gay Bashers Are Us

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Gay Bashers Are Us

Article excerpt

I have great compassion for confused young people who are set up to do the dirty work for the "respectable work" and then abandoned to suffer alone.

Twice in my 60-plus years I have survived vicious antigay murder attempts. The attack that inflicted the most physical damage occurred 20 years ago, when I was visiting my folks in Abilene, Tex. One evening, as I left Abilene's nearly hidden gay bar at about 9 P.M., two young men in their late teens or early 20s abducted me in my parents' car, forcing me into the middle of the front seat. During a two-hour "joyride," they took turns beating me mercilessly and hurling antigay epithets. As I felt my life force diminishing, I went limp to play dead. They dumped me in a remote area and left me for dead. To this day the nerve in my left cheek throbs wildly when I sense danger. So you see, I do not speak abstractly of homophobic violence.

The motive of my attackers now seems clear, particularly in light of the recent lessons of the murders of Arthur "J.R." Warren in West Virginia, Matthew Shepard in Wyoming, Pfc. Barry Winchell in Kentucky, Billy Jack Gaither in Alabama, Winfield Mowder and Gary Matson in Northern California, and so many others. In short, it's a good bet that the young men who attacked me had serious problems of their own, perhaps relating to their own sexuality.

While I know that not every gay bashing is the product of repressed gay urges, I also know that a young man with secret same-sex feelings typically knows only the values of the macho culture around him. Deep fear of his own feelings can drive him to act out against gay men, as if that will prove he isn't what they are.

Too many of our societies' institutions fan the flames of that confused young man's shame and, by extension, his resulting violence. Imagine him listening to his preacher ranting about how depraved gay people are. Imagine him looking for help in a school system in which teachers are forbidden to discuss homosexuality in positive terms--a situation that a November ballot initiative threatens to mm into law here in Oregon.

The fact is that the same voices of disapproval and disgust that lead so many young gay people to attempt suicide can lead other confused youths to violence and murder--while the so-called upstanding people whose words endorse those actions are off the hook. …

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