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Hangin' tough

Hangin' tough


Are gay gangs really terrorizing America with pink handguns and stiletto heels? David Luc Nguyen looks for a straight answer.

"In Tennessee, authorities say GTO, Gays Taking Over, are involved in raping young girls. In Philadelphia, a lesbian gang called DTO, Dykes Taking Over, are allegedly terrorizing people," stated Bill O'Reilly on the June 21 episode of his Fox News program The O'Reilly Factor. "There is this national underground network of women, and also some men...that are actually recruiting kids as young as 10 years old in a lot of the schools and communities all across the country," reported "crime analyst" Rod Wheeler on the program. These street toughs, according to O'Reilly and Wheeler, carry pink nine-millimeter Glock pistols and force straight people to perform gay sex acts.

Though most of the claims were unsubstantiated--law enforcement officials called Wheeler's statistics "unfounded, highly sensationalized, and grossly exaggerated"--many viewers were left wondering if there was a glimmer of truth to the story. (O'Reilly and Wheeler later admitted their story was overstated and that gay gangs are not "a national epidemic.")

According to police and the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit legal organization, gay gangs do exist but in much smaller numbers than alleged by O'Reilly and Wheeler. And real incidents of gay gang crime are far less salacious than those imagined during O'Reilly's program. Wheeler referenced a May incident in Maryland where a 15-year-old boy was allegedly stabbed four times and bludgeoned with a stiletto heel by six members of a lesbian gang. But of the six charged in the attack--all arrested prior to Wheeler's report--two of the three teens whose names were released were male (three other juvenile teens' identities were protected). In fact, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Gang Investigators Network, a group of 400 justice professionals in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., reports only one lesbian gang in the region.

But 21-year-old J.R. of San Francisco is proof that queer gangbangers aren't entirely an urban myth. As a teen, J.R. ran away from an abusive home and lived on the streets, where he eventually met members of his "crew."

"I got beat up a few times by gay bashers. After being alone so long, one of the other [gay] guys befriended me and showed me the ropes of life on the street. We came up with a system where I would hook up with guys and try to steal their wallets and jewelry. We've even threatened people and beat up people, including straight guys who were screwing with us. We aren't out to rape or convert people--we do what we have to do to survive."

Some see this as empowering. David Bennett, 22, of Seattle, says, "What they are doing is without a doubt legally wrong, but in a weird way it's kind of liberating to hear about tough gays and lesbians fighting back. For once it's nice to hear we aren't the victims."

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