Hate rears its head on the lake

Anti-gay vandalism is a reminder that hate can hide in even the most accepting communities

David Webb The Rare Reporter

It’s taken a while for the ugly specter of anti-gay hate crime to rise over Cedar Creek Lake, but it was probably inevitable.

With two gay bars and large numbers of gay and lesbian couples living together in full-time residences and weekend homes, the community has become highly visible over the past couple of decades. For the most part the straight community has always seemed tolerant, but it is a conservative religious area.

To the best of everyone’s recollection, no one on the lake had ever reported being harassed, threatened or beat up or having their property vandalized because they were gay —until June 20.

That’s when a gay male couple living in Payne Springs woke up to find extensive damage to their truck.

They found the windshield busted, all four tires slashed, parts ripped off the truck and anti-gay graffiti — including the words “Die Fag” — scrawled all over the truck. The damage was so bad that the vehicle will be unusable for several weeks, and the couple cannot really afford to rent a car in the meantime.

Initially, the couple posted a message on their Facebook page with pictures of the damage. But they later took it down and asked for privacy. They said they just wanted to move on and did not want to become a cause for the community to rally around.

It is likely the men are suffering from psychological trauma. Hate crime researchers point out that victims are often left terrified, fearing retribution and feeling vulnerable to more attacks if there is widespread attention drawn to them.

The possibility exists that there may have been other anti-gay hate crimes committed on the lake, and they were never reported because of those same fears.

According to the FBI’s most recent “Hate Crime Statistics” report, almost 18 percent of all hate crimes occurring in the U.S. are attributed to sexual orientation bias. The crimes occur all across the country in cities and towns of all sizes and demographics.

In addition to the impact on the victims, hate crimes reportedly also have an intimidating effect on the entire community to which the victims belong.

That’s why it is important for the community to rally behind such victims and to band together in speaking out against hate crimes. Usually, there are supportive straight people who want to join the cause, and that is already happening on the lake.

Immediately after hearing about the crime, a straight couple sent an e-mail volunteering to be a part of any activities that might be undertaken to promote tolerance and discourage hate crimes.

That’s what is happening now, too, in Savannah, Ga., where two Marines from a South Carolina military base were arrested recently on charges they allegedly assaulted a gay man because they thought he winked at them. The LGBT community held a rally this week in the square where the gay man was found unconscious.

It’s also a good idea to take steps to combat hate crimes with community events because they rarely are isolated incidents. The perpetrators of hate crimes often begin with lower-level types of crime such as harassment and vandalism and go on to more violent activity when they don’t suffer any repercussions from the earlier crimes.

Just about everyone realizes now that June is celebrated across the country as Gay Pride Month, and that draws more attention to the LGBT community. The national debate about gay rights, such as the proposal to abolish “don’t ask, don’t tell” has the same effect.

If nothing else, everyone needs to be aware of the danger of hate crime activity in an area and to be careful. It can happen to anyone at anytime, almost anywhere.

David Webb is a former staff writer for the Dallas Voice who lives on Cedar Creek Lake now. He is the author of the blog TheRareReporter.blogspot.com. He can be reached at davidwaynewebb@embarqmail.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 25, 2010.

—  Dallasvoice