In the Two Minute Drill, we explain complex issues in politics in 500 words or less (roughly the amount of words it takes the average adult two minutes to read on a monitor). Politics just isn’t always that complicated. Without the fluff and partisan bias, even the most complex of our political differences can be explained succinctly. This week we’re looking at anti-LGBT violence in the United States. This is The Two Minute Drill for June 17, 2016.
As investigative agencies release more details, we will learn more information about the deadliest massacre in U.S. history – a shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando that left 50 people dead and another 53 injured on June 12, 2016. A lot of attention is going to be paid to the killer – including who he was, what motivated him to kill, and whether there was anything that could have been done to prevent his actions. In all of the media frenzy, however, it’s important not to lose sight of the target of the attack: the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community. The magnitude of anti-LGBT sentiment in the U.S. is substantially underestimated. And this week we are exploring two important issues. First, we look into the victimization experiences of LGBT individuals. And, second, we consider whether anti-LGBT homicides in the United States are unique.
The Explanation (500 or Bust)
American attitudes toward the LGBT community continue to become more liberal and more tolerant. While there still remains some ambivalence toward homosexuality in American society, the pace of this change has been quite remarkable. When Gallup first asked about the legality of homosexuality in 1977, for example, Americans were evenly divided on the issue: 43% said yes, 43% said now and 14% weren’t sure. But in May 2016, for the first time ever, over 60 percent of Americans believe marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriage.
Despite the progress we’ve made, the LGBT community still experiences a substantial amount of victimization and discrimination. A meta-analysis conducted in 2012 found that lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals reported substantial victimization experiences (e.g., 55% experienced verbal harassment; 41% experienced discrimination) and at significantly greater rates than heterosexual individuals. A similar, if not more troubling, story emerges with regard to transgender individuals. A 2011 analysis from the Anti-Violence Project of Massachusetts found that anti-transgender victimization includes an “unusually high incidence of sexual violence as compared to hate crimes generally”; that anti-transgender bias is analytically distinct from general homophobia and prejudice; and, alarmingly, that anti-transgender crimes often go unreported because “[v]ictims fear the possibility of physical or verbal abuse by law enforcement personnel and doubt that reporting will lead to favorable law enforcement outcomes.”
These problems are exacerbated by government legislation that legitimizes, and even demands, overt and unacceptable discrimination (e.g. bathroom bills). And it is worse than we think. In fact, the size of the LGBT population and magnitude of anti-LGBT sentiment are substantially underestimated. Research has indicated that many survey questions relating to sexual identity are subject to substantial social desirability bias, even under extreme privacy and anonymity. When that effect is controlled, there is a big increase in self-reports of anti-LGBT sentiment, particularly in the workplace: people are 67 percent to disapprove of an openly gay manager when asked with a veil, and 71 percent are more likely to say it should be legal to discriminate in hiring on the basis of sexual orientation.
This discrimination has serious effects on LGBT individuals. There is a significant relationship between sexual and gender minority stress and higher rates of suicidality (i.e., suicidal ideation and attempts) and substance use problems. And every year, the LGBT community become victims of bias crimes.
In some ways, the nature of this violence is similar to the average homicide. Data from LGBT homicides shows that, like average homicides, sexual orientation bias offenders are overwhelmingly male. And also like average homicides, LGBT homicides aren’t much more likely to involve unknown victims – approximately 33% of anti-LGBT offenders knew their victims prior to the homicide.
Anti-LGBT violence differs significantly, however, in some important ways. There are substantial differences, for example, in the proportion of family and victims and offenders who were at some point romantically involved for bias homicides (1%) and average homicides (26.7%). Anti-LGBT homicides are proportionally more likely to involve multiple offenders (42.7%) compared to average homicides (15.7%). Less than 20% of bias offenders were Black, compared to nearly 45% of average homicide offenders. And there is a particularly striking difference in brutality. Anti-LGBT homicides are proportionally more likely than average homicides to involve less lethal weapons, including stabbings (28.7% compared to 16.4%), blunt objects (16.4% compared to 7.7%), and bodily weapons (22.1% compared to 10.9%).
All violence is unacceptable. That goes without saying. But LGBT violence is a distinct, complex, and serious form of violence. The LGBT community is painfully accustomed to such violence. It’s not enough to put the families of those lost in your “thoughts and prayers.” We have got to do something.
Word Count: No Count This Week (#PrideNotPrejudice)
Trump’s Muslim Immigration Ban Might Be Legal, and That’s Why Its So Dangerous
In case you missed it, check out The Weekly Column. In the wake of the Orlando shooting, Donald Trump reiterated his call to ban Muslims from migrating to the United States. We consider whether doing so would be legal. In the end, though, the question of legality doesn’t really matter. No compassionate, respectful human being would ever put forth such a proposal. Read the Column for May 31, 2016.