It was night time. An openly gay man was walking alone down 10th Street in the crime-ridden section of Long Beach, California. Wearing neon red parachute pants, a bright pink polo shirt, the latest Air Jordan shoes, and sporting a white Kangol hat, he looked like a cross between Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Prince. It was the early 1980s.
I was nine years old, and I knew this gay man from around my neighborhood. He was the first gay person I'd ever met.
As this man walked towards the intersection of Orange Avenue, suddenly he was bum rushed by ten local gang members. They formed a tight circle around him, knocked off his hat, and punched him around like boxer Floyd Mayweather punching Manny Pacquiao.
The gay man stumbled to the hard concrete and the gangsters began to violently stomp him into the cement; yelling and screaming with blind rage.
"Stay out of our hood, you flaming 'F'!" The gangbangers used the demeaning F-word to refer to members of the gay community.
While I watched the gay-bashing, my nine year old mind could not process the nature of the bitter homophobic juggernaut that compelled these hardcore thugs to beat down a helpless homosexual man.
In my neighborhood everyone knew that "snitches get stitches" and "if you open your mouth, a gun goes in your mouth". These colorful ghetto code phrases mean that one must never intervene in a fight and never report crimes to the police. In my low-income housing project, the police were considered enemies and the gang members were considered friends.
Terrified by the savagery and afraid of these hoodlums, I ran away from this episode of anti-gay violence. Meanwhile, the gay man was thug-jacked and booty-crushed. No one intervened and I heard the man nearly died.
On the same night of this beating, I watched a video tape of Dr. Martin Luther King's famous "I have a dream speech." I distinctly remember Dr. King oozing moral courage and socio-political power as he continually described his compassionate dream of equality and justice. A tear rolled down my face as I listened to the speech.
Today, as I reflect upon the pain inflicted on this particular gay man, I am inspired with a new dream -- not only an aspiration for LGBT equality -- but a dream of gay empowerment. For without power there can be no true security or freedom of choice.
I have a dream today that gay people and lesbians will have a vested and inalienable right to universal marriage equality backed by the power of law. Gay marriage is not only a civil right to be enacted by governments, but it is a fundamental human right bestowed by the almighty hands of God.
Today, in a major step towards fulfilling this lofty dream of social justice, I submitted an innovative proposal to the offices of California State Senator Mark Leno and California Assembly Member David Chiu.
My proposal calls for the creation of "California LGBT Police Departments" throughout the Golden State. These police departments, funded by the state, would be staffed exclusively by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender police officers. The goals of these proposed "LGBT Squads" are to better serve communities while minimizing troubling incidents of anti-gay violence.
I believe it is important for heterosexual people and homosexual people to love and respect one another regardless of sexual orientation or transgender identity. However, it is also vital for LGBT communities to wield police power backed by the force of law. In other words, we must not only demand "gay rights," but we must also demand "gay power."
As I think back on the savage episode of anti-gay bashing I witnessed as a small boy, I now understand that LGBT communities worldwide must be empowered with the weapons to fight for justice.
This essay is humbly dedicated to the memory of Matthew Shepard (December 1, 1976--October 12, 1998).
Mark Charles Hardie is a candidate for United States Senate in California (2016). An attorney, Mr. Hardie is a veteran of both the United States Army and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). He is a member of the World Jewish Congress and the NAACP. His critically acclaimed autobiography is titled "Black & Bulletproof: An African American Warrior in the Israeli Army" (New Horizon Press, New Jersey, 2010).