This May 11th sadly marked the 10th anniversary of the murder of Sakia Gunn of Newark, N.J. Her murder is mired, at best, by myths and, at worst, by malicious intent.
Depending, however, on the LGBTQ circles you run in and where you get your news, you may or may not know who she was. For many, Gunn was and still is a small blip on the gay and national news radar screen.
While a nation cried out in horror in 1998 over the brutal killing of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old white gay male student at the University of Wyoming, and the murder of Brandon Teena, a 21-year-old white Nebraskan transgender man (the inspiration for the 1999 movie Boys Don’t Cry) untold numbers of hate crimes against LGBTQ people of color not only went unreported in mainstream papers, but they rarely saw the light of day in queer ones as well.
Gay and national media have also paid attention to homophobic bullying. The bullying that led to the suicide of LGBTQ youth was on its way to becoming a national epidemic. For example, in the month of September 2010, 19 suicides were tied to sexual orientation or gender expression, highlighting the disproportionate bullying of our LGBTQ kids and those perceived to be LGBTQ.
One of the suicides that September was that of 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi. Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge after finding out that his college roommate and another classmate had secretly used a webcam to broadcast his sexual encounters with another male, highlighting the dangers of "cyberbullying"— teasing, harassing, or intimidating with pictures or words distributed online or via text message. The story of Clementi's suicide, and the many others that happened that month went viral and saturated the media.
However, the suicide of Joseph Jefferson, a 26-year-old African-American activist for LGBT youth, went largely unnoticed.
"I could not bear the burden of living as a gay man of color in a world grown cold and hateful towards those of us who live and love differently than the so-called 'social mainstream,'" Jefferson posted on his Facebook page the day he killed himself.
Issues of race, gender identity, and sexual orientation trigger a particular type of news broadcasting on major network channels. With many of these network channels’ objective to provide viewers with “info-tainment” rather than fair and balanced reporting, discerning television viewers—straight and gay—are most often incensed and insulted by the news than informed by it.
Case in point: in 2007 The O’Reilly Factor with Bill O’Reilly on FOX News, which is one of today’s highest rated and most viewed talked show, tipped its scales on purportedly delivering fair and balanced reporting. The O’Reilly Factor carelessly brought defamatory news to it viewers about an allegedly nationwide epidemic of black lesbian gang violence terrorizing neighborhoods and schools in large urban enclaves across the country.
According to Rod Wheeler, FOX News crime analyst, these black lesbian gangs recruit and force kids into homosexuality. “There is this national underground network, if you will, Bill, of women that’s lesbian and also some men groups that’s actually recruiting kids as young as 10 years old in a lot of the schools in communities across the country.” Wheeler told host Bill O’Reilly on the show.
And the notorious black lesbian gang, “Dykes Taking Over” was purportedly a pedophiliac gang carrying weapons and violently attacking and raping girl victims they recruited. “As a matter of fact, some of the kids have actually reported that they were actually forced into you know, performing sex acts and doing sex acts with some of these people,” Wheeler continued.