Causes of a horrifying crime

October 13, 2010

The nightmarish assault committed against four men in New York City earlier this month follows several other recent anti-gay attacks, reports Jake Kornegay.

1910 OSBORNE Place sits on the kind of street in the Bronx where you'd expect to find kids playing and dogs barking--not a house of horrors in which three young men endured hours of torture, all for the "crime" of having sex with other men.

Early Sunday morning on October 3 marked the beginning of an agonizing two-day nightmare for four men assaulted by a group calling itself the "Latin King Goonies." The group had seen a new 17-year-old recruit with a 30-year-old man they knew was gay. Nine of the Goonies allegedly accosted, beat and tortured the teenager, plus three other men at various times through Monday.

The assaults were gruesome. First, the Goonies dragged the 17-year-old suspected of being gay into a vacant Osborne Place apartment, where they made him strip, sliced him with a box cutter and violated his rectum with a plunger handle--yelling, "Is it true you're a faggot? Do you like this?"

They also grabbed and interrogated another 17-year-old man about the 30-year-old, and then beat him. One of the victims had to choose between being beaten with a pipe or a bat.

The building on Osborne Place in New York City where three men were brutalized
The building on Osborne Place in New York City where three men were brutalized (Jake Kornegay | SW)

The teenagers were tortured into admitting to having sex with the man. The first one was let go, battered and bruised. The second was held in anticipation of the 30-year-old's arrival.

Next, the Goonies lured the 30-year-old to the apartment with the promise of a party, having him bring along 10 cans of caffeinated malt liquor--double the size and alcohol content of regular beer--which they later forced him to drink. The suspects tied up the man and made the remaining teenager hit him in the face and burn his genitals with a lit cigarette, while they joined in the beating, shouting anti-gay slurs.

The 30-year-old's beating lasted for several hours. On top of it all, they whipped him with a chain and violated him with a small baseball bat.

Finally, the Goonies attacked the man's older brother at the home the two shared, throwing a blanket over him, beating him and demanding money. They got his younger brother to tell him over the phone that the Goonies had kidnapped him and were holding him captive. The 30-year-old was made to tell his brother, "Give them the money"--referring to $1,000 the two kept in the house.

The older brother complied, and his large-screen TV and debit cards were stolen as well. He was tied up with tape and rope and shoved under a bed, barely able to breathe. "I thought I was going to die," he told a neighbor after freeing himself three hours later.

Eventually, the 30-year-old was dumped outside the brothers' home. He was found passed out on a landing, unable to explain what had happened until the next day.

THIS PROLONGED nightmare of brutality follows two other recent gay-bashing attacks in New York, both in areas heavily frequented by LGBT people.

On October 3, a man was attacked by two men in the bathroom of the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan, a bar that sits at the site of the LGBT riot that kicked off the gay rights movement in 1969. One of the attackers punched the victim in the face, tackled him to the ground and beat him, while the other blocked the door.

A couple days later, there was another attack, this time in Chelsea--five men assaulted several gay men who were hugging and kissing good night. The attackers told the men to go home, saying, "This is our neighborhood." They then punched the victims and tossed a metal garbage can into one's head.

Meanwhile, around the country, six young men are known to have ended their lives as a result of homophobic bullying in just the past few weeks. One was Tyler Clementi, a college student who committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate secretly recorded his sexual encounter with a man in their dorm room and streamed it on the Internet. Tyler's story has turned the national spotlight on youth suicide like never before.

As horrifying as these deaths and violent acts are, they don't occur in a vacuum. Anti-LGBT bigotry from voices of authority, including political leaders of both mainstream parties, creates a climate in which teenagers in the Bronx can feel justified in victimizing and torturing men they suspect of being gay.

Public opinion polls have shown growing numbers of people in favor of LGBT equality. But that hasn't stopped right-wingers from spewing homophobia and hate.

For example, right after Tyler Clementi's suicide, the second-highest leader of the Mormon Church, Boyd Packer, spoke out against same-sex attraction as "impure and unnatural." He added that same-sex unions are morally wrong and "against God's law and nature."

And just a week after the horrifying anti-gay attack in the Bronx, the Republican Party's candidate for New York governor, Carl Paladino, marked National Coming Out Day by declaring that he doesn't want children "brainwashed into thinking homosexuality" is acceptable.

"I didn't march in the Gay Pride parade this year. My opponent did," Paladino declared during a campaign stop in Brooklyn, a dozen or so miles away from the building at 1910 Osborne Place. "That's not the example that we should be showing our children, and certainly not in our schools."

Democrats raked Paladino over the coals for his outrageous comments. But their own failure to make an uncompromising commitment to LGBT equality contributes to an atmosphere that gives confidence to open bigots.

After all, Barack Obama has failed to follow through on his promise to oppose the Defense of Marriage Act. In fact, his Justice Department went to court last year to defend that anti-LGBT law, and in the process compared same-sex marriage with incest and pedophilia. Obama has dragged his feet on repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the military, and Democrats continue to resist adding specific protections for transgender people to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would outlaw employment discrimination based on sexual identity.

What kind of message does it send when the party that claims to stand up for LGBT rights won't even do so?

People who agree with the voices of authority that perpetuate bigotry and discrimination think they've been given permission to destroy the lives of LGBT people, many of whom have barely gotten a start in life.

But the spread of vigils and demonstrations across the country in support of these victims of hate is encouraging. There is still much work to do.

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