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Location: Kansas City, Missouri, United States

Doing my part to irritate Republicans, fundamentalists, bigots and other lower life forms.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Confronting the boogieman

This is one of those times when it's best to let other sources speak for themselves. The following quoted material is from The Philadelphia Daily News story of Tuesday, Nov. 8, headlined: Gay-bashing turns deadly, attacker slain. I'll simply add my thoughts throughout the story and at the end.

Lucas Dawson had just returned from an audition for "American Idol," and planned to tell his friends all about his experience on Oct. 29.

But while walking to the bus stop to catch a ride downtown, around 10:30 that Saturday evening, Dawson ran into four teenagers less than one block from his East Mount Airy home.

"They started calling him 'faggot,' saying 'You're gay,' stuff like that," said David Dawson, Lucas' stepfather.

Such a scene is the nightmare of every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender person. There is a deep-seated fear that every time someone shouts "Faggot!" at us because were are holding hands with someone of the same sex or our car has a rainbow flag decal or we're seen walking out of a gay bar or were are just perceived as somehow "different." Do we confront our taunters? Do we walk away and try to ignore them? Lucas Dawson tried to walk away, but that didn't deter his attackers. It only made them bolder.

Lucas Dawson crossed the street, near Upsal and Musgrave, to avoid trouble, but he later told his family, the group threw a basketball at him, rushed him, and started pummeling him.

"One of them punched him in the mouth," David Dawson said. "They knocked him to the ground. They kicked him. They stomped him. They called him faggot."

Dawson, 21, of Upsal Street near Magnolia, managed to get to his feet, and he pulled out a small pocket knife. He waved it at the crowd a few times, David Dawson said, trying to push them back.

Then, he ran.

Lucas Dawson did what many people would do: he tried to protect himself. And when his attackers backed off, Lucas didn't press his advantage. Instead he tried to put as much distance between himself and them as possible.

Gerald Knight, 17, allegedly followed and then reached out to grab Dawson, who still had the knife in his hand.

During the ensuing struggle, Dawson plunged the knife into Knight's chest.

Knight, of Hortter Street near Chew Avenue, died at Einstein Medical Center less than an hour later, police said.

I don't celebrate anyone's death. Hell, even if Fred Phelps died tomorrow and was called to an afterlife of being bitch-slapped by Jesus for all eternity I doubt if I'd show up at his funeral with signs reading "God Hates Bigots" and "Fred Burns In Hell." I might think about it and get a little secret joy wondering how his followers would react if Fred was treated to the same send-off he gave others. But while I don't celebrate the deaths of others, there are certainly those whose death I wouldn't grieve. And Gerald Knight is certainly one of those.

Dawson, an aspiring singer and performer, faces a preliminary hearing today on voluntary manslaughter charges in the slaying. He plans to plead not guilty, his family said.

"There is nothing else to plead here," said Lisa Dawson, Lucas' mother. "Four guys attacked him... You're going to do whatever you have to to protect yourself."

Lucas Dawson spent last week at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility because his family has been unable to raise the $30,000 for his bail.

"Because somebody died, I can understand he might have to do some jail time," David Dawson said. "But at the same time, let the truth be told about what really happened."

David Dawson believes his stepson is the victim of a hate crime.

"That's always been my biggest fear," Lisa Dawson said. "That someone would attack him just because he is gay."

That's one of the biggest fears of the LGBT community, too. We have lots of fears. We fear we'll lose our jobs because we're gay. We fear we'll be denied the chance to visit a hospitalized partner. We fear our families will reject us. We fear the bigots of the religious right will stir up voters into taking away what few rights we do have and keeping us from attaining others. But most of all each of us carries a very visceral, very real fear that we will face a situation like Lucas Dawson faced.

Gay bashers are the boogie-men of LGBT mythology. The hate-filled stranger with a gun or a knife or a baseball bat or even just fists haunts us.

I remember when I was just beginning my coming-out process in the mid-'70s and making weekend treks to Kansas City from my college dorm 50 miles away. Too young to enter a bar, I'd go to the gay cruising area around Penn Valley Park and the Libery Memorial. It was there I heard for the first time the tale of a nude body found in the park with the words "For Anita" carved in its chest. That was in the heyday of Anita Bryant and her homophobic "Save the Children" campaign. The story was repeated and repeated and every new person I met added new details to the story. The story wasn't true, however. It was one of those urban legends, but one with a gay twist. I've since heard the story updated numerous times, only the name carved into the chest changing as a new homophobe takes Anita Bryant's place.

So pervasive is our fear of being attacked, injured, or even killed for being LGBT that we have incorporated it into our own urban legends.

Maybe Lucas Dawson's mother had the same twinge of fear as she watched her son walk out the door that evening.

Within 15 minutes, his mother said, Lucas, bloodied and frantic, had returned to the house through the back door.

"I think I cut one of them," Lucas told his family.

One of the other teens told him, "Now we're going to have to shoot you."

Lisa Dawson said that even if the charges are dropped, she fears for her son's safety.

"I don't feel like he can come back home," she said. "There are three people out there who already made a threat."

That says a lot about our society when a mother believes her son is safer in a jail cell than at home.

Friends have been stopping by and donating money for his defense. One friend said she didn't have any cash, but she would bake pies to sell as fund-raisers.

Meanwhile, Lucas, who faces 30 years in prison if convicted, is waiting.

"He's scared to death," said David Dawson. "But he's more hurt by the fact that he killed somebody."

"Kharma is something," he added. "Because if they had just let him go on his way and get on that bus, none of this would have happened."

Yes, I'd say kharma turned around and took a big bite out of the dead basher's ass. I'll leave it up to everyone's own interpretation on whether or not the little miscreant deserved his fate - but I will add that I truly believe he is complicit in it.

The tragedy is that Lucas Dawson has to suffer for the stupidity of some pea-brained bigots who had nothing better to do than play "smear the queer" on a Philadelphia street.

If anything good comes of this, maybe it will make potential bashers think twice about attacking someone out of fear that person might be armed with something stronger than words.

Lucas Dawson was released from jail Wednesday and the manslaughter charges against him have been dropped. That's the good news.

The bad news is that he plans to leave home because of fears of retaliation from his other attackers.

(For information of firearms and the LGBT community, please check out the Pink Pistols web site. The group's motto is: "Armed gays don't get bashed."