Why silence on our campus about homophobic violence is disquieting
Sorry if I shock somebody: certain kinds of silence are violent, and there are a lot of quiet students on this campus committing a form of violence.
Recently, there were at least two attacks – one in Salt Lake City and one in American Fork – that involved homophobic slurs and violence against men who identify themselves as gay.
In SLC, this attack ended with forcing the gay man’s teeth to bite a sidewalk curb while an attacker stomped on his head; unsuccessful in killing him, it broke his jawbone, knocked out teeth and jammed bone in his brain.
Learning this caused me grief before anger. What causes me pure rage is I seem like the only one on this campus who’s angry – my personal identification as a genderconfused faggot be damned, and frankly my dear, everyone had better give a damn.
What else can you expect from a faggot? I’m angry
– QUEER NATION MANIFESTO
If the response to these attacks, which even this long after the attacks can’t come soon enough, is either quiet or silent, that demonstrates a certain amount of complicity in the violence.
Silence is complicity because it’s premised on privileges of distance and comfort, which means complicity not just in this horrifically violent homophobia, but in how anyone else who doesn’t identify as heterosexual and does nothing is part of the violence and victimization.
Baffling is the complete lack of collective response from anyone who should want to do more than, say, kick back and watch some more “Glee.” Apparently that’s what our campus queers and allies club Spectrum did a week after I asked them at their Club Rush booth what they would do about it.
Let me not seem picky for singling out our campus club. There are certainly so many more of us just between Orem and Provo, let alone Utah Valley.
But is it truly possible that, in this year 2011 of youth anger and activism all over the world, an entire student population in the heart of Utah is unaffected by a debate over whether or not these attacks, including a curbstomp, are hate crimes?
There should be no such debate. The illogical perspective it takes to want to have one is not, in my experience and testimony, dissimilar from the attitude of our own campus leadership.
In the past year, for example, memos have been sent asking why a club like Spectrum exists when it appears to serve no purpose for the student community.
Our leaders believe if a constituency of homosexual students exists, they will have to prove there is discrimination before this campus joins practically the rest of Utah’s public learning institutions and creates policies to prevent something even as extreme as a hate crime.
Someone who has nothing to fear from a hate crime will never understand why American ideals like justice and freedom can only be academic abstractions for them.
Because it protects their own privileges and comfort, authority figures – be they the law enforcement in SLC and AF or our university administrators – can afford to require a list of evidence proving injustices against minorities before they make any moves to prevent them. They want to see victims of injustices first; they want blood, and the paperwork for it, too.
I believe there is no God, Founding Fathers, Buddha, or Christopher Nolan or whomever you choose to get your ideologies from who wouldn’t think: “It should only take ONE wrong, ONE victim of discrimination.”
It means when a man is hospitalized for a broken jaw, missing teeth and bone jammed in his brain, and he says it’s because men who attacked him hated him for his sexuality, then he could be a liar, or pushing some kind of agenda, or “just another angry gay.”
But there’s a difference between an angry gay and a raging fag, and herein lies the key to this piece’s title: “angry gays” is a comfortable umbrella term specifying ultimately no one in particular, and anger isn’t as militant as rage.
When I identify as a fag, I readily identify myself with a word used primarily by guys to describe other guys who are somehow not masculine; it’s because I know I’m a threat to patriarchal society, especially the one here in Utah Valley, and the only thing worse than a fag is a raging one.
Raging fags are exactly what’s radical and dangerous right now. Rage is a healthy emotion because it is passionate and, to paraphrase a certain good book, neither cold nor lukewarm but white hot. Rage can motivate, mobilize and inspire. Rage can possibly result in a catharsis of more than emotion, but actual social change. And we need more than raging fags right now.
Whomever remains silent or indifferent about these incidents wanting some sort of absolution are no different than those in the Atlantic moments after the Titanic sank who sat in ice cold water waiting for an absolution that never came, refusing to join those few fighting the freezing ocean, kicking and screaming with a gnashing of teeth, no matter how long it took until lifeboats finally answered them.