Shortly before Christmas, a 28 year old woman was gang raped and brutally assaulted in Richmond by a group of men, some of whom were in their teens. The youngest was 15 years old. She was attacked not particularly because she was a woman, but because she was a lesbian. An out lesbian, with a gay pride sticker on her car.
I’ve been struggling over what to say in response to this event, because it is so awful and horrifying, and because it happened so close to home. The Bay Area appeared to be equally shocked, and swift action was taken to apprehend the perpetrators, and to make it clear that the case would be prosecuted as a hate crime, which opens up the possibility for additional penalties.
When people ask me what the LGBQT community wants, I can’t help but think of situations like this, and say “for things like this to never, ever happen.” This woman was “fortunate” to be assaulted in the Bay, where hate crimes against gays and lesbians are taken very seriously, because there are places in the United States where she would not have received support from her community, and where some people might have even said that she deserved it, just like women who wear short skirts deserve to be raped.
This crime disgusts me because this woman’s life has been ruined. She is going to be walking in fear for the rest of her life. For the rest of her life, every time she gets out of her car alone, she is going to be looking over her shoulder. She is going to remember being brutally assaulted, and then kidnapped and taken to a remote location so that her tormentors could continue to assault her. She is probably going to spend the rest of her life tensing when she sees people of the same race of her attackers, and she may well hate herself for that visceral response.
There’s an undercurrent in the fundamentalist and conservative media narrative which seems to suggest that gays and lesbians are less than human. That the LGBQT community should not be entitled to basic respect and human rights, because we are aberrations, and we go against “nature.” This need to alienate the other in order to feel secure is a common ploy, but that doesn’t make it any less repulsive. The fact that people feel so threatened by us that they feel the need to pretend that we are not human beings is rather vile, if you ask me.
It’s also deeply troubling because of the age of several of the attackers. 15 and 16 year old boys should not be out gang raping lesbians. They should be doing their homework or partying with friends or watching movies or doing something else productive. That teens could be filled with such violence and hatred indicates how far our society needs to come. And it illustrates the danger of assuming that a community is safe just because it has a big gay and lesbian presence.
For people who think that LGBQT civil rights are about marriage, I hope that cases like this serve as a wake up call. This is about a fundamental need for society to shift, for lesbians to feel confident putting gay pride stickers on their cars, for gay men to walk down the street in safety. Civil rights is about living in a world where 15 year old boys are not indoctrinated with so much hatred and rage that they attack people for being who they are. It’s about putting an end to a world where I thought about going to the City last weekend, and decided not to, because I was afraid.