Sunday, May 22nd would have been the 81st birthday of slain civil rights leader, Harvey Milk. While cities throughout the country marked the event with various marches, rallies and celebrations, something much more sinister was taking place in Portland, Oregon. Brad Forkner and Christopher Rosevear where walking across the Hawthorne Bridge from Waterfront Park to the Eastbank Esplanade. Like many couples, they were holding hands. Sadly, unlike most couples, their hand holding did not go without notice. The two men were attacked from behind by five other men. Both men survived, with Rosevear receiving lacerations on his lip and above his eye which required stitches.
The community in Portland has responded, launching the “Hands Across Hawthorne Bridge” event to demonstrate against violent crimes. The event requests attendees to come to Hawthorne Bridge on Sunday, May 29th at 7:30 p.m. and hold hands in solidarity with the beaten men. However, not everyone has been so kind. Upon hearing of the event, one commenter had this to say:
“I think it’s undignified for men to hold hands in public. But I know I’m way in the minority on that. But if gays wanna do it, they should be prepared for it not being warmly received.”
Victim blaming has been in our vernacular since the early 70’s, when it was coined with respect to racism and social injustices; however, more recently it has been used as a means for people to justify rape, i.e.: “She was asking for it by wearing a short skirt.” The concept is largely unpopular except in cases of hate crimes against LGBTQ people. In fact, victim blaming is a useful tactic for murders of gay men, particularly. In one case, after inflicting 61 stab wounds and killing his neighbor, Joseph Biedermann, Terrence Hauser was acquitted by a jury thanks to victim blaming (he said Joseph had made a pass at him). This victim blaming is also known as “The Gay Panic” defense, and became popular after it was successfully used in 1995 by Jonathan Schmitz, a guest on the Jenny Jones show, who murdered Scott Amedure after he confessed he had a crush on Jonathan during the show.
So, should you meet up with our commenter friend in a dark ally, I suppose you could claim bashing their head into a wall was justifiable because they are ignorant… but violence begets violence, so instead, here’s to the organizers of the Hands Across Hawthorne Bridge and all of those who are taking a stand against violence and victim blaming.
NOTE: For more of the column, Stupid Things People Say About Gays, click here.