From: Rod Swift
Subject: News of Interest
Date: Mon, 5 Oct 1998 08:54:33 +0800 (WST)

1. SACRAMENTO BEE - Deb Price column: Study shows roots of gay bashing begin early

Sacramento Bee, October 2, 1998
P. O. Box 15779,Sacramento,CA,95813
(Fax 916-321-1109 ) (E-MAIL: )
( )
( Note: Will not print letters from persons who reside outside of California.) Study shows roots of gay bashing begins early
By Deb Price

Gay bashers. The term conjures up images of the lunatic fringe -- twisted loners, rage-filled neo-Nazis and the worst sorts of anti-social delinquents. Frightening? Without a doubt. Yet those images lull us into comfortably assuming that everyday young people striving to make something of themselves just aren't gay bashers. The shocking, sickening truth is far different:

Eighteen percent of male community college students admit physically assaulting or physically threatening someone presumed gay, a landmark survey of 484 San Francisco Bay area students found. Another 32 percent admit having been verbally abusive without threatening bodily harm. Even the rates for community college women are alarming. Four percent admit anti-gay violence or threats; another 17 percent admit verbal assaults short of physical threats.

Why does someone assault a gay person? That's the question that drove Karen Franklin to conduct the disturbing community college survey in the first place. Throughout her career -- as a newspaper reporter, a criminal investigator and now as a forensic psychologist -- Franklin has worked to decipher the motives behind criminal behavior. She surveyed community college students because she suspected anti-gay hate crimes are common even among a fairly law-abiding population of young people.

Franklin, who unveiled her findings at the American Psychological Association's recent convention, concludes that "the majority of young people who harass, bully and assault sexual minorities do not fit the stereotype of the hate-filled extremist. Rather, they are average young people who often do not see anything wrong with their behavior. And the reason they do not see anything wrong is simple: No one is telling them it is wrong."

Any responsible adult should be appalled at what Franklin's research tells us about what kind of values are being instilled in our society's children long before they reach college age. Attackers' excuses reveal just how easy they think it is to justify assaulting someone gay. Many claimed self-defense, saying the victim flirted. Other assailants attacked out of boredom, for kicks, to show disgust, to fit in with buddies or to try to prove their heterosexuality.

Most attacks confessed to Franklin were cowardly assaults by three or more teen-age boys on a lone victim. Rather than expressing remorse or shame, attackers often boasted aloud they'd do it again. Even more chilling was what several students wrote, unprompted, on their anonymous surveys. The gist of their declarations, Franklin recalls, was, "I have never harassed homosexuals, but if I could get away with it I'd kill them all."

Many assailants were gender-role vigilantes, who claim a moral duty to punish anyone whose appearance or behavior doesn't fit traditional patterns. College students don't just wake up one day with such dangerously misguided ideas. Their whole lives they've been pummeled by the notion there's something wrong with being different.

By adolescence, the fear of being viewed as different grips almost everyone. A 1993 Harris poll found that 86 percent of 8th-to 11th-graders would be "very upset" to be called gay. It's only one child-sized step from hating the label "gay" to hating actual gay people. From there, it doesn't take much of a mental leap to become someone who makes no apologies for hurting gay people.

Franklin, who works in a Washington state prison, stresses "it is imperative to confront the cultural climate that fosters everyday harassment and denigration of anyone who is perceived as different."

Children should be taught early that there's nothing wrong with being gay, just as there's no single right way to be male or female.

The millions of straight adults who say they condemn gay bashing need to understand the problem won't magically disappear. Unless those adults actively teach respect for humanity's wonderful diversity, some of today's toddlers will inevitably become tomorrow's gay bashers.

Then, whose son or daughter will be a victim? And whose will belong behind bars?

Write to Deb Price in care of GNS Features, 1000 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Va. 22229-0001.

(Deb Price is online at


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