Beyond homophobia -- tragedy compounded

By Jan Richman Schulman 09/01/2011

Re: “Beyond disappointed” – VC Reporter, Aug. 25

Dear Melissa:
I read with heavy heart your article referred to above. I truly understand your thoughts and feelings about this situation and our cultural biases in general. However, I do believe you misunderstood and misconstrued the points I was making in my letter. First of all, one of my primary concerns was the age of both boys and the fact that Brandon McInerney was only 14 years old at the time of the crime, and he is being tried as an adult. Getting away from the homophobic issue for a moment, that is something that was not addressed by adults at the time. These were two boys, both extremely troubled, who were on a collision course. I have a teenage relative who attended the school and knew both boys. She has remarked to me several times about Larry King’s behavior and the fact that he “taunted” other boys with his homosexuality. (This relative, by the way, has a very close friend who graduated from Hueneme who is gay and who had no problems with his homosexual identity; neither did anyone else.) If a boy were walking around taunting girls the way Larry King did, he would most definitely be accused of, and possibly suspended for, sexual harassment. The adults in charge did not counsel or attempt to assist these troubled youngsters in any way. Brandon was not the only one harassed by Larry King, but he was the one who acted on it — in the most horrific and tragic way possible.  Larry King was a tragic victim who did not get the help and guidance and support he needed. He also came from a troubled and sad background. (No children are living at Casa Pacifica because their lives are stable and good.)

There is no excuse for Brandon’s actions. I cannot believe for a moment that anyone would excuse what he did. My concern is the lack of credible and positive intervention on the part of the adults who surrounded them, both at Casa Pacifica and at Port Hueneme High School.  

You are disturbed that I suggested that Larry’s behavior be curbed in some way. That was not my point; my point was that Larry find a way to live with his homosexuality that would make it easier for him to function successfully in his culture and society. Not by hiding it, but by showing pride, self-confidence and knowledge of who he was and who he wanted to become (by this, I mean professionally and as an adult). He needed to direct his energy and beliefs in a positive way and he did not receive the help he needed to do that.

You, more than I, know that the stereotypical view of gay males is one of extreme behavior, imitating females in a most outrageous manner. Most women do not exhibit the kind of behavior that I am describing here. Straight women do not act like gay men. This has been promoted by the movies, TV, books, and even in the streets. This is not what it means to be homosexual. Homosexuality is the love of a person of the same gender. Transgender is the desire to be the gender other than that in which you were born. Transvestite is the wish by someone of one gender to dress like the opposite gender. Bi-sexuality is an individual’s attraction to both genders. These are just general understandings on my part and, I believe, on the part of the general public. The gay male stereotype is one of the most misleading and unfortunate byproducts of “coming out” in America that I can think of. The “straight” public has come to expect certain behaviors from gay males and to react to them in a mostly negative manner. Even in today’s world, when we feel we are so open-minded and accepting, there is an unstated revulsion for all things gay among so many people, primarily because of this stereotyping.  Religious groups are first in line to judge and condemn. (See the Rabbi’s claim that the recent earthquake back East was God’s way of punishing the gays?????) And the religious right is an abomination when it comes to gay issues. But even as the civil rights movement of the ’60s and ’70s slowly eroded some of our most hideous laws and outrageous behaviors to people of color, so does the gay rights movement slowly make its inroads, and changes are occurring. It takes a lot of work, such as you are doing, and perseverance to hang on and struggle through the morass of ignorance and bigotry.  

It’s not as simple as you state. It’s not as simple as I state. (I am straight, by the way, in case you didn’t know … but I am a strong supporter of gay rights, including gay marriage.) It’s a very complex situation and our world needs a lot of education to develop understanding and acceptance of all people who are different then “they” are. That applies to each and every one of us, in so many different categories, not just homosexuality. And isn’t that the point: Where were the educators for Brandon and Larry?  Where were the adults who were supposed to support and protect these children? And please keep in mind, Melissa, these were indeed children. You seem to have overlooked that very important fact in this case; it is what makes it even more tragic. If an adult straight person had shot and killed an adult gay person, the case would be cut and dried; it’s just murder. Homophobic murder, but murder. But this is a case concerning children who were surrounded by adults who were aware of the incendiary situation and did nothing to defuse it. This was an opportunity to teach, to lead, to guide, to support.  This was a lost opportunity — and we have lost two children in the process.

You don’t want a short jail term for Brandon because you are afraid that the message will be that it’s OK to kill homosexuals. But that’s not the real message. A child has died. Another child has virtually lost his life for all time. A tragedy has occurred and this case is fanning the flames of that tragedy. There is no indication that it was, or ever would be, OK to kill somebody because of being. But when are we going to realize that a child is a child?  If it’s OK to try Brandon as an adult, then why not a 10-year-old, or a 6-year-old? You seem to see this case as a model and message for people concerning gay rights.  But I do not. I see it as a tragedy where two children were irrevocably lost.

I understand your concern but I hope you can open your mind and embrace the wider picture here. Keep up your good work.    

Jan Richman Schulman is a resident of Oxnard and an advocate of both gay and children’s rights.

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