Speaking Out of Fear: LGBT Violence
As I flipped through this week’s The Advocate, artistic circles with recycle messages caught my eye. As I glazed over the page, with full intent to read in detail later, I came across an image of a bathroom stall, with the headline “Safe in the Stalls.” Immediately, I recalled a terrifying event that had happened but a week ago. The Kansas City Star read, “Breaking News: Rape reported in KC bar’s restroom.” The bar was Tootsies, Kansas City’s only lesbian bar. As I began to frantically text my friends to make sure if they a. had heard the news, b. were there, c. were okay, I became more and more saddened by the prejudicial and hateful act that had occurred. This was the second act of violence this year, at this specific bar. Was sexual orientation a factor in this act? What was this small business going to do? Would business be threatened? Did they respond to the media? How did the media respond?
Much to my chagrin, I felt the media angle of the story was incomplete. Local media, including the Kansas City Star, KCTV5 (CBS), and KMBC-TV (ABC), never mentioned that this was an LGBT bar, thus omitting the existence of, what I consider, the true issue at hand. This was an act of violence to a woman at a gay and lesbian establishment. What interests me most is the question of why the media felt that this was not an important enough fact to include? I agree, this may be any violent act at any bar. However, my mortification lies in the fact that when I go to a lesbian bar, the last thing I am inclined to fear is being threatened by male misogyny. The absence of representation and visibility in the media and general public reiterates the concerns of the LGBT community regarding recognition and “existence.”
Communication is an incredibly powerful tool. The first notification I received was from the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project, a local non-profit organization dedicated to providing domestic violence, sexual assault, and bias crimes advocacy and education. These organizations are influential in disseminating information to the key audiences, but there are so many that are left untouched by such news. For instance, many in Kansas City cannot describe what KCAVP does, let alone what it is. How many of you know your community organizations dedicated to providing such services? Our communities, locally, regionally, and nationally are enriched with resources never minimally, let alone, fully utilized. Safety should be an issue for all — socialites, LGBT, straight, female, male, young, and old. I want to know that when I walk into a stall, hinge the door, and unbutton, that I’ll be able to reverse those steps without harassment. Is that too much to ask?