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
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
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?
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?