Authored by Gay Marriage USA, May 11, 2013
Published on Huffington Post, May 13, 2013.
In the past week in Manhattan two anti-gay assaults have been reported, seriously drawing into question the validity of NYC’s “gay friendly” tag. Despite the fact that New York legalized same-sex marriage in 2011 and that NYC has a very large LGBT population, this week’s events are a sad reminder that homophobia is still alive and thriving in this city.
Two Recent Attacks
On Sunday afternoon of May 5th a gay male couple in their 20s were walking arm-in-arm down 8th Ave between West 34th and 35th street when they were subjected to a brutal anti-gay assault. It has been alleged that within the vicinity of Madison Square Garden, and presumably in the presence of numerous bystanders, the two men were called “faggots,” knocked to the ground, and physically assaulted. Both men received treatment in hospital. Their attackers, described as a group of up to 8 men in their 20s, fled the scene and to date have not been apprehended – see their descriptions here.
The second incident also occurred in Manhattan around West 32nd and 33rd street. In the early hours of Friday, May 10th, two gay men (reported to be a couple) were also subjected to an anti-gay assault. After being refused access to a billiards club, they were subsequently approached and attacked by a group of up to five men who allegedly hurled homophobic abuse and physically beat them. Both of the victims required hospital treatment. Only two of the five alleged attackers have thus far been arrested.
Fear & Progress
As a gay man living in NYC, I feel disturbed and unsettled by these recent assaults. I have frequently walked in the very same areas in which these men were attacked. This could very easily have happened to me, or to any other LGBT people walking the streets of Manhattan, or to anyone even perceived to be LGBT. While I don’t like to ever give in to fear, I must admit there are times when I will not hold my partner’s hand in public for fear of being verbally or physically assaulted.
The question is why do these types of attacks still take place? We know that even after decades of work on racial equality and gender equality, race-based and gender-based crimes sill occur. Similarly, progression in the area of gay rights will not completely eliminate homophobia. While it’s impossible to eradicate all forms of prejudice there is always the hope and expectation, however, that with societal progress these types of hate-based crimes will become less common.
Unfortunately, societal progress is often initially met with backlash from those not in agreement with change. In France a sharp rise in homophobic assaults has coincided with the progression of marriage equality legislation there. In recent weeks in the USA various LGBT-related events have hit the national headlines. This has included the “coming out” of Jason Collins, the first NBA player to publicly declare being gay, and the legalization of same-sex marriage in Rhode Island and Delaware. The flipside of progress is that it makes LGBT people more visible which can in turn spark the homophobia of those who are opposed to such progress.
Call to Action: Rally Time!
NYC has long been a home for LGBT folks from around the USA and the world who have sought safety and community here. With the legalization of gay marriage NYC is also now a tourist destination for many same-sex couples unable to marry elsewhere. We must set a standard and publicly address the homophobia that fueled these recent attacks in Manhattan.
Silence equals tolerance of the unacceptable. We must come together as a community to express a message of strength and defiance to those who would rather see us locked in closets forever. We should all – regardless of our sexual orientation – have the right to walk down the street without fear of being subjected to verbal abuse or physical assault. I call on LGBT leaders, organizations, and allies in NYC to come together as one to rally against hate and in support of diversity.
* If you experience or witness LGBT-related violence, please contact the NYC Anti-Violence Project 24 hour bilingual hotline on 212 714 1141. All calls are free and treated in a confidential manner.