Friday, August 06, 2010

Unrelated Arguments and Murderous Queers

In the aftermath of the ruling by Judge Vaughn Walker that California's Proposition 8 was unconstitutional, there's a lot of confusion on the right side of the blogworld about how to react.

After all, their pet legislation, making same-sex marriage illegal, has just been thoroughly and completely hammered down by a simple, intelligent argument. "A private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite sex couples is not a proper basis for legislation."

That's not all of it, of course - there's another 134 pages of rational, measured discussion on the unconstitutionality of this bill. And they don't know what to say in response.

But while I was wandering around rightwing blogs and checking out the incoherent shrieking, I noticed something that I'd managed to miss before.

Part of the strategy to deny gay rights is to demonize homosexuals. The argument is both simple, and simplistic: "homosexuality is unnatural" (or "against God's plan"), "and therefore, all homosexuals are evil and perverse; we're better than they are."

And one way to demonize homosexuality is to conflate all perversions as the same thing: bestiality, sadomasochism, and in this case, pedophilia. As a wise man once said,
One of the weirdest quirks of the gay-haters is the fact that they can't seem to stop themselves from conflating consenting sexual practices between two adults, with forced intercourse with a non-consenting partner: bestiality (where Rick Santorum famously prefers german shepherds, John Cornyn apparently gets all hot and sweaty thinking about box turtles), pedophilia, necrophilia.

Your average right-wing hater refuses to see a difference (probably because they tend to have suffered brain damage due to the genetic incompatibility of closely-related parents).
"See? Homosexuality is a sex crime! And all sex crimes are the same!" It's an interesting theory: are all crimes the same? Is every pickpocket just as capable of murder? Then why aren't there more serial killers?

Unfortunately for that argument, several years ago in Laramie, Wyoming, a young man named Matthew Shepard was tortured and murdered for the "crime" of being gay. And sadly, this action doesn't fit into the world-view that the average homophobe wants to build up.

A couple of straight men were willing to torture and kill a gay man, because he was gay and they felt entitled; they were allowed to do this, because he was, after all, an inferior, even subhuman. And suddenly, "we" aren't any better than "they" are.

You can almost understand the reaction of the right wing. When you threaten someone's world-view, they feel that their core beliefs are being attacked. Sometimes, this leads to denial, like in the case of Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), who tried to claim that it was all a hoax, and that Shepard was killed accidentally as part of a robbery, not because he was gay:
"The bill was named for him, the hate-crimes bill was named for him, but it's really a hoax that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills."
However, there's another mythology on the Right, which is built around the concept of straight people "getting targeted" because they're heterosexual. Apparently, this will make everything all better - if straight people are mistreated by gays, then, by the laws of the schoolyard, we can mistreat them right back.

The first example they like to bring up, often giving it a pithy title like "a Tale of Two Shepherds" is a guy named Jason Shephard of Pennsylvania. And he's not the only one: they've got a whole list of names, like Amanda Collette, a 15 year old from Miami; Jesse Dirkhising from Arkansas; and Mary Stachowicz from Chicago.

("And you've never heard about them, have you? The Mainstream Media completely ignored these cases, because it doesn't fit their gay agenda!")

But here's the strange part: when they bring up these victims, they tend to be a little scanty on the details. There's a reason for that, of course; once you look into the cases, these are obviously false comparisons.

See, Jason Shepherd and Jesse Dirkhising were both drugged, raped and then killed (Jesse was tortured prior, whereas Jason's corpse was abused after death) by sexual predators. Who happened to be male.

(Jesse, incidentally, was also 13 years old at the time. Again, we have the Right Wing perfectly happy to conflate pedophilia and homosexuality.)

Sure, you can say Jesse and Jason were killed for being straight. Of course, by that logic, every woman who has spurned a rapist's advances and ended up killed, must have been murdered for being gay. After all, if she didn't immediately have sex with a random stranger, it must be because she didn't like men!

Even if Shephard and Dirkhising had been gay, but had simply found their assailants unattractive, it would have led to the same result. They were faced with sexual predators, not gay men unable to control their lust.

Sometimes, one thing doesn't lead to another; a logical leap can often go right off a cliff.

Amanda Collette was apparently shot by a jealous teenaged girl. This case might almost make their homophobic point, if teenagers were rational. But at the mercy of their hormones, all teenagers are high-strung, excitable and stupid. Or, as psychologists put it:
Experts say teenage girls crave approval, that they want to be special, that their feelings are often too intense for them to handle. They don't feel in control of anything, and they yearn for power over their lives.

"So," said Dr. Mitch Spero, a Plantation psychologist who specializes in teens, "when they finally feel like they belong to someone, or that someone belongs to them, it comes down to ownership."

For girls, murder is personal.

"Girls are much more likely to kill over relationships: their parents, siblings, boyfriends," said University of South Florida criminology professor Kathleen Heide.
Girls don't tend to go on murder sprees, and it's not the most common crime. But, again, have all the teenaged boys killed by heartbroken teenaged girls been killed for being gay?

Which brings us to the closest thing you have to a correlation with the Matthew Shepard case: the Mary Stachowicz murder in Chicago, which was committed by a young gay man named Nicholas Gutierrez.

Mary Stachowicz was a devout Catholic who worked as a Polish translator in a Chicago funeral home. Gutierrez was a former abused youth, who'd just been fired and was being evicted from his apartment: it's possible that he was under a little stress at the time.

Stachowicz tried to persuade him to give up the "gay lifestyle," and he testified that she asked him "why do you sleep with boys?" In his words:
"She had this sneer, which reminded me of my mother when she used to beat me...I saw nothing but red..."
And he killed her, hid the body, and tried to cover up his part in her murder.

(Incidentally, did you notice her phrasing? "Why do you sleep with boys?" Not "other men," but boys. Funny how often these arguments fall into a pattern...)

Stachowicz was killed because Gutierrez felt she was sneering at him. And whether or not she was sneering, she was trying to get him to stop being gay. (Remember what happens when you threaten somebody's world-view?)

Technically, you could just as easily say that Stachowicz was killed for being a busybody. Or for making fun of somebody. Or for being a Catholic who thought her beliefs overrode other people's right to privacy. Or for talking to a troubled youth who'd just been fired, was being evicted, and was on the edge of violence anyway.

There's the problem. People who want to say these victims were killed for being straight are conflating unrelated cases, merely because they found a homosexual (or purported homosexual) killing a heterosexual.

Matthew Shepard was killed because he was gay, and his assailants thought that made him fair game. The motives are entirely different.

I don't like the idea of "hate crimes," if it matters. We shouldn't try to read people's minds. But following the logic of "they were killed for being heterosexual," what should we do about ordinary, heterosexual rape? Outlaw straight sex?


Anonymous said...

"Gutierrez told police he became enraged after Stachowicz questioned him about his sexual orientation, said Cook County Assistant State's Atty. Nancy Galassini during a bond hearing. After she proceeded to ask him "Why do you sleep with boys?". He became even more angry and Nancy Galassini said "The defendant punched and kicked and stabbed the victim until he was tired. He then placed a plastic garbage bag over her head and strangled her."

Yeah...he sounds like a well-adjusted young man.

Nameless Cynic said...

Never said any of them were - murder that doesn't involve self-defense tends to be a sign of mental instability.

Just said the targets weren't killed for "being straight." Subtle difference.

Might want to work on that "reading comprehension" thing some more, Pat.