Crimes against LGBT community are up, despite social gains

Published: August 1, 2011

Violent crimes, including murder, increased last year against people identifying themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), and people of color among those groups were most likely to be targeted, an advocacy group reports.

A report last month by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, a group that supports victims of anti-LGBT harassment, found:

•Hate incidents against LGBT people and HIV-affected persons increased 13% from 2009 to 2010.

•Murders of LGBT people numbered 27, the second-highest total recorded.

•Half of victims did not report the crimes to police, and 61% of victims who did said they experienced indifferent or abusive police attitudes.

•Offenders were mostly strangers, white and non-transgender men.

This rise is no surprise to Suzanna Walters, professor of gender studies at Indiana University and author of All the Rage: The Story of Gay Visibility in America.

Walters says that ongoing homophobia is hidden because of increased visibility of support for the LGBT community, including New York’s legalizing same-sex marriage and the repeal of the military’s "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy.

"These positive changes are very real, there is no doubt about it, but the more visible you are as a community the more vulnerable you are, too," she says. "There is a protection in the closet, as awful as that is. Real homophobia with violent outcomes is not a thing of the past and there is much more work to be done."

Nationally, violent crimes are in decline, according to the most recent FBI statistics. Preliminary figures published in May show a 5.5% decrease in the number of violent crimes, including murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault from 2009 to 2010.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 gave the FBI authority to investigate hate crimes involving sexual orientation, says Peter Kaupp, FBI supervisory special agent and hate-crimes program manager.

A look at major cities:

•New York. Incidents happened in popular gay neighborhoods such as Chelsea and the West Village.

•Chicago. The Center on Halsted Anti-Violence Project reported 73 incidents, a 12% increase over 2009.

•San Francisco. Incidents rose 65% to 213 last year, reports the Community United Against Violence.

•Kansas City, Mo. Kansas City Anti-violence Project documented a 52% increase to 31.

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