The Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Manhattan’s West Village, is known as the birthplace of the gay rights movement. In 1969 its customers rebelled against the police after being repeatedly harassed. Much has changed for New York’s gay community in the past 41 years, but their struggle felt ever present when a patron at Stonewall was recently attacked by two men from Staten Island.
The incident took place after one of the attackers was informed by his soon-to-be victim that he was in a gay bar. The man allegedly screamed “Get away from me f–got, I don’t like gay people,” and told the victim not to urinate next to him. He also demanded $20 but was refused.
Just a few days later, in an incident that prompted soul-searching among both gay and Latino residents of the Bronx, a 17-year-old Bronx boy was hit in the head with a beer bottle and sodomized with a plunger by a gang calling themselves the “Latin King Goonies.” A 30-year-old man who was reportedly his lover was also assaulted by the same group. The reason for the brutal crime: because the two were suspected of engaging in a homosexual relationship.
Both cases are being prosecuted as hate crimes and are under investigation. Many were shocked by the crimes and the fact they took place in New York City in the year of 2010. But the news was actually just the latest addition in a rise of anti-gay hate crimes and a series of suicides by teenagers who have been victims of gay-bashing and bullying.
According to an analysis of federal hate crime statistics by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization based in Montgomery, Alabama, homosexuals are far more likely to be victims of violent hate crimes than any other minority group in the U.S.
This analysis of hate crime data can be found in the SPLC’s Intelligence Report, which also explores how the hard-core anti-gay movement in America is becoming more extreme in the face of gay rights advances.
The center’s analysis of 14 years of hate crime data, based on FBI hate crime statistics from 1995 to 2008, found that homosexuals, or those perceived to be gay, are more than twice as likely to be attacked in a violent hate crime as Jews or blacks; more than four times as likely as Muslims; and 14 times as likely as Latinos.
“As Americans become more accepting of homosexuals, the most extreme elements of the anti-gay movement are digging in their heels and continuing to defame gays and lesbians with falsehoods that grow more incendiary by the day,” said Mark Potok, editor of the Intelligence Report, as quoted on the center’s website.
Gays and lesbians who are immigrants can be even more vulnerable to violence, said Geroge Fesser, program coordinator for immigrant services at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center on 13th Street, just a few blocks away from Stonewall.
“They can only afford to live in immigrant neighborhoods, which are often a microcosm of the countries they left behind,” said Fesser. “They can not dress in certain ways or hold hands on the street because they will be subject to violence.”
And many undocumented gays and lesbians are afraid to report hate crimes because they fear getting deported.
“They don’t even imagine that it’s an option,” added Fesser.