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Are We a Stone's Throw from an Epidemic of Anti-LGBTQ Violence?

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This week a disturbing story, originally unearthed last year by an Oklahoma magazine, reached the light of national attention. We learned that Scott Esk, an Oklahoma Tea Party Republican candidate for the state House, had endorsed the stoning of gay people saying, "I think it would be totally in the right to [stone LGBTQ people]."

Two weeks ago, on May 29th, 2014, the New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) released a report that showed that reports of anti-LGBTQ violence increased by nearly 27 percent in New York City from 2012 to 2013. This raises the eternal question: is violence increasing or is reporting better? Generally, we like to think that reporting is better -- especially when it follows a summer like 2013, in which the media was reporting weekly, and, at times, daily, on anti-LGBTQ violence. These high profile reports meant that more folks knew about the violence, about AVP and about how to report violence and seek help. That's the good news.

But that doesn't mean violence isn't also increasing. In 2013, in New York City, three people were killed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This is up from zero homicides in 2012. On this front violence absolutely increased. And the violence is still disproportionately impacting people of color and transgender people - nearly 90 percent (yes, 90 percent) of the anti-LGBTQ homicide victims across this country were people of color and 72 percent were transgender women. For people of color, transgender women and transgender women of color, the violence isn't just increasing, it's an epidemic.

Why, in a time where LGBTQ equality is making such progress, when LGBTQ people are more visible (I mean, Laverne Cox on the cover of Time - that's visible!), why is this violence still happening? Because the backlash, the folks that are moving more and more right of center, the Scott Esks of the world, are calling for this violence. Esk later went on to clarify: "I never said I would author legislation to put homosexuals to death, but I didn't have a problem with it." (And it's not just words -- we have seen some pretty extreme anti-LGBTQ legislation, too.) Now you may be thinking, "yes, but this knucklehead doesn't represent me, or my family, or my friends" and he probably doesn't.

But he represents an idea more insidious than the idiocy he's spouting - an idea that is far more common, pervasive and responsible for violence than most are comfortable admitting: that LGBTQ folks, particularly LGBTQ people of color and transgender women of color, are other, are less than, and in some tragic cases, are disposable. Though (thankfully) most wouldn't be bigoted enough to endorse stoning, it's the same line of thinking that allows us to both casually and viciously mock transgender people; it's why "that's so gay" is still a put-down and not a compliment; it's why LGBTQ violence is increasing. It is the promotion of violence that is based on judging someone because of who they are, or who they love. And it's intolerable. We need to be outraged because we see not just the idiocy in these statements, but also the kernel of anti-LGBTQ bias and discrimination that will continue to exist until we all recognize that treating anyone as less than will lead - has led - to an epidemic of violence.