Homo Victims and Heroes
posted by August 9 at 14:49 PMon
Was Matthew Shepherd the victim of a hate crime? Or the hero?
You probably think of him as a victim—so do I. What happened to Shepherd was truly awful, and the brutality of his murder shocked the world. Shepherd wasn’t the first person to die in an anti-gay hate crime, nor was he the last. There has been a string of gruesome hate crimes this year alone.
Now gay and lesbian activists are doing something to draw attention to this problem. Towleroad broke the news this afternoon…
Scott Hall, longtime activist Frank Kameny, US. Representative Barney Frank and Amazing Race winner and activist Chip Arndt are spearheading the launch of Gay American Heroes, a national memorial to honor LGBT people murdered because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Supporting them are a large number of gay and straight public figures who have lent their names to the project.
The memorial’s goal is to honor and remember LGBT people who have been murdered in anti-gay hate crimes, engage and inform the public about LGBT hate crimes, and “inspire compassion and greater appreciation for, and acceptance of, diversity,” according to Arndt.
The memorial and exhibition, consisting of a 100-ft. long display made up of eight-ft. tall rainbow-colored multi-dimensional panels which bear the photographs, names, ages, and occupations of LGBT hate crime victims, will travel throughout the country to college campuses, LGBT events, and communities where anti-gay hate crimes have occurred.
Let me be clear: I am all for this project. I only wonder about its name. Gay American Heroes? When gay people look for heroes, do we look to men and women murdered by bigots? Do we believe that there is something heroic about being the victim of a hate crime? Victims of anti-gay hate crimes should be remembered and memorialized—and a project like this is particularly timely, as George W. Bush is preparing to veto the hate crimes bill. But heroes? Martyrs seems more apt.
One other thing…
We should absolutely create a memorial to victims of anti-gay hate crimes—and it should travel the country and raise awareness (first stop: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington D.C.)—but a “rainbow-colored” memorial to the victims of anti-gay hate crimes? The rainbow thing is oppressive, childish, and thoroughly over used. Maybe rainbows work for a Pride Parade on a sunny day in June, but rainbows aren’t the first thing that pops into my mind when I think of Matthew Shepherd or Sean William Kennedy or Michael Sandy. If anything cries out for a more somber, mature, and reflective visual treatment, it’s this memorial.