Murder of Gay Youths in Tel Aviv: I’m the One to Blame.

Murder of Gay Youths in Tel Aviv: I’m the One to Blame.

August 4, 2009 Commentary Featured Thought of the Gay 24

isrealIn case you haven’t heard the news, Nir Katz, 26, and Liz Tarboushi, 16, are dead and 13 others are injured after a gunman, clad in black, entered an LGBT Community Center in Tel Aviv, Israel and opened fire.  I first heard the news via an email from contributor, Jude, and my internal voice fell silent.  While the event itself is shocking, it’s not surprising.

Now, we are left with the aftermath of this violent and unconscionable attack on human life. We’re left with more questions than answers, along with many people pointing fingers and looking for someone to blame.

Unlike some of my contemporaries, I don’t blame religion, Christian, Jewish, Muslim or otherwise.  The fact of the matter is this event could have been in any country, no matter how “liberal” and could have been orchestrated by any person of any religious background.  Why?  Because we have taught our children that being gay is: bad, a sin, evil, a mental disorder, a perversion – unequal.

In condemning other humans, religious text is used as justification, as religious text was used to justify the persecution of Protestants by the Catholics, Catholics by the Protestants, Jews by the Christians, Blacks by the Christians, Christians by the Muslims, Muslims by the Christians, etc., etc., etc.

Within the first 24 hours after the shooting, pseudo-Christian organizations and conservative bloggers began defending themselves against the gay activists that would surely blame them for this atrocity.  They condemned the murders while in the same breath, condemning gay people – or as some argue, the action of being gay.  While I believe this falls under Shakespearean theory, “The lady doth protest too much me thinks,” it is true that many LGBT activists have wrongfully pointed the finger at the innocent religions of the world.  As we all know, religion has never resulted in any violent act or atrocity as religion is about love and goodness.  Such would never result in things like the crusades, the September 11th attacks, concentration camps or the witch hunts.

But even though Mission America, Pat Robertson or any of the other folks that believe themselves superior to “our kind” are not to blame, there is someone to carry the burden.  Me.

When it gets down to the heart of the issue, I failed these kids.  I failed these kids because I spent 10 years as an openly gay man doing nothing, saying nothing and living complacently while these groups and/or individuals continued to actively pursue demonizing LGBT people (or again, the action of being gay).  I sat by and let Matthew Shepard, Brandon Teena, Gwen Araujo, Paul Broussard, Steen Fenrich, Ronnie Paris, Jason Gage, Sakia Gunn, Michael Sandy, Angie Zapata, James Zappaloti, Arthur Warren, Barry Winchell, Rebecca Wight, Sean Kennedy and countless others be murdered without speaking up.  I was afraid, which is exactly what they want us to be.

Perhaps had I spoken up I could have changed one person’s mind about LGBT people.  Instead of believing LGBT people should be murdered, the person would have seen that we are human too – that when you prick us, we bleed.  Perhaps that person would have changed another person’s mind, and another, and another – and eventually that mind changing would have trickled through to the black-clad man who thought it better to murder LGBT youth than to be one, thought himself superior to those whose lives he took, to those he hurt, to those that still hurt.

Liz and Nir are still dead.  I can’t undo history or my regrets.  None of us can, but we can change the future.  It’s time that we all learn to speak out against the teachings of inferiority.  It’s time we all stand together and say – We’re here to protect our children.

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24 Responses

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  2. janewishon says:

    Wonderful and moving, Jay.

    But I say that the blame goes to those of us in the straight community, too. We can not be afraid to 'come out' as straight allies. Your interview with me on closet talk helped me to do that, thank you.


    • jaysays says:

      Thank you Jane for all of your support and everything you do. If Global Warming doesn't kill us all, the future will be better because of your efforts.

      Again, I find myself saying, "JANE FOR PRESIDENT!"

  3. Michele Taylor says:

    My prayers go out to all the victim and their families! I am Paul Broussard sister, arter 18 LONG years it is still SO hard to deal with. To read about more families are going thru what our family has gone thru is just SAD!!!

    • jaysays says:

      Thank you so much Michele for giving a voice to your brother. I hear from many families of victims and survivors of such crimes. The stories are always heartbreaking, but inspire me to continue pushing forward in hopes to someday eradicate such senseless acts of violence. I hope, in some way, you can find comfort in knowing your brother, those that have suffered similar fates, and those left behind to heal the wounds will serve as a reminder to me to never give up hope.

    • jaysays says:

      Thank you so much Michele for giving a voice to your brother. I hear from many families of victims and survivors of such crimes. The stories are always heartbreaking, but inspire me to continue pushing forward in hopes to someday eradicate such senseless acts of violence. I hope, in some way, you can find comfort in knowing your brother, those that have suffered similar fates, and those left behind to heal the wounds will serve as a reminder to me to never give up hope.

      "If you have hope, you have everything." -unknown

  4. libasskicker says:

    "Man shall not lie with man as with womankind. It is an abomination. They have blood on their hands and they shall be put to death." Leviticus 20:13

    • jaysays says:

      "Thou shalt not kill" ~Exodus 20:13

    • christophersays says:

      “And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” Leviticus 20:10

      Death to adulterers! There goes half of the population.

      If we start with the most heavily populated groups of sinners (specifically those committing ‘abominations’) LGBT persons may be all that is left in the end. Oooh god is gonna get you! Even if you are not a part of the minority!!!

      And to think, I’m only a homo. I’m not living a lie; therefore not taking from or preventing truth. Yet, society does not target adulterers just because it “says so in the Bible.” That’s because it’s all bullshit.

      Kill ‘em all and let god sort ‘em out. Yeehaw…

      Frickin’ yahoos!

  5. Jude says:

    Jay – we are all to blame. Each person could do more. But the perpetrators of crime and hate are responsible for their actions. You wrote an amazingly eloquent piece and yet libasskicker was not only not persuaded, he felt the need to post a hateful comment.

    Libasskicker, you cannot hide your disapproval of gays behind an ancient text. Own what you really feel and just say it.

  6. Chance says:

    Jay, thank you for a very thoughtful article. It does a lot to really put our whole struggle in context. We aren't just fighting for equal rights. At least we shouldn't be. I can't speak for the HRCs and other mainstream organizations. We should really be fighting for equality. Full equality. Meaning that people don't want to keep us from having rights because there's no reason to, and that they don't want to hurt or kill us, because there's nothing sinful, deviant, or wrong about us. I think we've gotten so tangled up in marching to make demands about passing laws that we've lost sight of making sure people don't hate us.

    But you've missed a very important point. You're apologizing for religion, and they don't deserve it. And as long as we're unwilling to hold religious groups responsible, then we remain responsible for the suffering and the deaths that continue to occur. libasskicker is a nut, but he beat me to a point I was going to make – this is what those books (Bible, Torah, Quran, et al) actually say. We are hated.

    You make it sound like good religions are being misused by bad people, Jay, but they're just following the instruction manual. You rightly note that we (generally) have taught our children to hate gay people as sinners, but you gloss over where that curriculum started. It's religion. Religion is the only thing that makes gay wrong – not science, philosophy, nature, psychiatry… just religion. Before Orphic-Pythagoreanism, homosexuality was embraced and cherished. Through O-P, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the rest, we've had 2000+ years of hatred. It's really that simple. Religion is the only thing that taught that hatred of homosexuality. And the book hasn't changed.

    We aren't supposed to talk about religion, but it was a Mormon that tied Matthew Shepard to a fence, a Baptist who beat him to death, and a Catholic (Rep. Foxx) who called it a hoax. That's not a coincidence, and libasskicker tells you why.

    There are no "innocent religions of the world." Even the open, affirming, or welcoming congregations in the UCC, Episcopalian, and others have done nothing to change the doctrine. They'll tell you that God loves everyone, but that comes standard. They haven't said that it isn't wrong or isn't a sin. And as long as they don't have the courage to renounce that part of their holy book, then they are just as responsible for the violence committed against GLBT. And until every one of us commits to putting our equality ahead of our religions, then we, too, are guilty.

    • jaysays says:

      Thank you for calling me to task Chance. It's very important that I challenge my own perception of things. I am a little saddened though that you felt I was apologizing for religion. I certainly did not intend to apologize. In fact, I've often challenged religion on this blog and called them to task as well. As an example, I encourage to to read: A History of Christian Violence and Intolerance Repeated which I wrote last December as an example.

      I completely agree that religion is the source of the hatred of LGBT people, it was also the source of hatred against woman, Jewish people, disabled people and blacks. It's been used as an excuse far too long to violate the rights of other people.

      But I believe in practicing what I preach. I can preach equality for all, but I must live equality for all. That being said, it is unfair of me to stereotype religious people. Doing so would ostracized many of our allies from the equality movement when we should be embracing them. If there is one thing I've learned from religious people, it's how to recruit.

      May I also suggest, you read A Reminder to Myself:Human Rights Include Everyone.

      Trust that I will continue to debate myself – one of my favorite quotes is from Walt Whitman:

      Do I contradict myself?
      Very well then I contradict myself,
      (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

      A quote I use too often to remind me it's ok to change my mind.

      My greatest intent her was to inspire action, not to make apologies. I will not apologize for demanding equality.

    • Jude says:

      You must be new here. Trust me, Jay doesn't let religion off the hook!

  7. Tony says:

    Here in Thailand, gay bashing and hate murder of LGBTI people seem to be unheard of. The huge majority of people (more than 90%) identify as Theravada Buddhists. (There are Muslim, Christian, Jewish Hindu, Sikh and animist minorities.) The Buddhist precept against sexual misconduct is interpreted to mean adultery. There are no quotations of anti-homosexual scriptural texts from the Buddhist Tipitaka and there have been no anti-homosexual laws for so many centuries that there is no memory of them.

    • jaysays says:

      Thank you Tony for that International perspective. Here in the United States, while Buddhism is protected as a religion, the general ideology is that Buddhism isn't a "religion" but a philosophy. In fact, a phenomena seems to be occurring here where many identify as a Christian-Buddhist hybrid – embracing the teachings of Buddhism, but not taking it as a "religion." Perhaps if we were not an exclusionary culture by way of our Christian culture, we could accept that there are many ways to express faith and simply believe.

      • Tony says:

        Yes, Jay. The appeal of Buddhism to many Westerners is as a philosophy. I think, however, most Buddhists in Thailand practise it as a religion. The majority focus on merit-making activities in the hope of better luck in this life and a better future reincarnation. Some people are involved in meditation practice. In any case, the result is a more widespread attitude of live and let live.

  8. mjpngwnz says:

    => "libasskicker" you have expressed yourself using a quote from scripture – albeit taken out of context. I can respect that you have your own opinion. But ….. isn't there also a scriptural quote that reads something about …. "… let he who is completely without sin cast the first stone … "

    I am a Lesbian and I am also Jewish. Actually I pulled out my Torah (includes Leviticus) and decided to read the text before 20:13. Now Leviticus is not light reading – and it is filled with very strict laws originally specifically meant for the Jewish people of that time. I recommend that you start reading at Leviticus book 1 – and if that is does not appeal to you – then maybe start with Leviticus 19. If you find yourself keeping all of even just those laws (blessings/mitzvots) then I welcome a discussion with you. Going back to the beginning of at least Leviticus 19 – and reading word for word – might give a little better history of what was going on during that period of time – and explain why I said that your quote was pulled out of context.

    If you do take the time to read what I've suggested – then I will be glad to read your comments.

  9. Kevin Gotkin says:

    Jay, this is a deeply moving and dead-on piece. You represent every queer person out there who is fine with their small world and your articulation of why we all need to do more to fight is absolutely perfect. Thank you for such a great piece.

    • jaysays says:

      Thanks so much Kevin. I hope things are going well for you and the crew over at I'm also glad to see that this piece is recognized, not as a way of excusing the behavior of religion in the attacks against us and other minority groups, but as a way of illustrating individual responsibility and making a call to action. I was really starting to think I missed my target point.

  10. Kevin Gotkin says:

    I can't see how anyone could miss your point. It seems, unfortunately, that people are more obsessed with playing the blame game (especially with religion) than they are about thinking deeply and critically about how to change the way we speak out ourselves. Your point here was well-said and if people want to think you're excusing religion, they really need to think better about what they're doing in their own quest for equality.

  11. Goombah says:

    Outstanding thought provoking piece Jay….
    I have not heard about this story until now and I greatly appreciate you talking about it here.

  12. KatS says:

    I'm here for the first time and I did like the piece you wrote. We are all to blame for the bigotry aimed toward all and any groups who are not white straight men (and the women they need to dominate) if we do not DO something or SAY something to stop it. We all need to teach and be taught that bigotry in any form is wrong…

    • jaysays says:

      KatS – Thanks for stopping by and you are a 100% correct – we must remember to always fight against bigotry in all forms. It is about equality after all, not about special rights.

  13. Michelle says:

    Okay, I just read it. My goddess (who lives solely in my head thankyouverymuch) I love this. This is what I keep telling people. This is what I tell my daughters (including the gay one). This is why I came out at 41 in a middle-class whitebread neighborhood where I am the ONLY obviously gay parent at my 4th grader's school. I was 41 when I realized I was gay. Looong story, I'm writing a book. But when I did come out to myself, the 2nd thing I realized (after OMG I'm GAY!!!) was that I have a responsibility to young people to be honest about who I am, so that they don't have to go what I went through. Which is why my daughter finally came out to me at 20, after struggling with it for years. I love you, man. You are spot on.

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