Another spring weekend, another hate crime against New York City’s LGBT community.
This past Sunday, Eugene Lovendusky, cofounder of the LGBT rights group Queer Rising, was assaulted by a 19-year-old man after being bombarded with anti-gay epithets. Lovendusky’s assault came amid a series of high-profile hate crimes against New York LGBT residents—most notably the May 17 murder of 32-year-old gay man Mark Carson, who was shot to death in the streets of New York after being called “faggot” and “queer” by his assailants.
Days after Carson’s murder, more than 1,500 New Yorkers rallied in the streets against LGBT violence.
Yet the assaults have continued.
The New York Police Department recently released data that showed “bias crimes” have jumped from 13 to 22 since last year over the same period.
‘All violence is shocking. All violence is unacceptable. But from a professional perspective, we unfortunately see this type of violence all the time.’
That these types of attacks are taking place at all in 21st-century New York, a bastion of the LGBT-rights movement, may strike a casual observer as shocking. The confluence of violence has certainly caught the attention of the mainstream media: The recent attacks have turned into a national story.
But Sharon Stapel, executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, an organization that advocates for the rights of and provides services to LGBT victims of violence, tells TakePart that on a pure statistical level, these attacks are the norm and not an aberration.
“All violence is shocking. All violence is unacceptable,” she says. “But from a professional perspective, we unfortunately see this type of violence all the time. We’re not done with the month yet, but we have not seen a huge jump in numbers of reports of violence.”
The Anti-Violence Project keeps its own statistics on hate attacks, because many LGBT New Yorkers simply do not feel comfortable interacting with the NYPD.
“There are a lot of different reasons why they don’t go to police,” Stapel explains. “Many people in LGBT communities have had negative interactions with NYPD—particularly transgender women of color. Certainly, NYPD is no more immune from homophobia and transphobia than any other organization.”
Stapel says the number of attacks against New York’s LGBT community is far greater than have been reported—a point New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly recently conceded.
“We believe that these types of bias crimes are underreported,” Kelly said in a recent press statement. “So this is something you may well not have heard about. But now it’s being reported, and we think that’s a good thing. The first thing we want to tell the victims is to report it. We have to know about it before we can take action.”
Stapel says she is grateful for the increased attention the recent spate of attacks is receiving from the media.
“We have had months of community alert after community alert that the media never picked up on.”
Violence against New York’s LGBT community isn’t a new story. But now that the media has finally gotten around to covering it, Stapel is hopeful that these attacks will not have occurred in vain.
“There is never a positive angle to the violence itself,” says Stapel, “but the attention of the mainstream media can do a lot to increase awareness. This violence is happening, and it will only end once discrimination and bias against the LGBT community ends. We need the policies and laws of this country to change so that LGBT people aren’t treated as second-class citizens.”
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