Why GLBT People Cannot Rely on the Police or the Media

This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness
Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well
as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here.
Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from

One thing GBLT people are often
told when we face discrimination or violence or hate is that we should
have gone to the police. This is often closely followed by urging us
to go to the media.

Sadly, this advice is both naïve and privileged
(and kind of assumes we’re not all that bright as well). I have gone
to the police on numerous occasions when facing violence, harassment
and that damn car-keying note leaver (I have a near book of these snide
little things, I may bind it and sell it as an ode to pettiness. If
nothing else, them suing me for the royalties might actually reveal
their sorry selves). It has not been helpful. The amount of studied
indifference is pretty stunning. I always have the nagging feeling I’m
going to be charged with wasting police time for breathing the same
air as them.

From domestic violence, to street harassment
to being put in the hospital to having my big box full of nasty little
notes the general response has been a strong sense of “is there a
reason you’re telling me this? Here’s a crime number, go away annoying
person”. I’ve met the same when accompanying those of my friends
who have bothered to report to the police – all of them have
had reason to, very few of them have bothered to do so. And the victim
blaming is strong. “Did you touch him?” (no, of course not,
in a crowded club I activate my 5 feet emergency gay space to ensure
I never afflict the straighties with my touch) “Did you wink at him?”
(seriously, do people still wink at people?) “Did you make eye contact?”
(No sir, I know my place, I keep my eyes on the floor when around my
straight betters) “What were you wearing?” (Why, being gay I was
clad in rainbows, body glitter and stiletto heels of course! It’s
our uniform). The gay panic defence is still a nasty ugly stain on our
law and, even outside the court room, it oozes all over any interaction
with law enforcement. When we’re the victims we’re still assumed
to have instigated. And, of course “existence” is considered instigating.

Occasionally we will get that wonderful, sage advice “have you tried
being more subtle?” Uh-huh. Of course, in the face of this many
tempers fray – and then WE’RE the problem because we got angry,
irate, unhelpful, hostile – insert term du jour. Even I became… 
sharp after a police repeatedly called me “a gay”. Grrr, it’s
not a noun people. But this leads to that over most unpleasant situation
when the nearly-all straight police force isn’t just unsympathetic
– but is often outright hostile. Tread carefully or you give them
an excuse and get to spend some time in the cells being taught a lesson.
And they do like their stings on gay clubs and their attempts at entrapment
on gay “cruising” areas – followed by the wonderful “plead guilty
and it stays quiet, speak and you get Outed” to ensure there aren’t

Now, going to the police nearly inevitably
means outing yourself – which comes with its own set of menaces. And
if you want actual consequences for your attacker then you’re better
be ready to shout your GBLTness from the rooftops.

So choice 2, the media. Well, first you’ve
got to find media that gives a damn and that’s difficult. You can
go to GBLT media – but, let’s be honest, our community’s media’s
reach is limited and even if your story is picked up by it the readership
is going to be a lot of, frankly, jaded GBLT people who have seen it
a hundred if not a thousand times before (and the
odd straight person who is SHOCKED! SHOCKED AND APPALLED!)

But maybe, maybe you’ll catch the more mainstream news on a good point
in the cycle, maybe your victimisation is dramatic enough, maybe it
fits some national news, maybe it’s a slow news day, whatever –
you may get lucky. But it is luck and you will have to seek it out.

And you will be Outed. And even if you are Out, there’s Out and there’s
“in the local newspaper” Out.

And the consequence of that Outing?

Well this couple
in Texas
, after having their house vandalised with
a death threat, went to the media (after the police ignored them) –
and then found the harassment escalated. In fact, outed and reported,
their employer lost work and local businesses starts denying them service.
Thankfully, the GBLT community was there to help them (which is why
it is so vital for us to look after our own), but it can get real nasty
real fast.

And why people have to remember that the simple solutions of “police” 
and “media” are so often not something we can rely on. And,
sadly, why sometimes there just isn’t a solution at all – there’s
only endurance and survival.

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