GSA preps for Hate Crime Awareness Day

As Hate Crime Awareness Day approached, the students of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance made preparations for their annual presentations to spread knowledge and acceptance of the LGBTQ community.

“Many times people don’t even know what a hate crime is, like the definition or what a pejorative name is” senior Lily Pearl, GSA President said.  “They might not realize what they’re saying or doing.”

The definition of a hate crime is a criminal act (rape, murder, injury, assault, ect.) against a person because of their perceived or actual race, religion, sexuality, disability, social class, ethnicity, nationality, age, or gender. Hate crimes can range from physical assault to verbal abuse, such as insults, slurs, or pejorative names.

Pejorative names are words or grammatical forms of expression that express contempt, criticism, disregard, or disrespect such as “that’s so gay”, “retarded”, “faggot”, or “dyke”. The GSA stresses words and phrases such as these as never okay to say.

“Our big things that we always talk about on Hate Crime Awareness Day are pejorative insults and general homophobic bullying” GSA Officer, Becca Handford said. “We back it up with the instances of Matthew Shephard, Lawrence King, Tyler Clementi, and the string of suicides a couple years ago within one week of each other, as like a worst case scenario.”

Matthew Shephard, a 21 year-old college student in Laramie Wyoming, was beat up by two men he met at a gay bar. He was left to die along a road and eventually discovered the next morning and brought to a hospital. Shephard soon died from his injuries after being in a coma for several days.

At the time, sexual orientation and disabilities were not a part of the definition for a hate crime, but were added in 2007 by the Matthew Shephard Act.

In 2008, Lawrence King, an eighth grader in Southern California, was shot twice in the back of the head by a boy he had asked to be his valentine the day before. He died two days later from his injuries.

The last example presented was the string of suicides in October, 2011, where 7 gay teens including Tyler Clementi took their lives due to homophobic bullying.

“We do the same thing every year, we discuss how you can stop hate crimes from happening, and we educate people on why they’re bad, why they can hurt people, and why it affects everyone in the community,” Senior GSA Vice President, Erin O’Brien said.

The presentations were given by student GSA representatives in each of their classes. Each member of the club was given a script with a brief overview of what their presentation should sound like.

The main goal of the GSA is to spread not just tolerance, but acceptance throughout the community. Other events such as the Day of Silence and raising money to fight against AIDs and HIV help spread knowledge about every day struggles in the LGBTQ community, and how we as a school can help.

“GSA’s mission overall is to instill in people’s minds that it’s okay to be who you are, it’s okay to love whoever you do, and that you should never be ashamed of yourself,” O’Brien said.