Anti-gay violence and far-right extremism go hand-in-hand. Recent high profile instances of hatred against the gay community, or individuals perceived to be gay, parallel a resurgence of far right extremism in America and abroad.
For Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide just two weeks ago after his roommate put images of him being intimate with another man on the internet, college life may have provided a false sense of safety for a vulnerable young man. Once his lifestyle was broadcast to the world, the harsh consequences of being defined as different may have been too much to bear.
But then again, it’s hard to tell these days who is safe and who is a target. When unrelated instances of two 13-year-olds committing suicide were reported in September due to anti-gay bullying, it became obvious that one need not be gay in order to become a target. It’s unclear that anyone outside of the teenagers’ parents knew of their sexual orientation. In a separate case last week, two teens and one adult were horrifically attacked and tortured by several men based on rumors that the three were gay.
The problem is not just that the gay community is under attack, it’s that anti-gay hatred is used to harm anyone whose identity is deemed different.
In light of these tragic examples, it’s important to remember that discrimination often likes company. Anti-gay hatred occurs in sheltered academic campuses and dense urban areas, in suburban middle schools and small rural communities, but flourishes in communities where tolerance is low.
On Monday, October 10, that was no more accurate than in Belgrade, Serbia, where riots broke out in response to a Gay Pride parade. According to the BBC:
Anti-gay protesters have fought running battles with police in an effort to disrupt a Gay Pride march in Belgrade – the first in the city since 2001.
Rioters threw petrol bombs and stones at armed police, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. The office of the ruling Democratic Party was briefly set on fire, and at least one shot was fired.
Calm was eventually restored but more than 100 people, mostly police, were injured, with another 100 arrested. Sunday’s march was the first Gay Pride parade in Serbia since a 2001 event was broken up in violent clashes provoked by far-right extremists.
Political homophobia has been used for decades by America’s far right; most recently employed by Christine O’Donnell to win a Republican Primary in Delaware for the Tea Party. Whether abroad or in America, the link between far right extremism and anti-gay hate is strong. Only by addressing all kinds of bigotry and identifying the sources of hatred can the problem really be solved. It won’t just save the lives of young gay men; it will save lives, period.