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Finding the answers to hate crimes

Finding the answers to hate crimes


Andy Marra had many questions when she was punched in the face for being a transgender woman back in November 2006. But instead of giving her answers, her attackers fled. Now she has decided to tell her story, and she is making an appeal for answers about hate crimes.

I had just exited my stop on the subway after a particularly long day at the office, and I was grateful to stretch my legs and enjoy the crisp November air. I popped in my headphones, turned on some music, and began my five-minute walk towards my apartment in the Brooklyn, N.Y., neighborhood where I live. On my walk home I always pass a bodega. As I walked by, I noticed a group of young men glaring menacingly at me. I didn't know who they were, and my headphones muffled their voices. I decided to mind my business. I wanted to get home and put together a grocery list for the next day at the Union Square farmers market. Then, out of nowhere, a fist flew towards my face, hitting me square in the jaw. I stopped dead in my tracks. Stunned for a moment, I finally turned to see who it was and watched the three young men from the bodega laughing and running off. One of them looked back at me and shouted something I couldn't fully make out, but it sounded like "she-male." The cool air felt good on my swollen cheek. I slowly dialed 911. The operator reassured me that a police car was nearby and that officers would come to my house and take a hate crime report. The operator promised they were only five minutes away. When I made it home, my two roommates listened with horror as I quietly recounted my assault. I decided to call my parents and a few close friends, and similarly they had the same reaction of disbelief. I placed some ice in a bag and headed to my bathroom. As I looked at myself in the mirror, I finally broke down in sobs. The police never came by my house to take a report. The following day I reported the incident to the New York City Anti-Violence Project. Founded in 1980, the organization responds to anti-LGBT violence and the failures of the criminal justice system concerning such crimes. The night before, I had jotted down some notes, and I shared them with a counselor at the agency. Even though I work in the LGBT community and knew that my story was not uncommon, it was still startling when the counselor confirmed that my notes reflected others' accounts and described the rising trend of hate violence in the city and across the country. I'm not angry about my attack. Instead, I'm left confused and wondering: Why do people hate others who are different? This is a question that hasn't been fully explored by journalists and reporters covering hate crimes. Most news coverage is centered on the legal implications or the aftermath of violence and how it affects the community. With the tragic losses of Gwen Araujo and F.C. Martinez, we understand that their murderers were found guilty and justly given sentences. But what we don't understand is what provoked such feelings of hatred and bigotry in the first place. Where do these feelings come from? Why do these attackers lash out? More often than not, a community that has lost someone due to hate violence is left struggling to answer these questions and provide some kind of peaceful closure. Similarly, I am left wondering what triggered three young men to attack me. Was it because I am a transgender woman? Because I am Korean-American? Both? Given the lack of media coverage of what provokes such violent actions, many victims like me are left without peace of mind. The stories of violence against LGBT people are essential to raising awareness about hate crimes. And the media have a tremendous opportunity to tell them by digging deeper and investigating why hate-motivated violence occurs. Many debate the most effective approach to preventing hate crimes, but everyone agrees that education is key to building awareness and acceptance. In the days after the attack, I decided to take a trip to visit my parents to clear my head and retreat somewhere that felt safe. When I stepped off the train and walked into the Albany, N.Y., station, I found my father waiting for me with open arms. A sense of relief flooded my body and I began to feel like myself again. As we drove into my hometown, I knew it was a good decision to come home. The following day my father took me shopping. After spending several hours in a few malls, the car trunk was loaded with purchases. Driving back home, our conversation shifted from the midterm election to the holidays. My father pursed his lips and began to express his dismay over people who only give to those in need during the holidays. "Its great that we're able to organize holiday meals for those without," he said. "But what happens in between holidays? Instead of rallying around a holiday, shouldn't our generosity translate to year-round action? Don't people realize that the homeless are left hungry every day?" That conversation stuck with me during the rest of my visit. On my scenic train trip back to New York City, I came across the piece of paper on which I had scribbled notes about my attack. My memories of the unfortunate incident crept back into my head, leaving me feeling fearful. But as painful as it was, I realized that it was important for me to continue thinking about it. Like my father said about giving between the holidays, I needed to keep the incident fresh in my mind so I could better understand it--and help others from being attacked simply because they are different.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Andy Marra