Bullying takes many forms from verbal attacks to physical attacks, which may include physical and sexual assault that sometimes results in death. Assaulting another person is a crime. When a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) person suffers an attack due to sexual orientation or gender identification, the common term for this is “gay bashing.”
What is Gay Bashing?
Gay bashing is a violent physical attack on a person or persons, because they are gay or they seem to be gay. Any LGBT person may be a target of such a gay bashing attack. Even some people who are not gay suffer a gay bash attack because the attackers mistakenly think they are gay. Sometimes this could be because of the person’s dress or appearance or simply because the person is in a certain area of a city.
Gay Bashing is a Global Problem
In much of the world, gay bashing is a crime. Some places, like the USA, it is a hate crime with stronger penalties. Nevertheless, in some countries incidents of gay bashing are on the rise, especially where a large part of the population and/or the government has a hostile attitude towards LGBT people. Problem areas of the world include:
Russia recently introduced national legislation making it illegal to give young people information about sexuality issues, calling this form of information “gay propaganda” and banning it. When the Russian government took this stance, this encouraged discrimination against LGBT people. Because of this, gay bashing attacks have increased dramatically, especially against gay Russian youth. Many young gay men are lured to a place on the promise of sex, only to be physically attacked by a gang of thugs instead. Sometimes this is called a drawn together gay bash.
- Afghanistan, Brunei, Egypt, Iran, Jamaica, Saudi Arabia, Uganda, and Yemen
Homosexuality is illegal in these countries in direct contradiction of the United Nations support for global LGBT rights, now recognized as part of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In both Brunei and Saudi Arabia, one possible punishment for being gay is stoning to death. These governments institutionalized gay bashing through government encouragement of homophobia, even though this is clearly a crime against humanity.
- North Korea
North Korea has the worst human rights abuse records of any country in the world. A February 2014 United Nations report extensively documented these abuses. Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un of North Korea said no one should pay attention to the U.N. report because an openly gay man led the commission doing the investigation for the United Nations.
It is best for LGBT persons to avoid these countries. For any LGBT persons living in one of these countries, they should consider seeking asylum in another country. A group that helps LGBT persons immigrate to USA by seeking asylum is Immigration Equality. This works for anyone from countries that persecute LGBT persons, except North Korea. Very few people go in or come out of North Korea. It is the most isolated country in the world. LGBT people are “disappeared” by the government, put into prison, tortured, and killed so nobody is allowed to help them.
Where does Gay Bashing Occur?
Gay bashing can occur virtually anywhere, but is more likely in areas with concentrations of LGBT people. Some victims recount gay bashing stories that happened, when they were simply walking down the street, minding their own business, and suddenly they were under attack. In San Francisco, there is part of the city known as the “Castro,” where many LGBT people live. The Castro borders the Mission district, which is an area with more of a Latino population. One shocking example of gay bashing recently occurred in this area.
As reported in the SF Weekly, two young women were attacked by six men while walking along 9th Street. The men assaulted both of the women, while calling them derogatory homophobic names. They suffered attack by the gay bashers who thought they were lesbians, simply because the women were walking together in an area of the city near where many gay people live. Both of the women ended up in the hospital with injuries. One of the women said her gay bash surprised her because she is not gay.
This was not the first time people experienced attacks in this area. NBC news reported there was a gang of three men on the loose in 2012 making serial gay bashing attacks in the same area. These attacks by roaming thugs have been going on in San Francisco since the 1980’s and before. Long ago, another man named Dennis O’Connell died from head injuries suffered when the attackers smashed his head into the curb. The four men who gay bashed him were apprehended and went to prison for the murder. Dennis O’Connell was not robbed, just beaten by the attackers. The only motivation was hate. Those four men from out-of-town came specifically to San Francisco to hunt homosexual men. They drove forty miles from Vallejo to San Francisco just for bashing gays.
Gay Bashing is now a Hate Crime in the USA
It makes no difference what sexual orientation a person has, or their gender identity; there is no justification for the hate crime of attacking people over these things. Gay bashing is not the only type of hate crimes. Another example of a hate crime is if someone comes under attack because of his or her religious preference. President Obama signed a law in 2008 with federal penalties for hate crimes that are more severe than attacks not motivated by hate.
Famous Victims of Gay Bashing
One of the most famous incidents of gay bashing was when it resulted in the death of a young man named Matthew Shepard during 1998 in Laramie, Wyoming. Matthew met two other men in a bar. They took him outside, beat him with a gun, took him to a remote area, took his shoes, keys, and wallet, tied him to fence, and then beat him almost to death. They set him on fire and left him on fence in freezing weather conditions.
He was discovered barely alive fifteen hours later and taken to the hospital where he died five days later. This murder was especially horrifying due to its brutality. It became a symbol for gay bashing. Both men, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson were given two-life sentences and went to prison for the murder of Matthew. Recent allegations reported in The Guardian say that drugs were involved and robbery was the motivation for the crime. Nevertheless, even with motivations that are more complex, the killing of Matthew Shepard was horrific.
Mob Mentality and Gay Bashing
While it is possible for a single person to gay bash another person, usually gay bashing involves more than one person doing the bashing. As with other forms of bullying, the gay bashers run in gangs when they attack others, so the person under attack does not have sufficient ability to fight back. Men with effeminate mannerisms are frequently the victims of such attacks because they are easy targets for these thugs.
This mob mentality is the same type of ignorance that allowed groups of men to hang black people in the south due to racial prejudice, which is another type of hate crime. There is a sadistic nature to harming someone when a crowd outnumbers the person under attack. It is not a fair fight. Being part of the mob of attackers makes it easier to beat or even kill the weaker person. The mob mentality makes people do things they would not do if they were alone. Joining in such a mob attack is not a sign of strength or courage. It is cowardly.
Protection from Gay Bashing
The steps, which can be taken to protect oneself from gay bashing, are the same as steps as anyone can take to reduce the chance of being assaulted, raped, or killed. These include:
- Learn Self-Defense – Taking self-defense classes is a good way to boost self-esteem and reduce the possibilities of being harmed if attacked. Sometimes the best strategy when outnumbered is to run away to the closet safe place.
- Be Aware of Surroundings – Always pay close attention to people and vehicles nearby. Gaybashers are somewhat brazen, so by being aware of who is around, one may see an attack group approaching.
- Carry Protection – Pepper spray, pocket mace, tasers, and even handguns are all possible to use for protection where they are legally permitted and a person has the proper training in how to use them. This suggestion is extremely serious. The decision to carry a weapon needs careful consideration of the potential consequences. Nevertheless, a person’s life may depend on being able to fight off a gay bashing attack.
- Avoid Bad Areas – Always travel in groups (the more the better). Do not walk alone, especially at night. Ask around to learn of areas where gay bashing has occurred because bashers may make repeated attacks in that same area.
- Use Technology – Stay connected with friends and family always letting at least one other person know where you are. There is new software for mobile phones that with the push of a button automatically calls your emergency contact list and the police and gives your GPS location.
There is still much to do to help people learn the unfairness of gay bashing and to put protections in place to help reduce this crime. Only the most barbaric countries refuse to change their homophobic policies. The United Nations has a major initiative ongoing to get more countries to accept the terms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The vast majority of countries in the world now accept these human rights for their people, so progress is possible to reduce gay bashing statistics in the future.