During Pride Month 2019 and the commemoration of Stonewall 50, the hateful language shown in this picture was written on the bulletin board of my husband Bobby’s classroom at M.S. 167, better known as the Wagner School in Manhattan. The administration contacted the New York City Police Department who filed a graffiti report, which was sufficient to quell the School’s leadership.
While this act could be excused as one of rebellious adolescents, there is further evidence to consider that points to a different phenomenon, which may be at play. At the same school during the same year, Bobby, an openly gay man, was verbally harassed by a student who repeatedly attacked him using the profanity “fucking faggot” –an act that neither the principal nor any of the school administrators addressed directly with him to ensure that his health and safety were not compromised. Let’s add to this list, the endless harassment thrust upon a gender queer student in Bobby’s homeroom class who was safe only because Bobby protected them. According to the student’s mother, the student affairs dean told her child that it would be easier if they could just be straight.
This is all taking place in Manhattan, considered one of the most “progressive” places in the world, which has a growing number of hate crimes and hateful acts targeting the LGBTQ+ community. The most recent was the burning of a Pride flag outside a Harlem gay bar right before the start of Pride month and 50th commemoration of the Stonewall Riots, which ignited the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement. If the hate targeting LGBTQ+ people is evidenced in New York, the bluest of the blue, what hope is there for LGBTQ+ people in Alabama or West Virginia or Wyoming where Matthew Sheppard was brutalized and killed only 2 decades ago?
The facts speak for themselves. The FBI recently reported that the number of crimes based on sexual orientation rose each year between 2014 and 2017. In 2017, there were 1130 reported incidents; of these 679 targeted gay men and 126 on lesbians, and countless others likely went unreported in fear of retaliation or further victimization from law enforcement and by politicians who are empowered to vilify LGBTQ+ people given the words and actions of the Trump-Pence-Fox News administration. Tellingly 2015 is also the year in which the Supreme Court of the United States made marriage equality the law of the land with their decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. To this point, one comment (from a person going by a_b704) posted to the editorial I wrote: “People of sodomy can now get married to each other…. Put people first! Not their perversions;” while another (aka Hamilton) said “Americans are tired of these people;” and the one known as “Mr. Nice” pontificated:
Why does government celebrate [celebrate] a degenerate [degenerate] sexually confused failed lifestyle that’s Selfishly:
√ Killed millions
√ Devastated families
√ Wrecked health care costs for our poor
This is a small taste of what we are up against. Yet Bobby’s principal had neither the compassion nor ethical principles to ensure that my husband was not being victimized and not having his health compromised. Moreover, when the police were contacted about this slur on the bulletin board, an administrator likely the principal stated in the police report: “Unknown how long writing
has been there before discovery.” Not true! And worse yet Bobby was never asked to give a comment in this attempt to cover things up. (PS The very same principal this very same year did not disclose to parents about a Black child being racist bullied, having a noose placed around his neck). This seemingly ill-equipped principal, in acting as a bystander, perpetuates the aggression thrust upon marginalized students and teachers. And worse yet, she runs a school in New York City, New York, not Tyler, Texas nor Morehead, Kentucky. I think we can do better than that Mayor DiBlasio!
We can do better for all of our students and teachers especially those who are marginalized because they are racial, ethnic, sexual, or gender minorities and are most vulnerable and require the heightened attention and protection of school principals!
LGBTQ+ people are victimized from very young ages and throughout the course of our lives. These harassments take the form of both macro- and micro-aggressions and all the aggressions in between.
We are beaten and killed, otherwise physically assaulted, ridiculed, told our research to improve the health of the population is niche, or subjected to alleged jokes about another colleague’s closeted sexuality—yes this happened to me. And these social conditions do nothing more than comprise all aspects of our health.
Complementing the FBI’s data and in the era of #MeToo, the Human Rights Campaign reports that 44% of lesbians and 61% of bisexual women experience rape and physical violence as compared to 35% of heterosexual women; 26% of gay men and 37% of bisexual men experience rape and physical violence. 47% of transgender people are sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetimes. You see it’s us too!
These acts of harassment must be considered in light of other social conditions created by those who would otherwise protect and care for us but which also deem us powerless: 15% of LGBTQ+ people have avoided calling the police in fear of discrimination; the proportion is 30% among LGBTQ people of color. Moreover, 25% indicate that police in their neighborhood discriminated against lesbian and gay people and 32% indicate they discriminate against transgender people. And healthcare is not much better: 16% of LGBTQ+ people indicate that doctors or clinics discriminate against them while 1 in 6 (18%) avoid going to the doctor in fear of discrimination.
What do we glean from all of this? Some would have us believe that we are irresponsible in our behavior and as a result, sick. But in fact, the deterioration of LGBTQ+ people’s health starts at the top, from leaders who perpetuate the hate we experience, diminishing all aspects of our well being—whether it is Trump as the leader of our country or Bobby’s principal as the leader of middle school teachers and students.
The lesson must be clear to all those in positions of power: If you continue perpetuating hatred, propagating micro and macro aggressions, and lying idle to bigotry, we will call you out and force you out of power. The LGBTQ+ community is done having its health undone for your comfort.