As 2008 draws to a close, hate crime statistics from 2007 are finally coming into clearer focus. Both the FBI and various anti-violence programs are verifying hate crime increases perpetrated against the LGBT community-at-large. Sadly, the findings from 2007 have been corroborated by ongoing violent acts in 2008.
FBI Hate Crimes Statistics for 2007: Sexual-orientation bias related crimes are up 18%.* National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs disputes these statistics, claiming a 24% increase, at least. The official report says that in 2007, law enforcement agencies reported 1,460 hate crime offenses based on sexual-orientation bias to the FBI. Of these offenses:
- 59.2 percent were classified as anti-male homosexual bias.
- 24.8 percent were reported as anti-homosexual bias.
- 12.6 percent were prompted by an anti-female homosexual bias.
- 1.8 percent were the result of an anti-heterosexual bias.
- 1.6 percent were classified as anti-bisexual bias.
(*Note: Anti-transgender incidents are not reported in these statistics, since law-enforcement is not required by law to report them.)
Clarence Patton, Executive Director of the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project (NYAVP), noted the “dramatic increase in the number of anti-lesbian, gay and bisexual incidents reported—though the overall number of reports captured by the FBI rose only 8%, the number of reports impacting our communities rose at more than twice that rate.”
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), a coalition of 30 member programs including the NYAVP, reported that gay bashing incidents actually rose 24% compared to 2006. 2007 also had the third-highest murder rate in a decade, more than doubling from 10 in 2006 to 21 in 2007.
Even these statistics hardly give the picture of the crisis of violence against LGBT people all across the United States. The true number of incidents perpetrated against queer folk is probably much higher, as Avy Skolnik, national programs co-ordinator of the NCAVP, reported:
“We know that the 2,430 people who called on our organizations in 2007 are only a small fraction of the actual number of LGBT people who experienced bias-motivated violence. Anecdotally, we constantly hear stories of LGBT people surviving abuse—sometimes multiple attacks per day when that violence comes from a fellow student, a neighbor, a co-worker, a landlord, or a boss.”
Dallas, Texas, boasting one of the largest LGBT populations in the country, saw LGBT people taking to the streets in protest of the alarming number of attacks. Two high-profile murders and several brutal assaults, including the “Silence of the Lambs style” dismemberment of gay man, Richard Hernandez, a 34-year-old citizen of Dallas, sparked street protests from United Community Against Gay Hate Crime to draw the attention of the public to the plight of LGBT citizens.
Behind each number in these statistics are real people: victims, family, friends, bereaved lovers. This is the human cost of Gay Apartheid. The real target of these atrocities, however, is the idea of America, a country where all people may pursue their lives without fear of intimidation or violence. Until American laws and the attitudes behind them change to reflect the inclusion of all people in the constitutional rights and privileges afforded some, then this nation must be brought to face so-called “legal” acts of apartheid against the LGBT community.
Forty years after the Stonewall Uprising in New York, universally recognized as the birth of the LGBT Rights Movement, 29 states have constitutional amendments passed for the sole purpose of depriving LGBT citizens the same rights as heterosexuals. States have enacted bans against gay parenting and adoption. Not only has the Federal Government passed the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA), and instituted the oppressive “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy for the U.S. Military, but 15 states have barred same-sex marriage, and 18 states have legislation limiting domestic partnerships and civil unions. The passage of Proposition 8 in California, repealing the right to marry given to its citizens earlier in the year, is just the latest act of apartheid in this country. Violence is following the law, not the other way around.
The definition of Apartheid is “a system of laws applied to one category of citizens in order to isolate them and keep them from having privileges and opportunities given to all others,” according to elder LGBT statesman, Herb Hamsher, writing for the Huffington Post. The Unfinished Lives Project cannot agree with Hamsher more when he says, “Our role is to hold a mirror up to the country and no longer allow it to shift the focus away from what we have become. We have become a nation increasingly devoted to an encroaching system of apartheid for a designated category of its citizens.”
When the tyranny of the majority goes unchecked, and the apartheid system apes the bias against LGBT people in communities and religious institutions, the American ideal of the protection of the minority from the excesses of their neighbors is exposed as a fantasy. An Apartheid America is not the nation of the free or the brave. Hate Crime murders and other violent crimes against LGBT people are hundreds and thousands of mirrors held up to the nation. We must continue to stand up, hold up these brutally frank mirrors to the disfigurement of America until our fellow citizens repudiate the travesty of the law these hate crime statistics represent.
31-year-old real estate broker José O. Sucuzhañay died on Friday, December 12th, after spending five days on a ventilator in a brain-dead condition.
Sucuzhañay and his brother Romel were walking home arm-in-arm after a night of drinking in a Brooklyn bar when three assailants attacked the brothers, having mistaken them as gay. The attackers emerged from a maroon SUV, yelling, “Check out those faggots over there.” The attackers also shouted racial epithets. Witnesses said the murderers first smashed a bottle over Sucuzhañay’s head and then struck him in the head with an aluminum baseball bat.
Gay City News describes the attack this way:
According to police, one assailant broke the bottle over Sucuzhanay’s head. After the victim fell to the ground, another of the attackers began beating him with the bat. Romel Sucuzhanay managed to flee from the path of the first assailant who chased after him with the broken beer bottle. He finally prevailed on the men to stop beating his brother when he showed them that he had a cellphone to use to call police.
Sucuzhañay’s mother was still on her way from Ecuador when José died at Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens. The family had hoped to keep their brother alive on life support long enough for their mother to arrive and say good-bye to her son.
A third brother, Diego Sucuzhañay, calls his brother’s death “a loss beyond words.”
Gay City News: “Hate Crime Victim Brain-Dead”
Box Turtle Bulletin: “Capital Crime: Appearing Gay”
Box Turtle Bulletin: “Brooklyn Hate Crime Victim Dies”