Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

French Homophobia Skyrockets 78%; Forces Reassessment of LGBTQ “Progress”

Paris victim Wilfred de Bruijn, "the face of homophobia in France," and French anti-gay marriage protestors.

Paris victim Wilfred de Bruijn, “the face of homophobia in France,” and French anti-gay marriage protestors.

Paris, France – The number of documented homophobic attacks is ballooning out of control, says a report published by the French anti-homophobia watchdog, SOS Homophobie.  Since the passage of France’s pro-LGBTQ marriage law, advocates have been shocked by a rise of 78 percent in violent crimes against gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual residents in France during 2013.  The ominous meaning of this spike in violence in a supposedly “enlightened” European culture is forcing advocates, activists, and government officials to rethink narratives of progress on the issue of human equality.

SOS Homophobie, the only organization with reliable statistics on attacks against LGBTQ people in France, says that a violent physical attack against queer people is occurring no less than once every two days, and increase of 54 percent since 2012, but this statistic does not reflect the whole story.  The SOS Helpline received an astounding 3,500 calls in 2013, as opposed to 1,977 in all of 2012, registering an overall increase in anti-gay hate crime of the reported 78 percent.  “In the last twenty years the number of reports of incidents [of homophobia] received by our association have not stopped growing, but in 2013 they exploded,” notes the most recent SOS Homphobie report.  The report also found that the number of anti-gay insults online rose from 656 in 2012 to 1,723 cases in 2013, and the number of incidents that occurred in a school increased by 25 percent.

Justice and Interior ministries have been caught napping by these startling numbers, according to EDGEBOSTON.  An ideology of “inevitable progress” on matters of human rights has caused Gallic cultural leaders to be blindsided by the shift towards anti-gay rhetoric and physical violence since the legal embrace of same-sex marriage.  “There’s no doubt the rise in homophobic acts was linked to the context of the opposition against gay marriage,” Gregory Premon, spokesperson for SOS Homophobie, said to The Local. “Homophobic words and statements became trivialized during this period and helped legitimize insults and homophobic violence.”

A Dutch resident of northern Paris, who was punched and kicked senseless on a street near his home last month, has become the “face” of this new wave of anti-gay violence in France.  Wilfred de Bruijn’s skull was fractured in five places and he lost a tooth in the attack, according to The Independent.  He and his boyfriend Olivier were walking arm-in-arm at the time of the savage assault. “I woke up in an ambulance covered in blood, missing tooth and broken bones around the eye,” Mr. de Bruijn told The Local. “I’m home now. Very sad. Olivier takes care of me. Forbidden to work for at least 10 days.”  

Mr. de Bruijn places the blame for the attack upon the shoulders of anti-same sex marriage protestors, and a group has taken credit for the brutal act. Le Printemps Français (“The French Spring”), whose membership is believed to be largely comprised of hardline Catholics and royalists, now boasts that it sanctioned and carried out the assault against Mr. de Bruijn and his lover.  The shift from anti-LGBTQ marriage to a more general disgust against all queer and gender variant people is becoming more and more obvious.  As Mr. de Bruijn said to The Independent, “The [anti-gay-marriage campaigners] know very well what can happen if you repeat, repeat, repeat that these people are lower human beings. Of course, it will have a result.”

Though the French government has reacted with outrage to the news of the attacks on Messieurs de Bruijn and Olivier, and another recent gay victim, Mr. Raphael le Clerca in Nice, confidence in governmental authority to cause social change in such a charged environment has been seriously shaken in what was once a bastion of culture and forward thinking.  In the U.S. context, as well, the rise in Western European homophobia and heterosexism is not to be taken lightly.

Geography of homophobic Tweets in the USA in 2013 (source: The Atlantic Magazine).

Geography of homophobic Tweets in the USA in 2013 (source: The Atlantic Magazine).

While the Marriage Equality movement is advancing on the judicial front, most recently in the southern and western states of Arkansas and Idaho, it cannot be ignored any longer that incidents of anti-LGBTQ violence, especially against gay men and transgender people, has risen each year since the passage of the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in October 2009.  The heat of anti-gay rhetoric from the Religious Right Wing has intensified, and homophobic Christianist preachers like Scott Lively have pressed their hate agenda abroad wherever they have gotten the chance, in Russia and the Slavic countries of the former Soviet Union, and in Central Africa, for example.  While the attention of U.S. advocacy groups is upon Marriage Equality and a looming struggle in the U.S. Supreme Court, anti-LGBTQ attitudes have largely gone unaddressed, thanks to a blind belief in “inevitable social progress,” the irrelevance of domestic religious bigotry, and trust that the younger generations of Americans will finally tip the balance towards tolerance throughout the U.S. population.

We know, however, who is killing LGBTQ people in such alarming numbers in the U.S.A.: the very young who are supposedly their saviors.  The persons who murder and maim queer folk in the United States are predominantly young men from 17 to 35 years of age.  We also know that the under appreciated cultural power of religion to spawn false narratives of government oppression of “religious freedom” lies just below the surface of American society.  And American public and private schools are hotbeds of un addressed bullying and violence against gender variant youth, with outrageous consequences for vulnerable children every week in these United States.

The Marriage Equality movement is not essentially about changing foundational attitudes towards people of difference.  It is about stretching societal and cultural boundaries just enough to let same sex couples inside, where they can enjoy a similacrum of “normal life.”  Marriage is a conservative issue in American life, and always has been.  The serious and radical work of changing hearts and minds to accept challenging differences in society remains to be done, and cannot be ignored if Americans do not want to face the crisis their French allies are currently facing “just across the Pond.”

It is past time Americans take to heart the trenchant remarks of a French government spokesman outraged by the recent rise of homophobia in France: “The hatred and homophobic remarks have no place in our country and are punishable by law. The government strongly condemns these acts. These outbursts are unacceptable. When the most basic civil rights of our citizens are attacked, the authority of the state is at stake.”

May 14, 2014 Posted by | Anti-Gay Hate Groups, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Bullying in schools, France, French homophobia, gay bashing, gay men, Gender Variant Youth, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Marriage Equality, Matthew Shepard Act, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Scott Lively, SOS Homophobie, transgender persons, transphobia, U.S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on French Homophobia Skyrockets 78%; Forces Reassessment of LGBTQ “Progress”

   

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