Gay bashing is, unfortunately, not a new phenomenon in society. It’s been happening for years and shows no signs of stopping. During the past few decades, significant strides have been made to increase awareness and acceptance of the LGBTQI+ community and their civil rights. However, despite all of the progress, members of this community still experience a disproportionate amount of violence and oppression. The result is that too many people believe that it’s perfectly acceptable to attack someone simply because they are different from themselves.
Gay bashing, also known as hate crimes, is a serious problem that results in physical assaults, psychological abuse, and verbal harassment. The Southern Poverty Law Center has found that, more than any other group in the United States, people who identify as LGBTQI+ are more likely targets of hate crimes. In addition, a recent survey conducted by the FBI found that gay bashing has increased, with a high percentage of victims over fifty.
One study surveyed LGBTQI+ people over 50 and found that nearly 60 percent of respondents would rather live in an LGBTQI+-friendly neighborhood. LGBTQI+ people have long created their communities to feel safe and accepted. Unfortunately, while these communities can provide a sense of belonging, they can also be exclusive and segregated from the wider world. However, many older LGBTQI+ people view the ‘gayborhood’ as a way to stay safe from potential hate crimes, remain connected to their identity, and find others who understand their experience.
The effects of gay bashing and other related hate crimes can have lasting effects on the victims, their partners, friends, and family. These effects range from increased anxiety, paranoia, depression, and isolation. Violent attacks on people because of their sexual orientation send the message to everyone else in the community that they’re not safe. When an LGBTQI+ youth sees a story about gay bashings in the news, the message often leads them to think there’s something wrong with them. Many young people then choose to suppress their feelings because of fear. This fear can lead to increased levels of anxiety and depression, which can impact every aspect of a young person’s life.
For many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth, coming out is a stressful and often dangerous decision. According to a 2013 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), LGBT youth are more than twice as likely as their heterosexual peers to experience violence at school. In addition, because they often lack support from family members and friends, they are at greater risk for bullying, cyberbullying, and social isolation/exclusion. Lack of social tolerance can leave LGBTQI+ youth feeling isolated, alone, and without access to resources that can help them stay safe.
The unfortunate truth is that gay bashing results in various physical damages and lasting psychological effects. Violent attacks often result in injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to broken bones and internal bleeding. In some cases, victims may be left with a traumatic brain injury, paralysis, permanent hearing or visual loss, or disfigurement that affects the rest of their life. Can you imagine being a healthy, vital person with a promising medical career only to have that ripped away because some person hit you in the head with a baseball bat? Why did that person hit you? Because you happen to be attracted to a person of the same sex?
The short- or long-term psychological effects of a gay bashing range from anxiety, paranoia, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to a general distrust of other people. Many victims of gay bashings withdraw from social situations. Others engage in substance abuse, self-harm, or suicidal ideations. Sadly, members of the LGBTQI+ population are twice as likely to consider, or act upon, suicidal ideations as their heterosexual peers.
Victims of gay bashings often feel ashamed and blame themselves for what has happened. This self-blame comes from society’s view that victims must be weak, deserve the violence perpetrated upon them, or exaggerate the effects of the violence. In many cases, the victim’s partner, friends, and family members also blame themselves for not being able to prevent or stop the attack from happening. For many people, the physical and psychological effects of a gay bashing can last a lifetime as physical or psychological scars that never completely heal.
Not surprisingly, when high-profile cases of gay bashing make the headlines, the media coverage can further damage the victim and their family. Loss of income and employment and difficulty obtaining housing or access to social services can also result from media attention. Between the physical and psychological recovery and continued oppression by others, the victim may enter a spiral of poverty and isolation. For many people who have been already marginalized by society, gay bashing can be the final straw that pushes them over the edge and into drug abuse, homelessness, or suicide.
Whatever the reasons for the increases in gay bashing and other forms of hate crimes, it’s essential to spread awareness and work towards stopping the trend. Some of the things we all should be doing include the following:
1. Speaking out against homophobic remarks and jokes.
2. Introducing and encouraging interactions between children and various
groups of people.
3. Becoming an ally to the LGBTQI+ community in words and actions by:
a. Attending pride events or marching in a parade.
b. Actively supporting LGBTQI+ friendly businesses, organizations, and creative
c. Avoiding companies that support anti-LGBTQI+ legislation or any legislation
that impedes a person’s freedom.
Other things people can do include:
1. Standing up to hate crimes by:
a. Speaking out against any sort of violence and
b. Reporting all violence and acts of hate to the authorities.
2. Helping to create policies that protect LGBTQI+ students from discrimination
3. Working with community leaders to increase understanding and acceptance
of the LGBTQI+ community.
No one deserves to be a victim of violence—regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The lasting consequences for everyone affected by gay bashing or acts of hatred are very real and destructive. We as a society need to do better when it comes to protecting our LGBTQI+ sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers—before it’s too late. Learn what you can do to stand up against, and prevent, hate against people who are part of the LGBTQI+ population. If you know someone who has been a victim of gay bashing, be sure to offer them your support and help them to report the crime to the authorities. With the proper support, we can make a difference for the victims and their loved ones. Through proactive actions, we can begin to heal the psychological wounds caused by hate and violence. Only when we come together will we see an end to the fear, hatred, and violence that too many LGBTQI+ individuals face daily.
The Trevor Project: https://www.thetrevorproject.org/
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD): https://www.glaad.org/
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
It Gets Better Project: www.itgetsbetter.org