By Patrick Tindall
Life as an LGBTQ person is difficult, life as an LGBTQ person of color is even more difficult.
LGBTQ people constantly have to dodge homophobia and LGBTQ people of color also have to avoid the ever-present second issue of racism. Neither of which are mutually exclusive to the other and both are constantly in our faces in 2019.
On the evening of Jan. 29 around 2 a.m., reports allege Jussie Smollett was on his way to a Subway restaurant in the Chicago neighborhood in which he was staying when he was accosted by two white men who shouted “this is MAGA country” as well as various other racial obscenities at him, wrapped a noose around his neck and threw an unknown chemical over him before running away.
Many people weighed in on this alleged tragedy such as Sen. Kamala Harris, LGBTQ news reporter Don Lemon and even President Donald Trump himself.
Being an LGBTQ person myself and having close ties to many people of color I was just as shocked as anyone to hear of these claims. My mind raced with questions: Why would anyone want to do this? What could possibly be the end goal here? Then a piece of my past gave me a bit of a clue.
One night an acquaintance of mine, a local Seattle performer, was leaving a venue in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, where I lived at the time, when two men pulled her into a black van and kidnapped her. They drove her to a dark location but before they could do anything she had kicked open the door and ran away.
At least that was the story that was told.
The story eventually changed. She said she was raped but wouldn’t submit to a rape kit by police, she didn’t want to press charges and many details began swirling around that people saw her walking home that night. Turns out she made it up. Why? Attention? Notoriety?
On a separate occasion another friend of mine, a male LGBTQ person of color in that same (normally gay-friendly) neighborhood was passing by the Pike Street bar Comet Tavern and was accosted by two drunk and disorderly men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs at him unprovoked. He ignored them but apparently the men didn’t like being ignored so they chased him down the street and attacked him leaving blood and bruises all over his body. This all happened after the previous incident and people questioned whether to believe him or not.
The point, however, is this; hate crimes are a reality for many people all over the world and are a daily struggle for LGBTQ people of color. To stage an attack for monetary gains or notoriety is perhaps the most heinous crime there can be because you are piggy-backing off another person’s reality. This is a damaging behavior, not only to your own reputation, but to the entire reputation of the LGBTQ community.
Hate crimes can be met with the same skepticism by law enforcement. Police can deny investigation into a serious matter simply because of the nature of the crime looks similar to something false: guilty by association. It can also be used as political cannon fodder for conservatives which ultimately help them with their constituents. Trump has already been vocal about the fallout in the Smollett investigation.
“[sic]what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!?” Trump tweeted to Smollett on Feb. 21.
Regarding Smollett, he still maintains his innocence despite the mounting evidence against him. He is currently set on bail and awaiting trial for felony disorderly conduct charges where he could potentially face three years in prison.
Time will tell how he will be judged for his actions and history will show us how it will affect others.