Lauri Carleton, a clothing store owner in Cedar Glen, California, and a staunch ally of the LGBTQ2S+ community, was murdered in cold blood on August 18. Her crime? Displaying a Pride flag outside her store. The killer, later fatally shot by sheriff’s deputies, subjected Carleton to homophobic slurs before shooting her and had posted anti-LGBTQ2S+ content on social media.
The reaction of this small town west of Los Angeles was one of shock and disbelief but also anger, especially in the LGBTQ2S+ community.
But this violent hate crime against an ally did not occur in isolation. At least 15 transgender and gender non-conforming people have been murdered so far in 2023, the majority trans women of color.
Mass shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016 and Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 2022, are part of a pattern of homophobic and transphobic violence. Members of the LGBTQ2S+ community are twice as likely to be the target of a hate crime as cisgendered heterosexual people.
The dire situation has prompted the Human Rights Campaign, a moderate civil rights organization, to state it has “officially declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the United States.” (hrc.org) HRC has cited an “unprecedented and dangerous spike in anti-LGBTQ+ legislative assaults sweeping state houses this year.”
The spate of bigoted legislation has fomented the hatred behind the tragic deaths of Carleton, of trans and gender non-conforming people, and of other members and allies of the LGBTQ2S+ community. That is the context in which the uptick in hate crimes has to be viewed.
But what is the root of those many bills, which range from bathroom bans to bans on gender-affirming care for minors to “Don’t say gay” bills and more? Right-wing Republicans, some of them outright fascists, are pushing the bills. Did they just appear from out of nowhere?
The extreme right wing of the capitalist class is just that — a wing of the capitalist class. They are but the most extreme representation of the patriarchal value system, which includes anti-LGBTQ2S+ bigotry, that is endemic to class society.
As Leslie Feinberg explained in 1992 in “Transgender Liberation, a movement whose time has come”: “In reality it was the rise of private property, the male-dominated family and class divisions [that] led to narrowing what was considered acceptable self-expression. What had been natural was declared its opposite.”
To put an end to hate-filled acts of violence against the LGBTQ2S+ community and allies like Lauri Carleton, we must get rid of the capitalist system that spawns them.