Welcome to OutWrite’s new “From the Archive” series! This series is designed to provide an opportunity to interact with our organization’s archives, assess the opinions and relevance of our past content, and bring that content into the present. In doing so, this series will applaud, critique, and put into conversation ideas of the past with present ideologies and dialogues. Overall, we at OutWrite hope this new series opens up conversations and helps us reconnect with the past while striving for a better future.
*The following article no longer serves to represent the thoughts of the organization today.*
To Live and Get Bashed in America!
By Mark Gofstein
It’s Saturday night and you’ve just had an enjoyable time at your favorite club or bar. It’s now 2 a.m., and time for the club to close. As you leave and say your good-byes, some of your friends ask where you parked your car. You tell them that your car is on a small, dark side street a few blocks away. When a couple of them ask if you want somebody to walk with you to the car, you reply, “No, it’s alright, nothing is going to happen. I’ll be fine. What could go wrong between here and my car?” As you walk to your car, a pick-up truck drives by with six people in it, and its occupants yell a few obscene remarks. You choose to ignore them.
After a couple of minutes, the truck passes by again and obscenities are included once more. This time the remarks are less general and more directed at you. Included are such phrases as “Damn queer!” “— pervert!” and “Where’s your dress — fairy?” You try to ignore them again, but with all of the yelling, it’s hard. Right now you wish that somebody would have walked with you.
As you turn the corner and see your car, the truck again passes by you. This time though, it pulls over and stops. You notice that there are only four people in it now. All you can think about is getting into your car and leaving the area, fast. Approaching your auto, you notice the people from the truck getting out and walking toward you. Being quite a bit scared, you turn to go back towards the club and, you hope, safety. As you turn around you see two more people coming at you and realize now why there were only four people in the truck. You now survey the situation and come to some very scary conclusions.
First, you notice that all six people are wearing some sort of mask in order to hide their true identities. This means that you will not be able to give any sort of decent description to the authorities. Second, you notice that these people are equipped with various weapons, including bats, billy clubs, chains, etc. This means that your chances for coming out of this situation unharmed, either physically or emotionally, do not look good. The next several minutes seem to take several years to pass. You now regret walking alone.
It is a few minutes past 3 a.m. An ambulance screeches to a halt at the local hospital. The victim on board looks like he’s been run over several times by a tank; the sight is not a pretty one. The doctors eventually give the final diagnosis as six broken ribs, a ruptured spleen, a broken arm, possible kidney damage, and several bruises and cuts.
What you have just experienced and witnessed might be shocking and frightening to you, but it has actually happened. Maybe not to you, but every day in this country, especially in Southern California, it is happening to more and more of the gay population.
This past summer, gay-bashing was at an all time high. Whether it was in Laguna Beach, Silverlake, West Hollywood, Studio City, or anywhere else, violence against gays soared to new and horrifying levels. What caused this sudden surge?
One reason is a rise of gang activity in the United States. In the past few years gang membership has risen more than 200 percent and with that rise has come a more than 100 percent rise in violence and killings.
Most people have heard of the “Crips” and the “Bloods,” two of the most widely known gangs in the United States. Few have heard of the “Blue Boys,” or “MAFIA” (Men Against Fags in America), in the L.A./Orange County Area, San Diego’s “WAR” (White Aryan Resistance), or Oklahoma’s “Tulsa Midtown Boot Boys,” just to name a few. The level of violence these groups use rivals that used by the Ku Klux Klan, though they are not as politically motivated. They use any and every way possible to intimidate and brutalize their victims, from verbal abuse to physical tortue to out-right killing.
In this day, with the seriousness of the AIDS epidemic and all the publicity surrounding it, there are those who feel they must do something to prevent the disease from spreading, no matter what it may be. Some of the gangs mentioned above use AIDS as the reason for their extreme hatred of Lesbians and Gays, citing that “the queers and dykes are the ones responsible for this AIDS problem, and we’re (referring to their particular gang) going to be responsible for its demise.”
It is statements like these that show the level of intelligence which rules these organizations. It also shows that they do not know much, if anything, about AIDS or homosexuality.
The worst part of this whole issue is that, for the most part, law enforcement officials have been extremely apathetic and negligent in handling the entire situation. It is tough for any victim of a serious crime to go to the authorities, whether gay or straight. People are made to feel humiliated and violated. Very little, if anything , is done to find out who committed the crime and why. In Los Angeles, less than one-half of all gay bashings get reported.
In Laguna Beach this past summer, there were several incidents of violence which were reported by various papers, television, and radio stations. Unfortunately, what many people didn’t know was that anti-gay violence has been going on there for several years and yet had never been publicized because the majority of media outlets have been very reluctant to publish or broadcast anything to do with homosexuality.
Now comes the real question. What is going to be done?
The only immediate solution is for people to travel in groups, not alone. The old saying, “There’s safety in numbers,” is true. Never allow anybody to walk to their car or house alone. Also, avoid parking on dark, secluded streets. This will help avoid sneak attacks.
If anything should happen to you, report it. Not only to the authorities, but also the Gay and Lesbian Community Service Center’s Anti-Violence Hotline, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call (213) 464-7400, ext 201. TDD (213) 464-0029, The Crime Victim Center, (213) 857-5585, or the Open Quest Crisis Line, (213) 650-6736.
Reporting the crime is the most important thing you can do. If more people report bashings and even verbal abuse, the authorites will be forced to notice and take the initiative in finally putting to stop anti-gay violence.
*Commentary and Analysis to come from Zoë Collins (She/Her)*