Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mob attack on SC student breeds more hatred, more anger

This story is ballooning into something awful. And what it worse for me is the fact that Winthrop University - the university that the student attended - is my alma mater:

The brutal attack of a gay teenager by a group of men at a Rock Hill gas station has a Winthrop University professor warning gay students to "act straight."

The warning comes after 19-year-old Joshua Esskew was beaten by a group of at least eight men at the Spot Convenience Store on 990 South Cherry Road on April 9th. Esskew believes the attack happened because he is gay.

The attack has sparked an investigation by the FBI and the York County Sheriff's Office, who are hoping to identify the men who attacked Esskew. Images of the attack, which was caught on surveillance video, have been released to the public, in hopes of identifying the men.

Esskew says when he was walking to the gas station when someone yelled a derogatory homosexual comment at him. Words were exchanged and when he turned back around, someone hit him in the head with a 40-ounce malt liquor bottle.

He was then beaten by at least eight men for nearly 15-seconds, being kicked and punched by the group.

The attack has angered many in the community, including professors and student advisors at Winthrop University.

“I’ve got to let my students know [about the attack], so when they’re out and about in Rock Hill they act straight,” said Kelly James who teaches sociology and criminology at Winthrop University.

James is also the advisor for GLoBAL, Winthrop University's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender ally league. She says the attack has her worried about students' safety in Rock Hill and she welcomes the federal involvement in the investigation.

She feels South Carolina laws don’t go far enough in protecting those who are the victims of targeted violence like this.

“The legislators aren’t interested in it," James told WBTV's Steve Crump. "There’s been grassroots activism, but there’s been no change in the system.”

And the thing that makes it worse? The professor in the clip, Kelly James, is being attacked by others for her comments. But her comments about "acting straight" were taken out of context. (Alvin's note - for some reason, I could not embed the video featuring those comments. So go to this link to see the video of the story including James's comments)

From WBTV 3:

. . . In an email to us today, Ms. James says, “ I am receiving hate mail at work and on Facebook because of the way you presented a part of a sentence in my comments to you. I thought you understood that I meant it was ridiculous that I would have to tell my students to act straight, that I meant it ironically. “

. . . This is the whole paragraph that the soundbite was clipped from for the broadcast story:

Kelly James says, “But, my first thought was that, “I’ve got to let my students know’ so that when they are out and about in Rock hill that they, you know, act straight, And that’s a sad lesson in 2011 to be teaching young people. I mean, it’s been off the books as a mental illness since 1973.”

Steve Crump used a few soundbites from Ms. James in his broadcast story and felt that he had portrayed, in the story as a whole, her sentiments on the story correctly. However, time restraints, a daily part of newsgathering, resulted in using a portion of the comment. In the interest of being fair to Ms. James and to our readers, I have decided to not only include the full paragraph from which the bite was excerpted, but to include the entire interview so that readers can understand all of her statements.

The following is the raw interview:

Folks, whatever the case may be, this is not the time to attack each other. Certainly a lot of anger has been created because of this awful attack. But I doubt that Ms. James meant any harm by her comments. It would be easy for folks to go into an expository about what she said and how what she said harms lgbt students, wouldn't it?

Well in this case, discretion and discernment are two words we should remember. James is not the villain here, so let's give her the benefit of the doubt.

We need to be angry at those who committed this crime and not our allies.

Related post:

SC gay man attacked by mob

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'Glee is demonic' . . . or why do the lgbt community waste such good material?

I'm going to do something different today. Rather than midday news briefs, I want to spotlight a couple of posts in an attempt to make a point.

I get beleagured at members of the lgbt community who say that we should ignore the ramblings of various religious right figures. That mentality of "if you ignore it, then it will go away" contradicts so many realities.

No matter how much the lgbt community ignores them, the religious right isn't going away. They have been at their lies for over 30 years. And it was because we didn't built up a suitable countermeasure to their "homosexuality is a dangerous lifestyle" lie during the heydays of the 1980s and early 90s (and the heydays of discredited researcher Paul Cameron) that we find ourselves bending over backwards to beat back that line of thinking.

What some of us fail to realize, or rather will not realize, is that the lgbt community is in the middle of a war and we have to approach it as such. Granted, I am not talking about one of violent conflict, but that of charged rhetoric designed to either appeal to people's common sense or exploit their ignorance and fears.

And so far, the religious right have scored significantly in their lying rhetoric that the lgbt community is "trying to force acceptance of our supposed lifestyle while at the same time recruit children."

The truth is that these folks knowningly lie about legitimate science or produce some of the most outlandish statements which can be seen as Freudian slips or windows into their homophobic  minds.

Take for example this recent exchange between Peter LaBarbera of the anti-gay Americans for Truth and Linda Harvey of the equally anti-gay Mission America. To make a long story short, in this exchange, they accuse the lgbt community and the popular television show Glee of using "demonic manipulation" to create gay children:

Harvey: These people are masters at demonic manipulation; I mean I have to put it that way, because that is what the homosexual agenda directed to that age group does. Kids don’t know what they’re going to turn out to be, kids can be secretly wondering and doubting if they are homosexual without a parent ever knowing. Because of A) what they get in schools, and B) what they get on the Internet.

LaBarbera: And then Hollywood, I talked about at our conference about this Glee kiss which is just, as I said at the conference, it shocked my soul. This romantic Glee kiss between two teenage boys depicted on the show, popular characters, one of the most popular if not the most popular TV show that young people watch, and here they had a romantic kiss between two teenage boys, I thought, what, how many young men and boys decided right there that they’re gay?

When I read stuff like that, I say don't ignore it. Put on page one of every lgbt blog. Send it to your friends and the lgbt press.

By all means, don't ignore  Maggie Gallagher and her ridiculous fumblings at Congressional hearings. Don't forget the Family Research Council and its clumsy attempts to deflect the Southern Poverty Law Center's correct charge of it being a hate group.

But LaBarbera and Harvey represent the true homophobic face of the religious right which should be given equal focus -  that face is self-righteous, claiming to speak for God but underneath it all bearing craziness that doesn't come from knowing God but succumbing to stupidity.

The most important part of a rhetorical war is the ability to paint your enemies as irrational. So why should the lgbt community ignore it when those who oppose us gives us so much good material.

So with that in mind, I want to spotlight several posts of some of the nastiest, crudest, most outrageous things said about the lgbt community from members of the religious right:

Religious right having gay sex fantasies even during Obama's SOTU address - During President Obama's recent State of the Union address, the only thing a certain religious right spokesman could think about was a gay soldier "rubbing his back."

Peter LaBarbera - the self-destruction of an anti-gay activist - And how can any denunciation of the religious right be complete without the complete story of "Porno" Pete LaBarbera

Something Guaranteed To Piss You Off , Something guaranteed to piss you off - The sequel - In the 1980s, a man named Dick Hafer published a comic book called "Death Style" which supposedly showed actual depictions of just how nasty, raunchy, and filthy lgbts are. As you look at it now, you will either be shocked or laugh. But remember this - on the back page of that comic book are individuals who vouched for the veracity of that hot mess, including a former Congressman (who was in office at the time) and the Concerned Women for America (who as far as I know never renounced what it said at the time)

The 'Complete' Words of love? A reminder of what some people really think about the lgbt community - And one of my magnum opuses - Some of the most ridiculous, homophobic things ever said about the lgbt community featuring Jesse Helms, Donnie McClurkin, and that black minister who said that if the Klan opposed gay marriage, he would ride with them. His name doesn't deserve to be repeated.

Hat tip to People for the American Way's Right-Wing Watch

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Malaysia ships 66 children to ex-gay camp

As the following ugly incident demonstrates, our struggle isn't just about white gay men. It isn't about what's going on in New York or San Francisco. It isn't simply about marriage equality or DOMA or DADT or ENDA. It isn't simply about "tolerance" (I hate that word). The lgbt struggle for equality is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural universal struggle for basic dignity:

Malaysian authorities have admitted sending 66 teenage boys thought to be gay to a camp to learn “masculine behaviour”.

An official from Terengganu state said the boys, aged between 13 and 17, were identified by teachers as having effeminate mannerisms.

This week, they are being sent on a four-day “self-development course” in the hope of dissuading them from being gay or transgender.

State education director Razali Daud told The Associated Press that the camp was designed “to guide them back to the right path in life before they reach a point of no return. Such effeminate behavior is unnatural and will affect their studies and their future.”

He added: “We can’t force the boys to change, but we want them to know what their choices are in life. Some effeminate boys end up as a transvestite or a homosexual, but we want to do our best to limit this.”

Officials said the boys were invited to the camp and were not compelled to go.

Luckily, this act has received much deserved criticism:

A Malaysian ‘gay cure’ camp for effeminate teenagers should be abolished, the country’s women’s minister says.

Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said that the decision, by the state of Terengganu, violates the Children’s Act and would damage the boys.

“The experience of being singled out on the basis of perceived characteristics is an extremely traumatising experience, particularly for adolescent teens,” she told the Malaysia Star.

. . .A spokeswoman for the The Joint Action Group for Gender Equality said the camp was disturbing.

“The act of identifying and singling out boys who behave effeminately is highly discriminatory,” she said.

Sexual rights campaigner Pang Khee Teik said the move was homophobic and work not ‘cure’ any gay or trans children.

“All the students will learn from these camps is that they are expected to behave a certain way,” he told BBC News.

“And in order to avoid further ridicule, perhaps they will learn to pretend better. In the end, we are only teaching them how to be a hypocrite.”

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