This week, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) released their “Report of Hate Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Communities.”
Overall, the conclusions of the report were not positive. The LGBTQ community had the second-highest murder rate this decade in 2009. Almost 80 percent of these victims were people of color, and most were transgender women or at least feminine in their appearance.
This comes at the same time as the economic crisis has hurt resources for LGBTQ victims. Seventy percent of NCAVP-reporting programs had budget cuts, and half had to lay off staff. (The information in this report does not even include the South, unfortunately, as there were not enough functioning programs here to collect data.)
It’s an alarming situation when violence spikes, yet our mechanisms for dealing with the victims are blunted by budgetary issues. Proponents of a culture of hate are able to impose an atmosphere of fear on an entire community. The majority of the hate murders were minorities or transgender women, reflecting dangerous positions towards race and gender.
Disturbingly, the biggest spike in anti-LGBTQ violence came in October, the same month as the passage of the federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The report posits that an increase in visibility brought about by the act might have led to higher levels of harassment and discrimination. At the same time, 62 percent of incidents reported to the centers were not covered by criminal statutes. This includes harassment and intimidation against the LGBTQ community that stops short of violence.
The report calls on federal and state governments to provide more funds to anti-violence and to end discriminatory practices that bolster anti-LGBTQ feelings.
I don’t know how practical the first option is, given the economic conditions we see today, but the second option is a practical and necessary step.
We expect everyone to not harass or discriminate against the LGBTQ community, but that’s still a completely legal option for businesses and our state government. They can fire, or refuse hiring or promotions, based solely on sexual orientation or gender identity. A change of cultural attitudes is needed, and this change has to include the end of discriminatory practices by the government.