It is with great relief that we can look around and see that the world has become much friendlier and more accepting to LGBT community in some parts of the world. Nowadays it is common to see shirts and flags adorned with the pride rainbow being worn or flown in many cities.
Sadly, this was not always the case. LGBT people have been the targets of hate and harassment throughout the years and some of this abhorrent behavior continues into this day. Harvey Milk, for example, was killed for being gay. His death still resonates in the LGBT community. Also consider, for instance, the Pulse nightclub shooting. Although it happened in 2016, it remains on record as a scary moment for the LGBT community and the general population of the USA.
The earliest law against sex between two men was recorded in the Book of Leviticus by the Hebrews, and recommended death for such an act. In the Middle Assyrian Law Codes of 1075 BCE, it was recommended a man who had intercourse with another man be turned into a eunuch, or castrated man, that was a social servant.
In the Roman Empire, homosexuality was repressed on the punishment of death once Christianity became the law of the land. In 342 CE, the emperors Constans and Constantius even declared marriage between the same sex illegal. And in 390 CE, Valentinian II, Theodosius I and Arcadius stated that intercourse between the same sex was illegal and anybody found doing it would be burned alive in public.
In the Middle Ages, the Kingdom of France as well as the city of Florence put into place the death penalty for homosexual acts. One young boy by name of Giovanni di Giovanni was burned between his legs as well as castrated as per enforcement of this law.
Punishments like this continued into the Renaissance years. One knight by name of Richard von Hohenburg was killed by being burned alive alongside his lover, who was a squire. The French author Jacques Chausson was also put to death for attempting to attract a nobleman’s son.
17th Century Malta proved to be no better for those in the LGBT community. There were harsh laws and rampant prejudice against anybody who were found guilty of homosexual acts or those who even spoke about being involved in such behavior. When a teenage boy from Malta and a Spanish soldier were found to have been engaging in homosexual behavior, they were burned alive. This led to males who were involved in gay prostitution to sail away to Sicily the very next day as a means of escaping such oppression.
As you may have imagined, the Nazis targeted homosexuals during the Holocaust. It was in 1933 that gay and lesbian organizations were banned alongside educational resources like books about gay and lesbian behavior. Books were burned and even homosexuals who were involved in the Nazi party were killed off. The Gestapo created lists of gays and lesbians, forcing them to comply to a “normal” form of sexuality.
Between the years of 1933 and 1945, it is estimated that 100,000 men were placed under arrest for being gay, with about half of them being actually sentenced. Many of these men served time in correctional facilities, while the others were kept in concentration camps. It is estimated that the death rate of homosexuals in concentration camps was about 60%. As you may have guessed, these men were treated with absolute cruelty by their captors. It would not be until the year 2002 that the German government would issue an apology to the LGBT community.
Examining the Current Years
In the recent past, the world has not been especially kind to the LGBT community. Earlier in the article, we mentioned the shooting that took place at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. This is not the only instance of violence that took place in a spot intended for gay and lesbian partygoers.
Consider the UpStairs Lounge fire of New Orleans, 1973. 32 people perished when a fire was set on purpose at that club. One patron had been removed and was one of the suspects, but the crime never did get solved, and the ordeal was not discussed by politicians and there were even poor-taste jokes made over local radio about the incident. Even nearby churches refused to hold vigils or memorials in honor of the fallen victims.
In 1997, there was a nail bomb set off at the Otherside Lounge in Atlanta, Georgia. Five people ended up being wounded, and the bomber was Eric Rudolph. This man had pled guilty to the bombings at the Summer Olympics which were held in Atlanta that year. He stated that his reasoning for attacking the lesbian bar was to send a message of protest to Washington about their tolerance for the “homosexual political agenda.”
These nightlife incidents are not limited to the USA. At the DIY Club in Yerevan, Armenia in 2012, firebombing and swastika graffiti happened all in the same month. The owner, Armine Oganezova, stated that he was getting threats that indicated they (presumably his attackers) would kill him, burn him, and so forth.
In Moscow in 2014, the Central Station nightclub was forcibly closed after a series of attacks occurred. These included being sprayed with gas as well as bullets. The club did reopen, but in a new location and is now equipped with bulletproof glass.
And in 2015, a gay pride parade in Jerusalem was turned from a prideful and fun event into a saddening and violent one. A very Orthodox Jewish man took out a knife and attacked six people and ended up killing one of them. This was ten years after the same man had attacked those who were participating in the very same parade in 2005.
Current LGBT Violence
Thankfully, many countries nowadays are LGBT friendly. Many modern nations like those in the EU and the USA all render homosexuality to be legal. But there are still many nations in which LGBT lifestyles are considered improper. For instance, Brazil has a high rate of homosexual LGBT violence. The murder rate is high. There have been 3196 cases over the course of 30 years, 1980 to 2009 in particular. In 2008, there were 190 homophobic murders that took place in Brazil. In contrast, there were only five such crimes in the USA in 2008, according to the FBI.
One huge offender in the USA that is known worldwide for perpetuating LGBT hate and violence is the Westboro Baptist Church.
In Jamaica, there is a very strong anti-homosexual culture. Many Jamaican musical artists of the dancehall and reggae genre have been known to include anti-gay and lesbian lyrics in their music, and these lyrics tend to be violent in nature. Efforts have been made to stop these acts. Canadian LGBT activists have made an effort to deport such artists. Even Scotland Yard has done and investigation on certain reggae lyrics and as a result banned Sizzla, one such performer, from entering the UK in 2004, stating that his music encouraged murder.
One huge offender in the USA that is known worldwide for perpetuating LGBT hate and violence is the Westboro Baptist Church. They have been labeled a hate group by the US’s Southern Poverty Law Center and are known best for their slur “God hates F**gs.” Recently, they were in the news again for another disturbing reason: This time they were picketing historically black colleges over their LGBT friendly policies.
Morehouse College of Atlanta, for instance, stated that transgender men would be allowed to enroll starting in 2020. This is no doubt a huge win for trans folk of all walks of life, but Westboro Baptist Church decided to protest, no doubt creating a hostile environment for all the students regardless of their sexuality.
One study performed in 1989 by the US Government titled Report of the Secretary’s Task Force on Youth Suicide discovered that youths of the LGBT group were four times as likely to attempt suicide as other young people.
Says Time Magazine, 34% of LGBT youths face bullying at school which leads them to feel terrible about themselves and their sexuality. James Myles, one young boy aged only 9 years old, committed suicide after he came out to his classmates as being gay.
Cyberbullying of LGBT youth is also another huge problem in today’s society. Consider the case of James Rodemeyer, a gay youth who committed suicide in 2011 at only age 14. His suicide was due to the constant torment he received as a victim of cyberbullying, and his death led to new legislation around cyberbullying. It was proposed by then NY state senator Jeffrey Klein.
Thankfully, the world is much more friendly and welcoming to LGBT community. By practicing tolerance and having an open mind, we all can make the world safer and better for people of all sexual identities.