Anti-LGBT violence is on rise in U.S., and 3 recent crimes in D-FW show we’re not safe in our ‘gay bubble’

VP-Sprinkle-StevenIncidents of hate violence against the North Texas LGBT community are on the rise, and everyone has reason to be concerned.  A set of popular myths about LGBT security make us more vulnerable to harm and more likely to deny how much at risk we really are in the Dallas-Fort Worth “gay bubble.”  A few simple steps can help LGBT people stand strong against hate violence, so that the tide of harm can be stemmed in the region we love.

Three recently reported cases should awaken us to the fact that people still hate us for who and what we are right here in our own neighborhoods — and are willing to act on that hatred violently.  The horrific beating last month of lesbian Sondra Scarber in a Mesquite elementary school playground for defending her 4-year-old child against bullies has drawn the most media attention.  The attacker, allegedly a parent of one of the bullies, yelled homophobic slurs, knocked Scarber unconscious and broke her jaw when he realized he was facing a lesbian.

Burn-fagSoon thereafter, North Texas was shaken by news of a gay couple, Ben Allen and Justin Hudgins, whose property was vandalized in Everman with the spray-painted slur “Burn FAG.”  Allen and Hudgins were targeted after locals learned they had been rejected by a wedding reception venue that refused to serve same-sex couples.

Most recently, we heard of the arrest of Erica Moore in Forest Hill, a mother who faces felony charges for whipping her 15-year-old son bloody when she found him engaged in same-sex acts with a teenage cousin in her home. Moore adamantly defends “whooping” her boy with an electrical power cord because “homosexuality is a sin” in her value system.

We are burying our heads in the sand if we believe these hate crimes in Mesquite, Everman and Forest Hill are not our concern in the D-FW “gay bubble.”  Familiar taverns and social groups give us a false sense of security. Dallas residents ignore fresh rumors of attacks by bat-swinging men near the strip, and recent Tarrant County hate crimes remind Fort Worth folks of the forgotten trauma of the raid on the Rainbow Lounge, not quite four years ago.

Dallas and Fort Worth have protection statutes for LGBTQ people, but none of the Mid-Cities have them yet.  D-FW security also depends on what people believe and do in the suburbs and Mid-Cities.  Lest we forget, it was just a short drive from Garland for the three attackers who beat longtime Dallas gayborhood resident Jimmy Dean within an inch of his life in July 2008, stomping the nose off his face. Today’s reports of local violence mean that the risk of being LGBTQ in North Texas never went away.

Myths of security hamper the North Texas LGBT community from taking steps to stop the violence, such as:

1) Hate crimes are down nationally and regionally.  False: Since President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law in October 2009, murders of LGBTQ people have reached historic highs each year since.  The murders of our people are increasing alarmingly, not decreasing, as reported by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, or NCAVP, and the FBI.

2) Victims are risk-takers.  They are “flamers.” Their irresponsibility leads to their harm. False: Studies of LGBT homicide victims show that they were specifically targeted because of their real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Since 1982, LGBTQ people from all walks of life have been killed in bias-driven hate crimes.

3) As young people become more politically and socially powerful, risk of anti-LGBT violence will diminish. False, also: The profile of who murders LGBT people today is a white male, 17 – 27 years of age.  While youth attitudes on LGBT equality have improved, so have incidents of youth violence against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, especially transgender people of color.

So, what can our community do to raise consciousness about our risk of violence, prevent and even decrease incidents of harm?

• Inform yourself about hate crimes, their causes, and groups working to stop them, and become involved.  The FBI, the NCAVP, Resource Center Dallas and Fairness Fort Worth are great resources.

• Reach out to straight allies, friends and family members, and raise their awareness about the issue of anti-LGBT violence.  Impress upon them that violence, bullying and teen suicide harm everyone, gay and straight alike. We need our heterosexual allies to turn the tide.

• Work with groups in the Mid-Cities and neighboring suburbs to pass municipal LGBT protection statutes. Ignoring towns like Everman, Forest Hill and Mesquite has led to bad consequences for Dallas and Fort Worth.

• Support LGBT-friendly religious groups.  No matter what you believe about organized religion, bad religion is at the root of much anti-LGBT violence in Texas and throughout the nation.  The only voices speaking out effectively against religious bigots are our allies in the LGBT-friendly faith community.  Cathedral of Hope, White Rock Community Church, Celebration Community Church Fort Worth, the Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Institute of Welcoming Resources are great allies of ours.

• Speak out against violence against any group.  The violence of our culture is the launching pad for attacks on the LGBT community, immigrants, racial/ethnic minorities, women and minority religions.  Remember, we are all in this together.

The Rev. Stephen V. Sprinkle is an ordained Baptist Minister, an openly gay professor at Fort Worth’s Brite Divinity School, theologian-in-residence at Cathedral of Hope and the author of Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memories of LGBTQ Hate Crimes Victims. He can be reached at

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 8, 2013,