Waymon Hudson

Lawrence King Killed Two Years Ago: Looking Back and Lessons Learned

Filed By Waymon Hudson | February 12, 2010 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Living
Tags: Brandon McInerney, gender identity, hate crimes against LGBT people, Larry King, Lawrence King, murder

Editor's Note: I commented on the effects of Lawrence King's murder on the one year anniversary of his death last year. I wanted to repost the bulk of it with more thoughts on this sad day, as well as a trial update.

Today is a day of sadness and reflection for me. Two years ago, 15 year-old Lawrence "Larry" King was shot in front of his classmates while sitting in school.

4lawrenceking_story.jpgFor many younger LGBTQ people, this was a murder that defined their generation. While no more or less tragic than any of the other hate crimes that have happened, Lawrence's young age, his defiance of gender roles, and the shocking execution style and reasoning of the murder itself hit many like me to the core. Like Matthew Shepherd or Gwen Araujo before him, Lawrence was a person that we could see ourselves in- a mirror of many of our own experiences growing up LGBT in the USA.

The spotty coverage of the story at first prompted many of us to ask "Where's the outrage." It seemed that this school shooting was being ignored or swept under the rug due to Larry's sexuality and gender expression. Little did we know when the coverage did come, it would be like another bashing.

Lawrence_King2-317x414.pngSome, like Ellen DeGeneres, spoke from the heart about the murder of a young person simply for being who he was. Much of the coverage, however, began to turn nasty.

Newsweek's horrible cover story put King on trial and blamed him for the bringing the shooting on himself. As Alex Blaze put it:

Larry is portrayed as having stalked, sexually harassed, and bullied Brandon into a corner where his only possible response was pulling that trigger.

A1005x300.jpgEven The Advocate asked the loaded question "who is to blame for Lawrence King's death", prompting outcry from the community for overly provocative and demeaning reporting. The message from all corners seemed to be "stop asking for it" and that "Lawrence King deserved to die."

It was a scary message to our young people- if you live openly, you should be killed.

Even though the trial of King's murder, 14-year-old Brandon McInerney, moves forward, justice will never come. A new generation of LGBTQ people have seen firsthand not only the violence and hate against our community, but the lack of compassion and understanding towards us and our dead.

I try and find something, some semblance of meaning, in the murder of Lawrence King. I find nothing but pain, sadness, and fear.

Did we learn any lessons? We learned gay-panic and trans-panic are alive and well as "defenses" in courts of law. We learned that too often we ask our youth to be themselves and come out without providing support of protections for them.

I hope that something may come out of this, a movement to focus on giving our youth support or educating others about accepting our differences. I hope, but I am also realistic. The repeated re-victimization of King in the media and at his trial still chill me to the core.

Hate makes no sense. Violence only causes pain. And we are all left wondering about the life of someone who refused to conform or break- a life that could have been.

Lawrence_King_23.jpg

Trial Update: McInerney, the accused killer in King's case, has been charged with murder under special circumstances and a hate crime specification. He will be tried in adult court since the California State Supreme Court has rejected a petition filed by attorneys for McInerney to preserve the possibility of shifting his trial to juvenile court on January 21st, 2010. McInerney's trial is set to begin May 14 in Ventura County Superior Court.

There are also vigils being organized for the second anniversary of the murder of Lawrence King.


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The lack of out support is a glaring problem in our community. Even in gay-friendlier South Florida, there is very little help for those who come out - whether as youths like Larry or for adults. Each of us is largely left to make the journey (and take the consequences) alone. It's no wonder that even many senior citizens are frightened to live openly.

Waymon, if we can't protect and support our children and youth, then what good is this community? We can put millions of dollars trying to pass same-sex marriage initiatives but still put relatively little effort into how LGBT children and youth are treated. Yes, there is GLSEN and GSA, but do those receive any level of support that other LGBT initiatives have? And how about the minimal level of support for the large number of LGBT youth in foster care who, so often, end up on the streets when they're 17? Where is HRC, the Task Force, GLAAD and other organizations on this front? Yes, I know, children and teens aren't big donors.

At the risk of being a broken record (but that hasn't stopped me in past) Lawrence King's death also spoke to me as yet another instance where 'LGBT' was used to erase the trans aspects to this case. Lawrence's cross-gender presentation was minimized by most LGB media in the first few months of this case (as it has been in the Lopez Mercado case, and, if you'll recall, Eddie Araujo was identified as 'gay male' in the first few months after Gwen's murder). Yes, I understand how a child identifies can get blurry, but what they're wearing and how they present isn't.

If we can't even have honesty about within our own umbrella community about why some of these attacks occur, then how can we expect to communicate our children's needs for safety to the larger society?

You know, I think we don't really disagree at all. I'm not trying to erase the trans/gender ID/Expression aspect at all (in fact, I always try to include it when describing King). That being said, I'm not willing to mis-label someone when we don't have all the facts. Gwen Araujo seems pretty clear cut to me, but King's and Simmie Williams are less clear, as I think labels amongst young queer people are starting to become lees easily defined. Was King trans? He wore women's clothing at times, but was he doing as a pre-transistion or as a more general genderqueer pushback against the discrimination he was facing?

It's not about co-opting trans suffering or trans crimes, it's about trying to use inclusive language that aptly describes where King was in his journey. If he didn't openly label himself, how can we? What it boils down to is that his gender identity and expression played just as large a part in what happened as his gayness (if not a larger part).

It's an argument I've been making for some time on this blog- that sexual orientation discrimination and hate crimes are often based on perceived notions based on someone's "non-tradtional" gender expression, not on actual knowledge of someone's sexual orientation. The two are intertwined.

I really appreciate you bringing up these points. I think it's important for us within the community to talk them out and let each other know where we are coming from, instead of just being angry or just assuming it's from a negative place.

Regan DuCasse | February 12, 2010 2:41 PM

Ginasf,
I share your concern and frustration that perhaps GLAAD and HRC and so on aren't engaged enough in advocacy for LGBT youth.

But all you have to look at is the character assassination of Kevin Jennings and know that gay adults and having them influence CHILDREN of any kind frightens the horses like no other socio/political issue.

It shouldn't, we all know that, but that very indictment is used time and time and time again to defame the motives and abilities of gay people to advocate and care for gay children. ANY children, even their own.

As we speak, there is an article in TownHall on Rosie O'Donnell's current documentary film on diverse families. It's reaming her as influencing the support of non traditional family units and DISRESPECTING traditional ones in the bargain.
The last of which is patently untrue. I've seen the film.

Despite the use of her visibility and wealth to draw attention to underprivileged children, the systemic problems within foster care, she's attacked for teaching about and supporting the different family structures portrayed in her film.

Her long and storied record of child advocacy isn't supported, let alone respected by conservatives.
Despite the fact THEY don't pour their millions and so on in doing the same as she does.

Gay children are especially and deliberately KEPT from any kind of other gay adults because of the fear that any reinforcement or God forbid, any ATTRACTION that gay adult would develop for the child.

ANYTHING that gay people do for children is constantly portrayed as having sinister motives.
Especially predatory ones.

Such a tragic and unnecessary no win situation.

Despite the great work of PFLAG for enabling solid and loving relationships between gay folks and their families, they have less power and influence than say FOF or the Rick Warrens and Pat Robertsons of the nation.

That gay children in particular remain isolated, misunderstood and vulnerable is a calculation. So is keeping gay adults who can best relate to and protect them and teach society what the needs of gay children are.

That this deliberate disconnection has tragic consequences doesn't seem to matter.
The HRC and GLAAD, even if 90% of their resources and outreach went towards LGBT youth, those orgs would all over again be targeted as having impure motives that deserve to be shut down.

You know it's true. We can hate it, we can wonder if we really have to be and feel this impotent about the issue of protecting children who need it, but there it is.