Sacrificial goats must keep fighting

The right wing scapegoats LGBTs, sacrificing our rights on their altar of power. The goats have to keep fighting back if we want equality

HARDY HABERMAN  |  Flagging Left

Land of the free and home of the brave? Maybe not. Just look at all the issues being flogged both in the legislature and in the press. All are to try to stifle the freedom of LGBT people.

• DOMA: The cynically named “Defense of Marriage Act” which has nothing to do with defending marriage and everything to do with denying rights to LGBT couples.

Worse, even though the president said it is unconstitutional, the GOP, lead by House Speaker John Boehner, wants to spend $500,000 of our dollars to defend a bill the Department of Justice sees as indefensible.

• Special Rights for Gays: This is a catch phrase being used again and again by the right wing to somehow try to justify discrimination in just about any way possible.

For example in many states if you are a landlord, you are not allowed to deny someone the right to rent an apartment — but only if they are listed as a protected class. That’s how the law works in this screwy society.

So, if I am a member of a racial minority, a woman or disabled, I can seek legal recourse against the landlord. Because LGBT people are not included in that list in most states, we have no recourse.

In the eyes of the right wing, granting us the same rights as any other minority is “special rights.” Worse still is the fact that we are denied rights in our relationships that other Americans get simply because they are straight.

• Hate Crimes: The right fights tooth and nail to keep LGBT people from being included in hate crimes legislation wherever it is proposed. Just as bad, some have even tried to dissect us and include gays and lesbians while leaving transgender folks out.

To add LGBT people to the list of victims of hate crimes apparently denies the far right their freedom to hate whoever they want.

• Ex-Gay Therapy: This discredited practice still gets funding and support from fundamentalist churches and right-wing organizations that are actively working to “cure” gays and lesbians. Our lives have been compared to the problem with “second-hand smoke” and devalued by rhetoric from the right.

They spread the lie that our sexual orientation is a choice, and therefore something we can change at will.

This list could go on and on, but the point is that for some reason the conservatives are spending huge piles of cash to actively deny us the rights and privileges they enjoy. Why do they spend so much of their time and energy working to take away rights from us?

Politically, it is an easy talking point. The right has found that anti-LGBT rhetoric can whip a crowd into a frenzy faster than talking about real issues. In the world of media image, nothing is as valued by the right as a cheering crowd and a sound bite on TV or radio.

Economically, LGBT issues can make a quick buck for the right wing. Whether it is raising funds to “defeat the gay agenda” or funds to “rescue the poor sinners from the gay lifestyle,” donations flow when the anti-LGBT rhetoric rings out.

And psychologically, it’s an easy hot button. The whole existence of LGBT people makes many heterosexuals nervous. I am not a psychologist, but I would lay odds that for many there are insecurities around their own sexual orientation that drives this.

The mere fact that the “gay panic” defense works in the judicial system as an excuse for assault and murder points to this as an underlying problem.

But I suspect the real reason the right has seized on LGBT rights as their favorite topic is more troubling: It’s what I call the “bogie man” factor.

Fear is a very good motivator. Just look at how we Americans cheerfully gave up our privacy rights after 9/11. We were afraid and we were told giving up our privacy would get us security.

The results are still very much open for debate.

Meanwhile politicians, pundits and clergy have found their available list of “bogie men” dwindling. Back in the 1950s, communists were the enemy and the cause of every ill under the sun. In the ’60s “hippies” were looked on as the root cause of problems.

In the last decade, “terrorists” became the main thing to fear, though it was a thinly disguised version of xenophobia and racism.

Now, one of the only things to fear is us, the LGBTS. We have become the bogie man for the current crop of fear mongers. We are being pointed to as the root of many of societies ills — and that is scapegoating, plain and simple.

Scapegoats are an easy way to explain complex problems, and in a world of 20-second sound bites, they are all too tempting for politicians, pundits and clergy to ignore.

Well, it’s time we goats stopped behaving like sheep and started butting our heads up against the people who would deny us our rights. If we do not continue to push back, we will continue to have our rights sacrificed on the alter of politics. And this goat is not ready for that.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

—  John Wright

New group forming for hate crime survivors

O’Connor, Mullinex both fell victim to hate crimes, and now they want to use their experiences to help others

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Maeve O’Connor, left, and Winter Mullinex

Options for victims of hate crimes are limited. But two transgender women who survived life-threatening attacks have the group formed Surviving Hate to try and offer more options for hate-crime survivors who are trying to put their lives back together.
To raise money to launch their group, Dallas filmmaker Israel Luna will screen his film, “Ticked-Off Tr*nnies With Knives,” on July 7 at Studio Movie Grill in North Dallas.

Surviving Hate organizer Maeve O’Connor said there are advocacy groups for hate crime victims, but survivor groups outside of a clinical setting are rare. She said she realized the need for such a group during discussions with Winter
Mullinex, who also lived through a violent attack.

“We realized we were able to empathize with each other about what we went through,” O’Connor said.

The new group is still in the development stage. Their goal, she said, was to empower survivors to live healthy lives. A website where survivors will be able to share their experiences, anonymously if they prefer, should be running next week. O’Connor said they are still creating their board of directors and then will apply for non-profit status.

O’Connor said she hopes this spawns a network of survivor groups across the country.

Surviving Hate will reach beyond the transgender community to help victims of any bias-related violence — whether it was motivated by race, religion, ethnicity or physical disability, as well as sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

The most recent FBI statistics are for 2008, a year before the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crime law was enacted. Of the 7,780 bias incidents reported for that year, 16.7 percent were based on sexual orientation.

O’Connor believes that some crimes based on gender identity are included in that number, but most have gone unreported. Statistics compiled for the year 2010 — that will not be available until 2012 — will include gender identity and expression as specified in the new law.

Both O’Connor and Mullinex spoke about the crimes that affected their lives. Both were raped, beaten and left for dead. O’Connor said her rapists told her, “You look like a girl. You act like a girl. We’re going to help make you a girl.”

The attack happened 31 years ago when she was 16.

The first reaction is fear, she said, and like many hate crime victims, she did not report the crime. Next, she said, comes shame.

But she said at that age she did not understand gender identity and was not out, she believed the attack happened because of who she really was.

Winter, a survivor of multiple hate crime attacks, was first raped at age 9. She said she understood at the time she was transgender.

Both women said the purpose of their new group is not to wallow in pity. Survivors often think their reactions are unusual, but together victims discover their reactions are quite similar and normal.

The women said the victims are often blamed for bringing on the attack. But the purpose of Surviving Hate is not self-pity or assigning blame.

“How do you thrive?” O’Connor said. “How do you go on with your life? I’ve become successful. I’d like others to do that.”

“I can tell you, 31 years later, you don’t get over it,” she said. “But you do learn to deal with it and put it to the side.”

“When you’re in a victim mindset, you feel powerless,” Mullenix said. “No one lives unscarred, but survivors are empowered and capable of leading a normal life.”

She would like to help hate crime victims move past the fear.

Their goal for survivors seems simple but is something that took both women years to achieve.

“Learn to have healthy, happy relationships and trust again,” Winter said. •

“Ticked Off Tr*nnies with Knives” at Studio Movie Grill, 11170 North Central Expressway. July 7 at 8 p.m. $10. SurvivingHate.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 02, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas