Today is a day of sadness and reflection for me. One year ago, 15 year-old Lawrence "Larry" King was shot in front of his classmates while sitting in school.
For many younger LGBTQ people, this was a murder that defined their generation. While no more or less tragic than any of the other hate crimes that have happened, Lawrence's young age, his defiance of gender roles, and the shocking execution style and reasoning of the murder itself hit many like me to the core. Like Matthew Shepherd or Gwen Araujo before him, Lawrence was a person that we could see ourselves in- a mirror of many of our own experiences growing up LGBT in the USA.
The spotty coverage of the story at first prompted many of us to ask "Where's the outrage." It seemed that this school shooting was being ignored or swept under the rug due to Larry's sexuality and gender expression. Little did we know when the coverage did come, it would be like another bashing.
Unfortunately, there were a number of lives, young and old alike, lost at hand of irrational hate violence last year. Including Simmie Williams, Jr., a transgender 17 year-old was gunned down in cold blood in Broward County. The first anniversary of Simmie's death is next week.
While 2008 was a year of substantial loss, here in Florida we enter 2009 with a strong foot forward. Due to last year's passing of the Jeffrey Johnson Stand Up for All Students Act, 10 Florida school districts now have fully-inclusive policies that protect students from bullying on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, as well as a number of other characteristics.
Nonetheless, these laws are are only the first step on a long path to culture change. As we move forward to ensure that all Floridians are safe from hate violence, remember that the most substantial change begins with you.
Share the stories of Lawrence and Simmie with your friends, family and neighbors. Reach out to your local school board to ensure that all students are explicitly protected in your local schools.
And finally, join us for the Rally in Tally March 16th to talk to your state legislators about why we cannot afford to lose another at the hands of senseless violence.