Homicides against LGBT people nationwide rose 28 percent last year and, according to a report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs released earlier this month, anti-gay killings are at their highest rate in 10 years.
A blog posting on Change.org cites a few high-profile LGBT murders, including the murder of local transgender woman Duanna Johnson in Memphis last fall. Johnson was found dead near Hollywood Street in North Memphis. Though no ones knows the motive or even the killer responsible, many have theorized that her gender identity could have come into play as it did earlier in the year when she was beaten by a Memphis Police officer.
Why the increase in anti-gay murders? Sharon Stapel, director of the New York City anti-violence project, told the Associated Press (AP) that it could have something to do with backlash over gay rights fights — same-sex marriage debates, non-discrimination legislation, and the fight to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
"The more visibility there is, the more likely we're going to see backlash, and that's exactly what we see here," Stapel told the AP.
Does that mean gay rights advocates should back off? Absolutely not. Though it's tragic that homophobia is causing an uptick in gay killings, the sooner equal rights are established, the more likely that homophobia will wane. It may not happen the day after gay marriage is legalized, but after a generation of kids grows up in a society that treats LGBT folks as equals, homophobia will go the way of racism and sexism. That's not to say that racism and sexism no longer exist, but both ways of thinking are far less acceptable in mainstream society than homophobia.