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“Oh please. I know at least two dozen gay people, none of whom have EVER been beaten up or even threatened for their sexual orientation…”

by David Badash on January 10, 2010

in Bigotry Watch,Civil Rights,News

“…It’s just not a daily occurrence throughout the US.”


If only.

In a post I wrote on Friday, “The Embodiment Of Religious Bigotry,” a reader responds to another reader’s comment with this:

“Oh please. I know at least two dozen gay people, none of whom have EVER been beaten up or even threatened for their sexual orientation. In fact, people tend to be more friendly towards them than not. It’s just not a daily occurrence throughout the US. Maybe if you include stats from less friendly nations, that may be true, but the democratic workings of the US legal system have zero bearing on that.”

Here’s my response:
With all due respect, it is clear you’re not a regular reader of this blog. And that’s fine, but your personal experience has no bearing on facts. I’m glad your 24 LGBTQ frinds have never been victims of a hate crime – as far as you know – and as far as were reported. But here are some facts:

The FBI’s own hate crimes statistics show a 38% increase from 2005 to 2008:

2008: 1,617 hate crime offenses based on sexual-orientation bias were reported by law enforcement agencies. Of these offenses:

  • 58.6 percent were classified as anti-male homosexual bias.
  • 25.7 percent were reported as anti-homosexual bias.
  • 12.0 percent were prompted by an anti-female homosexual bias.
  • 2.0 percent were the result of an anti-heterosexual bias.
  • 1.7 percent were classified as anti-bisexual bias.

2007: 1,460 hate crime offenses based on sexual-orientation bias were reported by law enforcement agencies. Of these offenses:

  • 59.2 percent were classified as anti-male homosexual bias.
  • 24.8 percent were reported as anti-homosexual bias.
  • 12.6 percent were prompted by an anti-female homosexual bias.
  • 1.8 percent were the result of an anti-heterosexual bias.
  • 1.6 percent were classified as anti-bisexual bias.

2006: 1,415 hate crime offenses based on sexual-orientation bias were reported by law enforcement agencies. Of these offenses:

  • 62.3 percent were classified as anti-male homosexual biased.
  • 20.7 percent were classified as anti-homosexual biased.
  • 13.6 percent were classified as anti-female homosexual biased.
  • 2.0 percent were classified as anti-heterosexual biased.
  • 1.5 percent were classified as anti-bisexual biased.

2005: 1,171 hate crime offenses based on sexual-orientation bias were reported by law enforcement agencies. Of these offenses:

  • 60.9 percent were anti-male homosexual.
  • 19.5 percent were anti-homosexual.
  • 15.4 percent were anti-female homosexual.
  • 2.0 percent were anti-heterosexual.
  • 2.3 percent were anti-bisexual.

And sadly, as you can see, these numbers either do not include or do not delineate crimes against trans people. Fortunately, the new hate crimes law requires trans people to be included specifically in the FBI’s statistics going forward.

Dan, I’m glad your friends are safe. I wish I could say the same for the people over the past four years who suffered through 5663 hate crimes.

(Thanks to About.com for compiling these stats.)

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{ 8 comments }

Chaz January 11, 2010 at 3:04 am

I have been harrassed, and threatened with physical violence on more than one occasion.

My former partner was nearly killed by a rachet wrench attachment that was shot from a crossbow, from a moving car on Santa Monica Blvd, that missed his head by 3 inches and took out a huge chunk of concrete wall behind him. All because he was sitting in a "Gay" coffeehouse in West Hollywood.

I'd like to stab your commenter in the dick.

Dan January 11, 2010 at 7:11 am

Chaz – Stab me in the dick? Over a difference of opinion? This is an article decrying violence against LGBT persons, and you comment that you would stab me in the dick over a completely moderate opinion?

David, this is EXACTLY what I was describing when I spoke of bigotry and hypocrisy.

Aaron B. Brown January 11, 2010 at 3:15 am

Jesus, I don't know what progressive paradise this person comes from, or how old they are, but I've been watching this crap my whole life. I think I first noticed the open abuse in high school, and then paid attention later in life because a close family friend from a small town in the Midwest was gay. The well-known character actor Roy Brocksmith Though he never directly confide in me I know that Roy had to put up with the world of shit. I imagine my father and stepmother heard more than I did of what he had to put up with growing up in small-town America .

But I've had gay colleagues in the various places where I worked, and watched the despicable abuse they suffered at the hands of other employees, while the employer stood by and did nothing, or engaged in the abuse themselves. It was accepted condoned even quietly encouraged.

And those that didn't engage in it, just ignored it, just pretended like it never happened, in fact many times it seemed like they just didn't see it at all, even if it was right in front of them, as if they'd somehow been conditioned to ignore it.

For many years I lived in a predominantly gay neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale, the Las Olas area, and I often saw assaults outside of clubs and in the streets. Watched unsympathetic police officers make little or no effort to apprehend the perpetrators, watched police officers themselves verbally and physically abuse gay and lesbian people. I watched as crimes such as murder, rape and sodomy went uninvestigated, or relegated to the low priority file because the people involved apparently didn't matter.

People did these things because they knew they could get away with it, because no one gave a shit, because in this society certain people are the least protected since many feel no empathy or sympathy for them whatsoever, in fact quite the opposite, often seeing them as some form of distasteful subhuman thing, that in some way deserve whatever they got. And I've heard some say just that. Disgusting.

For too long I watched as people stood silent and said nothing, ignoring and overlooking behavior that they would never for one instant tolerate if it was someone they cared about. Well, those days are coming to an end but fast folks. And it's long long overdue.

Dan January 11, 2010 at 7:18 am

Fun story: when my wife and I took our honeymoon to Hawaii a few years back, we were walking around Honolulu one evening just taking everything in. Out of nowhere these three burly Hawaiian Americans (people whose ancestors were natives) approached us. Two of them started beating the living **** out of me, and the other grabbed my wife and threw her to the ground. I am not a small man, I work out daily and I fought them hard, but I still ended up with a busted nose, a few broken ribs and a cracked tooth. Fortunately some cops happened by and they were able to take down 2 of the guys (third one got away).

At the hospital some officers came by to take a statement. When we said we didn't do anything and didn't know why the men started assaulting us, the cop flatly said: "because you're white." Apparently anti-white hate crimes are so frequent in Hawaii that it never even gets reported in the papers. They call us "Haoles" (sounds like "howlies"). Turns out we were lucky; the previous week some 18 year old kid from Germany had a screwdriver jammed into his forehead for the same reason.

So yes, I know what it's like to be the victim of a hate crime. You know what was almost worse than the beating? That the two guys were only convicted of assault. I guess it's not a hate crime if it's motivated by a hatred of white people.

The point is, anti-white crimes (regardless of their legal status) remain a small fraction of violent crime committed in this country. Sometimes bad things happen to innocent people for no reason. I don't condone it, but all one can really do is live better. Ghandi said it best: "Be the change that you want to see in the world."

Jude January 10, 2010 at 11:04 pm

I love how people take their own immediate world experiences and decide it applies to everyone. I do know gay men who have been beaten, harassed, and bullied. One to the point of almost commiting suicide.

So let's reverse this. I must know, and I do mean know personally, about 100 LGBT individuals. I do not know any that are promiscuous, and most are in stable, loving monogamous relationships. Or single. Why don't we capture statistics on commitments between same sex couples?

Joe Decker January 11, 2010 at 4:49 am

It's worse than that.

The FBI statistics, as I recall, are based on (a) which crimes are reported to the police, then filtered by (b) which crimes the police decide to investigate as hate crimes that they might be able to prosecute, and then (c) which hate crimes that get through those sieves are actually reported by the jurisdiction to the FBI—there wasn't until very recently (I think there is now) any requirement such crimes be noted by a police department, or reported if they were noted. Of course, many PDs do report these crimes, but the reality of hate crimes far exceeds the numbers reported to the FBI.

How big is the under-reporting problem? Well, let's turn to the Anti-Violence Project's data.

AVP found that only 28 percent of people reporting hate crime incidents to them reported them to police at all.

Further, 27% of the incidents reported to police were reported but were denied bias classification by law enforcement. For this reason, I believe that 20% (28% less 27%) is a conservative estimate of the maximum reporting rate, and that the true number of hate crimes is at least five times larger than estimated by FBI statistics.

Dan January 11, 2010 at 7:10 am

David, I appreciate the background information. This is a bit of a digression from my original point about what it means to be a bigot. However, since you posted statistics (a subject with which I am very familiar), I would like to contribute as well:

1. With respect to Eric Holder's comments, he doesn't specifically address hate crimes directed at homosexuals, he means in general. Which, when taken with other statements he's made in the past (notably his "nation of cowards" comment), leads me to believe he had race-motivated hate crimes in mind, not sexual orientation-based.

2. First, a "hate crime" can mean a lot of things, not all necessarily violent (say, vandalism). Second, saying that hate crimes against homosexuals have increased 13% is meaningless without a base number. If we take the most recent data you posted (1,617 in 2008), that gives us a start. Consider the following data, also from FBI.gov: "In 2008, there were an estimated 834,885 aggravated assaults in the Nation" and "An estimated 16,272 persons were murdered nationwide in 2008." That's a total of 851,157 assaults/murders in the US in 2008.

Let's err on the side of caution and assume that number includes most of the 1,617 orientation-motivated assaults; thus, violence against LGBT persons represents a bit more than one tenth of one percent of the total violence occurring in the US. And remember, our calculation makes an assumption to overstate this value, since we don't know how many of these hate crimes were violent in nature and not vandalism, cyber-bullying, etc.

Let's look at it another way: in the United States, approximately 4% of the 18+ population identifies itself as LGBT, and 50% is female (at least in the age range of 15-64). That works out to 12,162,389 LGBT persons in the US and 152,029,862 women in the US. According to FBI.gov, for 2008 there were an estimated 89,000 forcible rapes (mostly against women). That means about 0.059% of the female population was raped in 2008, compared to about 0.013% of the LGBT population being victims of a hate crime. In other words, in 2008 a woman was ~4.4 times more likely to be raped than a LGBT person was to be victimized because of their sexual orientation (again this calculation overstates the LGBT result by assuming all the hate crimes were violent).

The fact is that, while hate crimes DO happen against LGBT people (I never said they didn't), they are one of the most infrequent crimes today, as clearly indicated by those FBI stats you cited.

3. My heart goes out to the family of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, as well as to the families of Matthew Shepard and August Provost. No one should have to be victimized for their sexual orientation.

QueerjohnPA January 12, 2010 at 12:49 am

Hate crimes terrorize entire communities and that terror stays with the communities.

No one should be victimized for any reason, any color, any orientation, etc.

Now I know why poor Sarah felt so uncomfortable in Hawaii.

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