Sara Whitman

The Killer, Not The Killed

Filed By Sara Whitman | August 17, 2008 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living, Media, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: bullying, hate crimes against LGBT people, Lawrence King, LGBT issues, lgbt rights, school violence

Once again, Lawrence King is in the news. His parents have filed a lawsuit against the school for "not enforcing the dress code."

Lawrence_King_23.jpgI think I'm going to scream.

Lawrence King wore feminine attire to school. He wore what all the girls were wearing. He was a kid with serious issues, often out of control, and in need of help. No one is questioning that.

But when is anyone going to ask questions about the killer? When the kids were killed in the Columbine High School shooting, no one asked what they did to get themselves killed. Every moment of the press coverage was dedicated to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

What they wore, who they hung out with, how their parents were raising them- even the spots they parked their car in when they arrived at the school that horrible day.

Do we know what Brandon McInerney wore that day? Do we know how he got the gun into school? Do we know what created such rage in this boy of 14 to have him take a gun at point blank range and shoot? Do we know who his friends were, what pushed his buttons, what kind of movies he watched or internet sites he visited?

No. We know what that Larry King favored a pair of brown stilettos.

Schools, especially middle school and Junior high schools, are notoriously difficult for anyone who does not fit in or conform. I watched my oldest son go through the doors of middle school for the first time last fall. I watched a boy who loved music and dance, fashion and treasured his copy of High School Musical, toss it all aside.

I wanted to tell him to stand up and be himself. To be proud of not only the way he could play soccer but also the way he could pick out an outfit, or how he knew the top twenty hits every week. We live in a progressive school district with strict anti-bullying rules.

He'd be safe, right?

As long as the focus continues to be on King, my answer is no. He won't be safe. This lawsuit will send chills down every school administration in the country with the focus on those who are different rather than the violence inflicted on them.

What do we know about McInerney? How are we to learn from this event if we do not know what motivated this boy to grab a gun and shoot another? Some of the obsession in the media over killings is macabre, no question, but some of it teaches us something about our kids, their lives and what needs to change.

We need to learn about the killer, not the killed. That Larry King was a kid with behavioral issues is true but what do we learn by focusing on his behavior? To say he is the rare occurrence of an out of control kid is to be blind to what goes on in schools today.

If Lawrence had not been allowed to wear girls clothes, he would still be alive the King's lawsuit suggests. Call me a cynic, but maybe if McInerney didn't have a gun and didn't pull the trigger, King would still be alive today.

Clearly, the McInerney's family has no money and a civil suit against them would be financially pointless. Financially draining the school system will only leave more kids at risk and leave the most important questions unanswered.

A 14-year-old boy shot and killed a 15-year-old boy in a junior high school. We know the killed was wearing "tennis shoes, baggy pants and a loose sweater over a collared shirt." we know where he sat in the room, how he looked nervously over his shoulder.

What do we know about the killer? When will the focus turn from the killed?

As a parent, I cannot understand the King's lawsuit. They are blaming lipstick and glitter instead of the gun and the hand that held it. The message, loud and clear, is the dominant culture can wield a gun and shoot at will at anyone who doesn't conform. And our Schools should enforce that conformity.

In doing so, they put my son, and anyone like him, at risk. And that really makes me want to scream: How can you miss the point?

It's the killer, not the killed.

Crossposted from Suburban Lesbian Housewife


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"His parents have filed a lawsuit against the school for 'not enforcing the dress code.'"

This sounds suspiciously like one of the strategies the christianist cabal: casting 'acceptance' of homosexuality as, in and of itself, an act of child-endangerment and suing schools into oblivion.

This is far more than just an lgbt problem.Freedom of expression is being severely curtailed sometimes with deadly effect.School uniforms short hair and macho images for boys and girly girl attitudes for girls.Fall somewhere inbetween the two or march to the beat of a different drummer and it's open season on you.It's almost always been somewhat that way but we'd been making progress against that now it's making a big ugly return.Dress codes aren't the answer and as you stated why look at the victim and not the person that did it.

There is already a certain amount of that happening (and really, always has), where the kid who's "different" is expected to go through isolating and extreme routines in order to keep the peace from everyone else. Melissa Andrews in New York (who, as usual, is still being insistently referred to by the old male name in the media) is another recent case ( http://lohud.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080815/OPINION/808150320/1015/OPINION01 ). Because of the reaction to Andrews' transition and gender expression, school officials now have her use a seperate entrance, they've changed her schedule and she enters and leaves under escort. Which is another way of harassment, under the guise of protection.

I agree with an earlier comment from Alex that the King lawsuit is essentially opportunism coming from parents who never really cared much about Lawrence or what was best for him, but see a cash grab. And unfortunately, the person who will likely suffer the most is the openly lesbian administrator who will be made the fall-person on this one, regardless of how it all turns out.

If Lawrence had not been allowed to wear girls clothes, he would still be alive the King's lawsuit suggests. Call me a cynic, but maybe if McInerney didn't have a gun and didn't pull the trigger, King would still be alive today.

Clearly, the McInerney's family has no money and a civil suit against them would be financially pointless. Financially draining the school system will only leave more kids at risk and leave the most important questions unanswered.

They didn't care about him when he was alive. Now that he's dead they're trying to make a quick buck off the tragedy. Perhaps there's a reason why he wasn't in their care...

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | August 18, 2008 5:05 AM

Sara, in Chicago, where I had intimate familiarity with schools and kids and their problems avoiding gang shootings, drugs etc. there was value in school uniforms. Low income parents loved the idea because they did not have to buy the overpriced brands to keep their kids "cool" and all other parents loved it because if the kid chose the wrong color to wear on a given day it could be interpreted as offensive to the wrong gang.

Thirty four children were killed in Chicago in 2007. (Almost one a week for each week of classes held) All the things you say are correct Sara and I want them, a lot, but the reality on the ground in urban areas is so different. Kids do not dare walk down certain streets in Chicago wearing the wrong garment still representing as their birth gender because it insults a drug pushing gang. I do not use drugs and I hope that all who do consider the effects they have on innocent victims like these kids. Oh, and representing as not your gender is not even a consideration.

Still, there are no uniforms on Chicago school kids. Just advisories by neighborhood of which colors to avoid dressing your children. Yes, the blame belongs with the parents who let the kid get access to the gun and this lawsuit is a smokescreen. I cannot blame parents who homeschool given the influences on the streets.

"When the kids were killed in the Columbine High School shooting, no one asked what they did to get themselves killed. Every moment of the press coverage was dedicated to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold."

Well, not entirely.

I recall waaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyy too much press given to Cassie Bernal - or rather, The Cassie Bernal Myth. http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/salon.htm Allegedly, once the killing started, one of the killers walked up to her and asked her if she believed in Jesus and she said yes - and she was immediately killed. Her rightwingnut parents then began marketing their dead daughter, a book ensued ('She Said Yes!'). Survivors' accounts began to seriously call into question whether or not the rightwingnut version of Bernal's 'answer' and death could have happened as it was being portrayed. Even after that, I remember seeing one of her parents say it didn't really matter if it happened that way or not because it was still an uplifting story.

Yes, Robert, I agree that there are different realities on the ground in urban schools. So far, this school has been portrayed as a sleepy little place where the idea of gender expression was too much for them to handle.

that isn't the reality. it is a school locked down at night due to violence in the neighborhood.

and he followed the dress code for girls. period.

Kat, I do remember the "killed for her love of jesus" stuff. in writing this piece I spent a lot of time re-reading articles about the columbine killings. I wonder how much we've learned, really, since then.

kids are still taking guns to school. sure because of gangs, or drugs- and I don't mean to belittle that at all. That is one set of conditions and issues.

the other is we still have rageful, marginalized boys killing. I would question how effective anti-bullying programs, post columbine, have been.

and I still wonder what the core issues were for McInerney.

Did Matthew Shepard flirt with his killers?
Was he tryng to pick them up?
Was HIV positive Shepard trying to pick them up for unprotected sex?
Was he trying to buy meth from his killers?

The LGBT community gets rightfully angry, furious, when these distractions and side issues are brought up to diminish the outrageousness of the murder of a young gay man.

However, it seems that even our own community can wallow in the right wing's filth about Larry King, because, after all, he transgressed gender as well as having been gay.

Transgressing gender is not even accepted in the LGBT community, let's be honest here. One had only to read a number of blogs during ENDA or whenever trans issues come up.
So, the media knows it can gradually daemonise Larry King without much fear of the kind of wrath that attacks upon Matthew Shepard bring.

In addition to having been murdered for being gay, Larry King died for transgressing gender, and he is being killed metaphorically now for the very same crime.