Who’s to blame?
Six gay men attacked after Pride festival
Published Aug 14, 2006 9:21 PM
There is a metal plaque in
the sidewalk outside the Obelisk Bookstore in San Diego’s Hillcrest
community, commemorating the 1991 stabbing death of 17-year-old John Robert Wear
at the hands of homohaters. Wear and some friends were walking in the early
evening down University Avenue in Hillcrest—which has, for many years,
been the center of San Diego’s large lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans
(LGBT) communities. Wear and his friends were confronted by three men who called
them “faggots” and then attacked Wear, killing him.
Fast-forward 15 years to 2006. It’s Saturday evening, July 29, in
San Diego’s Balboa Park. The previous day saw at least 150,000 people
gather to witness and march in the annual Pride Parade, San Diego’s
largest yearly civic event. Now, following another full day of celebration at
the Pride Festival, attendees are filtering out of the park on their way home.
But for six unfortunate men, there are four homophobic/homohating youth lying in
wait in the bushes. They are armed with two baseball bats and a sharp object,
perhaps a knife.
The six leaving the festival are set upon in separate
attacks, four of them while walking alone. Four of the victims are able to
escape with only bruises, one is stabbed in the back, and the sixth man, as of
this writing, remains hospitalized with a fractured skull. He was hit 10 to 12
times on the head and upper body with a baseball bat, and reports indicate he
will require reconstructive surgery. He has received a tracheotomy to help him
On Aug. 2 the San Diego Union-Tribune reports yet another
anti-gay attack: “A group of  teenagers made anti-gay comments as they
attacked a security guard last night in what San Diego police called a hate
In a much-needed response to these latest manifestations of
homophobia/homohatred, more than 1,000 people gathered on the evening of Aug. 4
at the LGBT Community Center, marched to the Obelisk Bookstore and held a street
The big-business media focus now is that the perpetrators
have been caught, are being charged with hate crimes and will be punished.
The question that needs to be answered, however, is why, 37 years after
the birth of the Gay Liberation movement—followed by countless struggles
that have advanced the cause of LGBT liberation—do these violent attacks
And it must be emphasized that, while these recent incidents in
San Diego involved men whom their attackers presumed were gay, violent attacks
against trans people are certainly even more frequent but receive much less
Who’s to blame
Let’s start with the
politicians. With a bare handful of exceptions—Harvey Milk, Bella
Abzug—virtually no Democratic or Republican office holders or candidates
could be found in the Gay Liberation marches of the early 1970s. But as the
momentum and breadth of the movement for equal rights for LGBT people grew and
grew, it gradually became more acceptable for liberal politicians to make
appearances at “gay” events. And then, too, openly lesbian and gay
people began running for public office.
But recently, the passage in
state after state of laws prohibiting same-sex marriage sends a strong
message—heard loudly and clearly by bigots and bashers—that the U.S.
political establishment views lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people as
less than equal.
And then there are the influential religious
organizations. Some of them have openly embraced the call for equal rights and
given sincere support to the struggle. Others have, over the years, moved from
open prejudice to more accepting positions.
But the Vatican, to name one
powerful and viciously homohating institution, has made it clear, over and over
again, that the only acceptable stance for lesbians and gay men is celibacy,
silence and invisibility.
Much of the terror unleashed by the Catholic
Church during the Middle Ages under the bloody banner of the Inquisition was
directed against practitioners of pre-patriarchal belief systems that were fully
accepting of homosexuality.
How little anything has changed. A 1961
Vatican document refers to “those who are afflicted with evil tendencies
to homosexuality or pederasty.” In 1986, the present pope, Benedict XVI,
wrote that homosexuality is an “intrinsic moral evil” and described
it as “an objective disorder.” (www.RainbowNetwork.com)
recently, he has approved a Vatican document proclaiming that “homosexual
men should not be admitted to seminaries even if they are celibate, because
their condition suggests a serious personality disorder which detracts from
their ability to serve as ministers.” (www.ewtn.com)
In a highly
publicized incident last year, San Diego’s Bishop Robert Brom—one of
many Catholic clergy who have been accused of sexual misconduct with children or
youth—somewhat hypocritically denied a Catholic funeral service to the
owner of a gay nightclub. Brom stated that none of the 98 Catholic churches in
San Diego County or Imperial County would be allowed to provide services.
Following expressions of outrage by many community leaders, Brom reversed
himself. But that wasn’t the end of it. As reported in the San Diego
Union-Tribune, “The morning after San Diego’s Roman Catholic bishop
apologized to a family after canceling their gay son’s funeral mass, he
left two voice-mail messages for an evangelical Christian activist who crusades
against homosexuality. ‘James, please take my call,’ Bishop Robert
Brom said Tuesday into the answering machine of James Hartline, a Hillcrest man
who supported canceling the funeral. ‘I have to explain how it’s all
wrong and how I was done in.’” His Holiness Bishop Brom continues as
the guiding shepherd of his flock to this day.
right-wing of the Protestant hierarchy, which ascended with the rise of
capitalism over feudalism as a world economic system, has been a hot-bed of
homohating reaction in the U.S.—from Jerry Falwell to Pat
Up against the brass
And finally, the influence of
the most powerful military organization on the face of the planet should be
In the face of who knows what Pentagon threats, Bill Clinton
reversed his pre-election promise to end the ban on lesbians and gay men in the
military and instead instituted the infamous “Don’t ask, don’t
tell” policy under which the Pentagon witch-hunt against LGBT personnel
has continued unabated.
In an essay she wrote for the anti-military
booklet titled, “We Won’t Go: A Guide to Resistance”
(International Action Center, 2005), Rebeca Toledo states, “Ten thousand
people have been discharged under [Don’t ask, don’t tell] since
This policy by the brass legitimizes homophobia, encourages
the acting out of homohatred impulses and declares war on LGBT people in the
ranks of the military. Toledo documents a number of such violent incidents
following the imposition of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” She
also relates how the Pentagon promotes hatred of LGBT people in other
And finally comes the embarrassing discovery of a Pentagon document
that, as of June, still classified homosexuality as a mental disorder. After the
document was made public, Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Jeremy Martin announced
that this policy document is “under review.”
assaults against trans people, gay men, lesbians and bisexuals must end.
Unfortunately, this goal will be impossible to reach until the Democratic and
Republican politicians, the Vatican, the fundamentalist right-wing Protestant
hierarchy, the Pentagon and the other powerful bastions of homophobic/homohatred
reaction stop promulgating bigotry against LGBT people and stop sending signals
to the youth, in particular, that LGBT people are less than equal and deserving
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