- On January 17 Kevin Tryals and Laaron Morris of Galveston TX. were found in a burning car on a dead-end road outside of city limits. Both bodies were severely burned. The medical examiner's office ruled that both men were dead before the car was ignited, and that both men died from multiple gunshot wounds. Police have ruled out robbery and are treating the murders as anti-gay violence.
- On February 20 the burned remains of Billy Jack Gaither, 39, a factory worker were discovered in Sylacauga, a small town in Alabama. He had been beaten to near death (or near death) with an ax handle and thrown onto a stack of tires and a set afire. His attacks, 21-year-old Charles Butler and 25-year-old Steven Mullins, claim he made a pass at them.
- On March 1, the severed head of Henry Edward Northington, 39, was found on a pathway to a park known as a gay men's cruising spot outside of Alexandria, Virginia. Northington was homeless and gay. No one has been arrested.
- On March 12, in Los Angeles, Juan Chavez, 34, pleaded guilty of murdering five gay men by luring them to their homes supposedly for sex and then robbed and strangled them. He also was accused of taking the victims' cars after killing them. He claimed he committed the murders to stop the spread of AIDS.
- On March 15the body of Michael Barber, 56, was discovered in his apartment in Fort Lauderdale, FL. encased in a zippered plastic bag. He had died of multiple stab wounds. Barber, an ex-Marine worked as a gardener in the area. Six months ago Charles Squires, 64, of nearby Wilton Manors, Fl. was found stabbed to death and wrapped in plastic inside his home. Police are treating both as anti-gay crimes.
- On March 19, Bradley Davis, 24, of San Francisco, was found bleeding and semi-conscious between two parked cars at 12:15 a.m. near 18th and Castro streets by police officers who were called to the scene. Officers arrested three suspects Ban Doc Im, 21; Henry Sai Kwong, 19; Thang Cao Truong, 18 who were seen by witnesses attacking Davis after standing on Castro shouting anti-gay and anti-African American epithets.
There is no doubt that since the Shepard murder anti-gay violence has been deemed more newsworthy. While some analysts are claiming that violence against gay, lesbian, and transgendered people are raising. The Triangle Foundation, a gay-rights advocacy groups in Detroit documented two Michigan anti-gay murders in 1997, and six in 1998; by March of 1999 they were investigating five. But the reality is that they have always been an enormous number of murders, beating, attacks, and harassments: what has changed is both the rate of reporting and the attention of the media. Generally speaking queer commentators and activists see this as a positive trend it seems to me that increased visibility for homophobic violence is only a first, albeit important, but rather small step. The enormous coverage given to the Shepard murder and will we see much more once the trail starts is, in itself, a study of what can go wrong. It is clear that Matthew Shepard place as a media star was predicated on several factors: his murder was brutal and shocking, and his age, race, good-looks, and class status made him the perfect victim for a national media looking for a good story. But will this coverage have any lasting effect on how both the media and public policy deal with anti-gay violence? If Matthew Shepard was an African-American teenage hustler the story would have been different: there would not have been a story. Is the media simply going to go for the most sensational stories of anti-gay violence: beheadings, public burnings, dead bodies in zippered bags? The only reason the press reported on the Castro Street beating was that it took place in the dead-center of the most famous, public gay neighborhood in the world.
Anywhere else it would not be news. In the past three decades U.S. culture has made some significant changes in how some issues about violence and discrimination are perceived and acted upon. Rape (although it still occurs all the time) is now treated more seriously by the police and the courts. The same is true of domestic violence. As recent events in New York have shown the uphill, and ferociously waged, battle to have police violence against people of color is alive, well and even making some progress. These changes all came about because of committed, sustained grass roots organizing, a insistence that the issues be taken serious as a moral imperative, and a demand that the popular media both pay attention and act more responsibly. But will this coverage of anti-gay violence engender substantive change? If it has any chance to do it must move beyond simple sentimentalization and pity for "nice" victims the bulk of reported anti-gay assaults in Manhattan, for instance is faced by African American and Latino transgendered sex workers. The other thing that has to change is that anti-gay violence cannot be continued to be viewed outside of a broader political and social context of the personal lives of heterosexuals. This may be beginning to happen. An editorial in the St. Louis Dispatch on March 10, noted "the ideas allowed to fester into the kind of murderous hatred that killed Gaither and Shepard ...sprouted long before any blows were struck, any triggers were pulled, any fires were set. Like all hatred, anti-gay hatred is learned. Don't turn a deaf ear when your kid calls another child a "fag'' on the playground. Don't laugh at homophobic jokes in the office. Support education that includes positive information on gays and lesbians. Let gay and lesbian acquaintances or friends or relatives know they have your support. To condemn the brutal slayings of these men without examining the routine homophobia in our daily lives would be hypocrisy." I have deep suspicions of the ability of the mainstream media to effect any positive social change. I think of the young men boys, really to shouted and threw a bottle at me in the emblematically liberal city of Cambridge. I am old enough to be their grandfather, my lover is old enough to be their father. The men boys? accused of killing the "innocent" Matthew Shepard were his age. How do we work on building a common consensus that hating gay people enough to attack them is wrong is a culture that supports, or doesn't care about, the most murderous aspects of U.S. foreign policy? How do we discuss "accepting" never mind valuing homosexuality in a country in which the complexity of race is still, for the most part, undiscussible? Gay and lesbian activists have been organizing around violence issues for decades, and to a large degree have not been taken seriously by many other political, religious, or social institutions. It is one thing to advise that men and women not laugh at fag jokes in the office, but we have to realize that not laughing or rebuking the teller at fag jokes often labels someone a fag himself. One of the main problems in fighting anti-gay prejudice is that the specter of homosexuality is everywhere, implicating anyone who counters the sentiment. The mainstream press's coverage of anti-gay violence may be a beginning of a more complex, fruitful public discourse, but it is only one facet of how the problem is confronted. Gay activists have to begin, or continue, building coalitions with other anti-violence and social action groups. Individuals doing political work on the left also have to take more time and energy in examining the myriad ways sexuality in all its manifestations impacts on social, national, and international policies and politics. In the meantime I am still going to held my lover's hand wherever and whenever I want to. But I am also going to watch my back and be more purposeful in challenging people when faced with harassment or violence. If we had chased and confronted those boys they might have thought twice before doing this again.