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Murders, Senseless Times

Murders, Senseless Times


To someone of my generation, the murder of 15-year-old Lawrence King reinforces all the awful warnings we heard as young queers just coming out: Never show your true self unless you're with your own tribe, we were told. If you do, you are fair game. Occasionally, when we strayed from our herd, we got picked off. Nobody wondered why.

Times have changed since then, but not enough. We're caught in a deadly in-between, where superficial messages of tolerance only reinforce the same old hate and fear. The contradictions are crazy-making, and kids are especially vulnerable.

For Larry King, whose story is on our cover, it seems the rules shifted crazily between his foster home and his school. Was he lulled into a false sense of security by assurances -- explicitly granted under California law, by the way -- that he had the right to wear heels if he chose? Was he not wary enough to sense that, outside the safety of his group home, in the jungle of middle school, he was low on the food chain? His friends suggest that Larry was prepared to be teased, even bullied. He was tough. But how could he have understood how far things would go?

Brandon McInerney, even younger than Larry King, also lived with extreme contradictions. At school he attended the Young Marines program and studied martial arts. At home he struggled with a parental environment that reportedly involved violence and drugs. Faced with a fierce young queer who declared a crush on him, did Brandon see it as an act of courage to pull the trigger? Was he in some childish way trying to bring order to the chaos of his life?

In late February, I heard a lecture by Dean Spade, a dynamic young trans attorney who was neither downbeat nor defeatist as he described the punishing dilemmas facing trans people. The rewards of coming out trans, he said, frequently include a slide into poverty. Employers discriminate. Health care is denied. Doors close. In post-9/11 America, a name that doesn't match a Social Security number can get its owner flagged as a terrorist. But obtaining accurate ID is dicey -- subject to a maze of prerequisites that differ from state to state and may hinge on surgery that's prohibitively expensive, let alone required or desired.

It is dangerous to look different. We all know that. Yet even if we wanted to go back into hiding, it's not an option. The larger culture knows enough to recognize us now, whether we live boldly or not. So here's the question: Having come this far, how do we get to the next step, where the culture's tolerance is real and fear no longer gets us shunned -- or killed?

Kids like Larry King shouldn't have to hide. Kids like Brandon McInerney shouldn't have to fear. How can we help them all survive this senseless time?

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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