There was a lot of homophobia this week.
Kristen Cooper, a student at University of Texas San Antonio, was assaulted, and she believes it was because she is gay. Cooper was waiting for a ride after a party last weekend when two men punched her, threw her into a truck, and continued the assault until they dropped her off at the side of a highway, where she walked until a passing driver called 911. According to KENS5,
“‘It was bad, it hurt really bad, it was like full fist and I tried to fight them off, but I couldn’t,’ said Cooper. […]
Cooper said the only thing the men knew about her was that she was gay and during the beating she claims they were calling her anti-homosexual slurs. That’s why it leads her to believe it happened for one reason.
‘I just think it was a hate crime against me,’ said Cooper.”
Earlier this week in Richmond, VA, Brittany Nicole Poteet, otherwise known as Miss Virginia USA, was accused of homophobic slurs and threats of violence against her roommate, Derek Powell, and his boyfriend, at a party on Saturday. According to Think Progress,
“Poteet was ‘extremely intoxicated’ that night and seemed upset that she did not have the full house to herself. She responded by lashing out at Powell, his boyfriend Chris, and their friends, swinging her shoes at the group, pushing people, and claiming that her male companion would ‘beat their ass.’ Poteet kneed another person, ripped the door off of a family heirloom, and ‘downgraded people based on their physical appearance and economic status,’ Powell explains in his letter. The police were called, but it’s unclear if an official incident report was ever filed. ThinkProgress spoke with two other attendees who confirmed Poteet’s behavior and use of anti-gay slurs.”
In Tampa Bay, Florida, a newly married lesbian couple was refused name changes to their drivers licenses and were misled by several DMV employees before being denied. According to WTSP, Rachel and Charlotte Lambert-Jolle showed up with a valid Connecticut marriage license and social security cards with their hyphenated last name, but were refused because a same-sex marriage license isn’t recognized in Florida:
“Florida DMV spokesperson Ann Howard says because the marriage license isn’t accepted, gay couples need additional documents, including a social security card and a passport, or a court order to get their names changed on a driver’s license.
Howard says she isn’t sure why an employee would say otherwise. She points out without knowing the names of the employees the couple spoke with, it’s impossible to tell where an error may have been made.
‘The possibility does exist that it may not have been explained to them that it was a same-sex marriage from out of state,’ she told 10 News.
The newlyweds, though, say it was made perfectly clear.”
In Parker, Colorado, someone painted “Kill the Gays” on a lesbian couple’s garage door. A target was also painted on their front door, and a noose was left on their step the following night. Their car has also been keyed and faces have been left on their property. Christel Conklin and Aimee Whitchurch, who have lived in their condo for only six months, believe the threats are related to a conflict with their Homeowners Association, ostensibly because the couple doesn’t pick up after their dogs (since they have a Great Dane and a Mastiff, Conklin says this claim is completely invalid). According to 9News,
“The couple called their HOA President on Friday night and told him about the situation, but they say it wasn’t handled properly. […]
‘I don’t understand this. This is not the reaction you would expect to see from your community,’ Whitchurch said.
‘For someone to target us for our lifestyle — it’s ridiculous,’ Conklin said.”
So far no one is in custody, but a representative from the local sheriff’s office says that criminal mischief over $1,000 and an “anti-bias crime” are both involved.
In San Diego United District, another lesbian couple is facing threats and hate mail, this time for being voted in homecoming king and queen. Rebecca Arellano and Haileigh Adams are the first same-sex couple to win the nomination. While they have received some support, they have also received criticism, including from adult members of the community. According to NBC Sandiego, Superintendent Bill Kowba said,
“‘What is essentially disappointing is that adults who have contacted the school, many not even San Diego residents, are demonstrating such a lack of tolerance and such a negative role model for children with their hateful comments,’ Kowba said.
Kowba calls the adults behind the threats ‘bullies.'”
Burke Burnett, of Texas, was stabbed multiple times and set on fire in a homophobic assault last weekend. In Italy, a lesbian was told that her orientation means she is “considered a risk” for blood donation and that she was not allowed to give blood. And yesterday evening, a blog for the Houston Chronicle argued that the best way to protect people from hate crimes, and specifically young gay people from killing themselves, is for everyone to stay in the closet.
There are multiple studies suggesting that hate crimes are vastly underreported. One suggests that only about 20% of incidents are reported. Another, by the FBI, found that that number should be 44%. Statistics Canada suggests that the number should be 34%. Not all of the homophobic incidents from the past week are hate crimes, but all were motivated by hate, and involved the unequal power dynamic that queer people live under every day. There are likely violent crimes that did not make this list because they weren’t even reported, and Miss Virgina-esque incidents that weren’t even noticed because they weren’t committed by Miss Virginia. The fact that these few incidents were reported, and were discussed by media, just isn’t enough.