Recently, while browsing social media, I encountered many articles and editorials about anti-LGBTQ bullying. The deluge of articles came in light of the anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s brutal beating death which took place October 12, 1998. Though many of you are likely very aware of the details of that tragic event, it goes something like this: On October 6th, Matthew Shepard, who identified as a gay man, ventured out to a bar in Wyoming, where he was attending college. He was twenty one years old at the time. While at the aforementioned bar, Matthew met two straight men about his age, Aaron and Russell. Upon leaving the bar, Matthew accepted a ride home from his two new acquaintances.


Aaron and Russell did not drive Matthew home, however. They drove him out to a rural area, tied him up to a fence, and beat him until he was bloodied and barely clinging to life. They took Matthew’s wallet and shoes, and left him tied to the fence. He was found eighteen hours later, and while he was alive, he sustained massive bleeding, brain stem injuries, and other trauma that his body could not ultimately overcome. He was on life support for six days before being pronounced dead on October 12th.11021199 794933410597336 7159552327142357553 n


While many possible motives swirled around at the time of the arrest of Aaron and Russell, the predominant feeling among the general public and those close to the case was that Aaron and Russell were violent toward Matthew because of his sexual orientation. A “gay panic” defense was even attempted, and counsel for the Defendants suggested that they may have suffered temporary insanity after Matthew allegedly made a sexual advance toward them. At the close of their trials, both Aaron and Russell were convicted of murder and are serving lifetime prison terms.


Now, this story is not new to those of us in the LGBTQ community. Matthew Shepard’s family and friends have crusaded for action against anti-gay hate crimes over the past seventeen years and many social and political measures have been enacted to ideally lessen the threat of violence and even verbal discrimination and hate against LGBTQ people. Activism such as this is a great start, and I am certainly not attempting to devalue it, but let’s be candid for a moment and discuss something that is an ever-growing issue that seems to be frequently undermentioned:


What about the bullying, violence, and hate that constantly brews within the invisible walls of our own community? It seems that while we fight for rights equal to those of our straight and/or cisgender counterparts, we are often ourselves living in a glass house so divided that it would be difficult to convince those on the outside that there was any real “community” in place at all. It’s not something that a lot of LGBTQ people tend to enjoy talking about, at least not with those in the straight and cis majority, but to deny the existence of this swirling chaos would be untruthful.


I could go on and write about my own history with cattiness, dramatics, body shaming, etc., but I am not in the business of using a media outlet to air my personal grievances. So, in order to illustrate my point, I took in some personal accounts from others in the community who were kind enough to share their experiences.


One thirty-something gay male that I spoke with told me that upon coming out and integrating into the gay culture at the college he attended, he more often than not felt shamed and degraded by other gay males. He recalled overhearing them refer to him as a “bottom feeder,” alluding to the fact that because he was overweight at the time, no one would want to date or sleep with him unless there were no other options. He also said he decided to try drag for awhile, but rather than build him up or show encouragement so that he could possibly excel, the other drag performers referred to him as “busted” and “a booger.” Eventually, he just gave up trying to succeed or even get a foot in the door with drag, because he felt that there was no authentic support available to him within his own community.


I also heard from a local trans woman, who conveyed the disappointment and immediate distance she felt when she was told that her part in an LGBTQ radio show was too trans-centric and that too much talk about trans issues would likely be bad for the show. She was just barely beginning to immerse herself in society as an out trans person, and her budding confident spirit was shattered when she was told by another LGBTQ person that her enthusiasm might just be too much, or annoying to others listening in.


An out, femme-identifying lesbian told me she once visited a metro area men’s bar during Pride weekend. She came in from out of town to support a gay male friend, and as she approached the entrance, the doorman looked her up and down, examining her feminine appearance. He immediately began shaking his head back and forth and indicated that there would be an additional cover charge if she were to go into the club. Once inside, she asked her male friend if it might be better if she pretended she was actually a drag queen. Another patron of the bar was within earshot and said sternly from beneath a cold stare, “No, we don’t like queens either.” She immediately left the bar, because no amount of cover money was worth being somewhere she felt that uncomfortable and highly threatened.


The above stories were shared with me directly, but in this era the verbal lashings between members of our community are easy to spot just by logging on to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Not long ago, three young men were threatening physical violence against each other on Facebook, a thread of hurling insults and profanity that originally stemmed from one person’s negative experience at one of our popular gay bars. If this physical meeting comes to fruition, there would surely be a portion of the community that would cheer each one of these young men on, saying the others had it coming for one reason or another. In the end though, what profound point would really be made after three noses were bloodied and a dozen insults exchanged?


I’ll let you all answer that yourselves.


The LGBTQ community spends countless resources waging war against hate, degradation, violence and discrimination from the societal majority, but should we not also be turning the mirror on ourselves? Next time you see a great injustice happening at the hands of the majority and it fills you with a need to stand up for what is fair and right, take a moment to think about this:


As a group of humans who spend our entire lives trying to gain respect from everyone else, why are we not more respectful of each other?

 

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