We Must Find a Voice for Our Pain
I burst into tears Sunday while reading the New York Times. I had spent the previous few days celebrating my father’s 70th birthday with family, in a cocoon from the chain of depressing current events. Sunday, though, I forced myself to read the devastating news from the Bronx. City officials described it as the worst anti-gay attack in recent memory:
The authorities say nine young men who called themselves the Latin King Goonies lured the gay man to the building with the promise of a party and tortured him and the two 17-year-olds they suspected of having sex with him, subjecting them to beatings that went on for hours, gruesome sexual attacks with a small baseball bat and the wooden handle of a toilet plunger, and cigarette burns on the genitals of the older man.
Unimaginable. What more can can be said? It is simply unimaginable. And yet, unless we are those who choose to ignore it, we have no choice but to imagine it, and to make sense of it.
As news of this sickening anti-gay violence spread, so too did the anti-gay remarks uttered by the Republican candidate for Governor — Carl Paladino, a member of the Tea Party. Sunday, Paladino told a fringe group of far-right Orthodox Jew in Brooklyn that he doesn’t want children “brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality” is an acceptable lifestyle. The next day, Paladino chose to pour lemon juice in the wound, going on talk shows to defend the bile that spewed from his mouth, and offering more offensive proclamations, oblivious to what his insensitivity means given the rash of suicide deaths that continue to rock the LGBT community.
Yes. They continue. The suicide deaths continue.
Metro Weekly, an LGBT publication, just reported on a vigil held at Howard University for a former student, Aiyisha Hassan, 19, who killed herself last week at her home in California:
Lauren Morris, 21, a senior at Howard, who lived in the same building as Hassan from 2008-2009, said she introduced Hassan to [the LGBT student group at Howard]. Morris added that friends have reported Hassan’s suicide was related to her struggles with her sexuality. ”She was having a lot of trouble with a lot of different things,” Morris says, ”but mainly her sexual identity and just trying to express that.”
Sterling Washington, co-founder of Howard’s LGBT group and its former president, told Metro Weekly:
What happens in a large group trickles down to the junior members… so in this case it’s members of society so it affects youth in general. Those straight-identified youth who already had a proclivity, who already had from their parents, their socialization, this idea that gays are less than, it sort of gives them permission and facilities this whole bullying thing so that those that are most vulnerable to it sometimes see suicide as an out.
I, like you, am afraid of the next headline. Will it be a violent attack, a murder, a suicide?
Today, this is what I know:
There is a time to cocoon ourselves from the news,
a time to digest the news,
and a time to sit with our fear, sadness, anger, and tears.
There is a time to focus inward,
and a time to act for the change we want to see,
to shout from the public square, and bear witness with candles and songs and words and prayer.
Today, I write this blog post as an offering for new, meaningful ways to make it better.
The Standing on the Side of Love campaign welcomes your ideas. What can our unique, values-driven campaign do as a community to address the plague of transphobia and homophobia? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.
Standing on the side of love is not easy. But if we stand in community, in partnership, then we can buoy each other when the news crushes our spirits, and link arms so that each voice is a booming chorus.
Standing on the Side of Love