Sunday, May 1, 2011

Lives Stolen by Hate

Originally Posted on August 4, 2009

“Violence against anyone is evil, but violence against our youth generation is especially sinister.”

This came in a Facebook message from the local GLBT youth organization, District 202, as a statement of condolence for an atrocious act committed over the weekend in Tel Aviv. A gunman dressed in black walked into Café Noir and opened fire on a gay youth meeting held at this popular hangout for the city’s GLBT community. Three people were killed, with about eleven wounded. One of the killed was a counselor for the group.

Earlier this year, the Long Island Gay and Lesbian Center near New York City was the target of vandalism. This included a passenger van for the local youth organization, whose windows were smashed in.

For years, GLBT adults and institutions were targets of anti-gay violence. We often try our best to protect our youth from the hate and the end result of said hatred. Individual acts of violence were as random and far between over the years. Attacks against institutions charged with giving GLBT youth a safe space are relatively new.

The first question we often ask of these incidents is “why.” Why attack youth? I can assume the reasons why, but how can anyone be motivated to destroy a culture’s future before they can realize their potential on this Earth? This is just GLBT youth, but any community’s youth!

Whenever an incident such as this happens in Israel, the automatic assumption would be there is a religious motive involved in the attack. In Jerusalem, anything having to do with gay pride was met with angry resistance and violence from ultra-orthodox Jews. Tel Aviv was seen as a safer place for Israeli gays to be as free as they would in most Western cities. It is where gay soldiers who serve openly in the Israeli army can take leave without reprisal from their superiors. It is where Jewish gays from all over the world come to connect with their Israeli counterparts. That sense of safety has been shattered in Tel Aviv. So far, no motive has been established in this incident, nor has the killer been arrested.

As a gay man born Jewish, there was a tug at my heart from this attack. Yet, it induced mixed feeling coming from my own faith background, my own views on the current situation in the Middle East and my ideals for the GLBT community. Coming from Conservative Judaism, it was not an entirely welcoming place for gays at the time of my Bar Mitzvah. I also have been at odds with supporting Israel, especially when its government is intent on destroying indigenous Muslim populations for the sake of creating a Jewish-only state where possibly more than half of the country’s population came from other places outside the eastern Mediterranean region from the time of the country’s founding.

Then, there’s the protection of our youth. This trumps everything in my book. I can set aside issues with my birth faith and with the Israeli state, but these issues have been compounded by this senseless attack of a murderer intent on destroying the future of GLBT culture. At this point, I don’t care who killed three young Israelis at a popular location safe from hatred. That fact is this murderer took away lives at their most critical point before they can mature into their lives as GLBT people and sees the world at a broadest perspective. They also took away the life of someone’s child – regardless of whether their parents knew of their sexual orientation or not and whether or not they accepted their lives as gay children.

So, what can we do? Protest? Sure, if that helps in showing solidarity with the people of Tel Aviv. Get angry? At who or what? Violence should never begat violence, regardless of which ever faith you came from or currently practice.

It all starts at home. It all starts with supporting our next generation and the institutions charged with doing so. It starts with being an advocate to protect gay youth, especially in places where they are vulnerable by location, political climate and other factors preventing these young people from being out and safe.

It starts with loving your gay child.

Fourteen years ago, I began a movement that helped gay and bisexual males aged 18 and over to become an integral part of a subculture that weren’t completely welcoming of their younger brethren at the time. The people involved in this movement often remarked how much these young people quickly found the bear subculture as top identify themselves not only by sexual orientation, but by cultural identity. The movement and the people charged with running it were the first beacon along a murky shoreline for these young gay and bisexual men to participate in the trappings of beardom in a safe, welcoming and nurturing space.

The spirit of this movement was borne with the cultivation of youth and post-youth spaces that were badly needed in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. This spirit continued at a café in Tel Aviv on the day after shabat. As Israelis bury three of their own and heal eleven others affected by the bullets of hate, we believe the spirit and temper of providing safe, welcoming and nurturing spaces for our youth must and will continue.

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