Is no place safe? New York's gay community unsettled by hate crimes
The string of savage hate crimes in New York City, culminating with the death of Marc Carson in Greenwich Village early Saturday morning, has New York's gay community reassessing its assumption of "safe places."
Gay people come from all over the world to enjoy the non-judgmental embrace of NYC, and nowhere is seen as more accepting than Greenwich Village, a home for the bohemian, the arty and the out, since the historic Stonewall riots in 1969. But now, some aren't so sure.
While hate crimes don't surprise Wendell Bryant, 29, a waiter who lives in Pelham Parkway, he was shocked that Carson, 32, was killed "in this neighborhood. This is our home! This is where the struggle happened! That someone would come out of their home and come into ours" and kill a gay person left Bryant deeply unsettled.
"I thought this was a safe zone -- a real safe zone. Now we don't have any place I can feel safe," said Joseph Cail, 18, a dancer who lives in Bed-Stuy.
Gay men are still at risk for hate crimes much like women remain at risk for sexual assault by sexual predators, mused Desmond Anthony, 27, a sales associate who lives in Washington Heights. Anthony always crosses the street in his own neighborhood to avoid groups of rowdy straight men, even though he does not perceive himself as "flamboyant."
"People think, 'Oh -- you're tall and you're black,'" so harassment is unlikely, said Anthony, who is six-feet-five-inches. But knowing you could become a target, "is just part of the territory. I deal with it every day. I've been called a couple of names and been whistled at in a mocking way." Anthony is always mindful that harassment could escalate to violence.
Grant Chapman, 27, an actor from Rhode Island moving to New York City this summer, said he thought that "acts of love, support and solidarity," were the only antidotes to escalating violence. "We have to start much earlier with conversations in the schools and in the home," teaching children the importance of respecting every individual, said Chapman. Bullied as a child growing up in Georgia, Chapman lauded the idea of anti-bullying curricula that stressed the importance of individual rights.
Anthony, who came to NYC from Kentucky, agreed. "Parents are just not doing their job," he said. "I've been on the subway and seen parents on the train, watching their kids as they laugh at me."