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While Hate Runs Rampant, None of Us Are Safe...

Hate crimes in the United States occur every day, in incrementally growing numbers. On October 12, 1998, Matthew Shepard died of severe injuries, including crippling brain damage and burn marks, which he received during an anti-gay attack. Before that, Catherine Mutheki (in Alabama) and James Byrd Jr. (in Texas) were lynched for the apparent crime of being black. Before that, there was Brian Wilmes, who was beaten to death by a man who wanted to see him dead just because he was gay. And before that, transgender youth Brandon Teena died, hunted down and murdered by the same men who raped him two weeks earlier, the same men whom he'd reported to the police, but whom the police had failed to arrest and thus save his life. And before that, so many, many more...

Following is an open letter to the leaders of the Christian Coalition, Concerned Women for America, the Family Research Council, and others who support conversion therapy for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transfolk:

You offer us "conversion" to your heterosexual norms with one breath and denounce our very existence with the next. You demand laws to criminalize us and our practices. You call us sick, you compare us to criminals and drug addicts, you blame us for child abuse and disease. You rejoice at our funerals and tell us we're going to hell. And you tell anyone who believes otherwise that they will also go to hell.

Some of us have already experienced hell on earth through your persecution and violence. Your message of hatred disguised as morality has given a hunting license to those who follow you.

Your advertisements claim to send a message "not of hate, but of hope." But we have heard what your true message is. Hate crimes are message crimes, and this is the message you send: Convert, or be killed.

This from the same voices that claim to hold all life sacred? Why would you rather have us dead than queer? Are we so great a threat to you?

You don't even know who we are. You claim you can "always spot one of us" -- why, then, were nearly a third of the anti-queer crimes reported last year committed against heterosexuals, by persons so eager to hate that they didn't bother to find out who they were attacking? These are crimes of perception -- and your perception is dangerously flawed. Any of you, or your families, could be the next victim of the hatred you have encouraged. While hatred runs rampant, no one is safe.

And even as your incendiary rhetoric of intolerance is encouraging violence against us and other minorities, you block legislation to protect us and to deter and punish our attackers, claiming that we don't deserve "special rights." What is so special about the right to life?

We are not asking for special rights -- we're demanding equal treatment under law. Anti-discrimination laws protect you from abuse directed at your beliefs, and hate crimes laws punish those who commit violence against you -- but not us.

You argue that hate crime laws should be done away with entirely because violence is already a criminal act. In so doing, you entirely ignore the defining character of a hate crime -- that it is an expression of hate against an entire group of people.

If you truly wish to convert us rather than kill us, if you truly believe that all life is sacred, then act accordingly:

Stop the rhetoric of hate, whether blatant or veiled in the guise of "for our own good." Denounce those who use the word of God to justify violence, hatred, and discrimination. Support equal rights under law for everyone.

If you do not do these things, if you do not condemn the violence in the strongest possible terms and work to end it, then you are guilty by association of our deaths, and more blood will be on your hands.

Matthew Shepard's blood, and that of everyone who has fought and died for what they believe and what they are, is already on your conscience.

If you want us to be willing to listen to you, stop justifying our murders and calling for our persecution.

We can't hear you if we're dead.

-- the staff of Anything That Moves
written by Anne Killpack

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