I'm not sure if this has been diaried this morning, as I've been out, but I have to tell this story.
It would be nice to think that at a "Volvo-driving, latte-drinking liberal Northeastern university", all the members of the community could respect each other. It would be nice to think that you could feel free to express your sexual identity without fear of reprisals. It would be nice to think that hate crimes like the one that killed Matthew Shephard couldn't happen here.
It would also be dead wrong.
This weekend, the Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Supporters Alliance (BGLTSA) held an on-campus party. These parties are always well-attended, and usually without major incident. That changed Friday night.
The victim, Galo Garcia III '05, was on his way to the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, and Supporters Alliance (BGLTSA) "Inappropriate" party at Adams House with six of his friends when the assailant reportedly slowed down his vehicle and called Garcia a "faggot Jew."
"I had my arm around a guy," a still-rattled Garcia told The Crimson minutes after the attack. "These guys were looking for a parking space and they yell `faggot' from the window."
Sounds terrible, right? Well, even despite the fact that this took place directly outside the Harvard Hillel building (for those who don't know, the center of Jewish life at a university), if that had been the extent of the encounter, the victims would have escaped with some ratttled nerves and hurt feelings. Our hero, though, was unwilling to stay silent.
Garcia said that he approached the car upset, yelling back that these slurs were inappropriate, when the driver exited his vehicle and began to deliver repeated blows to Garcia's head and chest. The driver had been riding with a male passenger, who Garcia said did not intervene in the tussle but was restrained by his friends.
"All I really remember is a blur of punches and that I was thrown against the wall," said Garcia. "And then the police came."
When I first read that, I felt numb. I had heard that some incident had happen Friday night, but I had no idea that a classmate had been assaulted for his sexual orientation. I didn't know whether to cry or scream or punch the wall.
Can you imagine?
If the assailant had a weapon with him?
If the victim didn't have friends around to help?
If the police weren't in such close vicinity?
If the attack didn't take place in a well-lit area in the center of campus?
What if the victim had been maimed or killed?
My own words right now don't do justice to express my outrage at what happened, so I will let Galo Garcia tell us his in his own.
I was shocked and frozen while I was thrown against a wall and punched repeatedly. Luckily, my friend called the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) and officers arrived in under a minute. I have cuts, bruises, and lumps on my chest, my back is sore, and a large area of my head is swollen and throbbing painfully. The day after, as I sat the holding ice packs to my head and popping ibuprofen every four hours to dull the pain, I felt completely disconnected--as if I were watching myself on a theater-sized screen.
Even though I feel physical pain, I am still shocked, confused, and in denial that a hate crime could occur in the midst of campus. Many questions are swirling through my head unanswered: How should I respond to verbal attacks next time? Should I show affection towards my male friends in public? Should I ignore slurs like "faggot" as I walk around on campus, or should I confront them? Which is more important, standing up for my community or preserving my health?
These are all questions that we shouldn't have to ask. But we do. This is the second BGLTSA dance out of three this year where such an incident occurred. Even if these were the only incidents to have occurred, and even if there weren't a problem of under-reporting of anti-BGLT hate crimes, isolated cases of bigotry are unacceptable. The assault has violated the safety of our community.
I pray that, one day, we will all be able to live in a world where gay, bisexual, and transgendered people are able to live without fear of being harrassed, assaulted, or murdered just for being who they are. However, with the religious right using the Republican party to spout their invective of hate and bigotry, I fear that many years will pass between this day and that.