Author'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.
For 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.Some, 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.
Even 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.
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.