by Leah Waldron
From the Pentagon throwing a party for gay service members to the ruling that California’s Prop 8 was unconstitutional, Pride Month 2012 raised the bar for LGBT rights. Kraft, General Mills and General Motors (among hundreds of other companies) recognized gay pride for the first time, and Uganda, one of the most notoriously homophobic countries in the world, signed its first-ever gay rights protection statement. Miss Rhode Island (Olivia Culpo) championed trans rights during the televised “Miss America” finals (and then won), and in Ontario, Canada, the government passed a law that required all schools (including Catholic private schools) to offer Gay Straight Alliances. Across the globe, nations celebrated with pride parades, festivities and marches. And although Pride month is now over, July is shaping up to be a sizzling month for gay support.
But amid the celebration and pro-gay summer highs, the number of anti-gay hate crimes seemed to escalate at the same pace as the support. In the U.S. alone, three LGBT individuals were murdered in probable hate crime attacks during Pride month, including 19-year-old Mollie Olgin in Texas (and her girlfriend, 18-year-old Mary Chapa, who narrowly survived the attempted murder); 20-year-old drag queen Roberto Calderon-Guzman in Atlanta, whose murder may be related to the gay dating app Grindr or Craigslist; and 28-year-old Steven Escalon in San Francisco, whose mysterious murder is still under investigation.
Non-fatal LGBT hate crimes were also widespread throughout the month of June. In Austin, Texas, lesbian Gina Adams was physically beaten by a male bartender while bar-hopping with friends, and in Memphis, Tennessee, lesbian Jackie Lloyd was attacked in a restaurant by a male patron who suspected her of hitting on his girlfriend. In Los Angeles, an unidentified homeless man was beaten nearly to death after telling his attacker he was gay and had AIDS, and in Portland, Oregon, a 50-year-old man took off his belt and whipped two trans women in the street, all while yelling anti-gay slurs. Finally, in Washington, D.C., during another anti-gay altercation, a 16-year-old unidentified gay teen was stabbed three times by a woman and two men.
So how should the LGBT community react to the juxtaposition of increased hate crimes and the occurrence of landmark LGBT advances?
We can only truly participate in Gay Pride if we are willing to position ourselves on the front lines of the gay rights movement—which means participating in (and reacting to) the best and worst of the events around us. If we want to honor LGBT hate crime victims, we should tell their stories, join pro-gay rights organizations, donate to LGBT political causes like Washington’s Referendum 74, or, at the very least, vote. Otherwise, the spoils of Gay Pride Month are not so much earned, as received. And the victims of last month’s hate crimes become just another news story.