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Movie Reviewed:

Anti-Gay Hate Crime: A & E Investigative Reports
Studio: A & E Home Video
Year: 1999
Available: Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

Review by Gary Simpson. All copyrights are held by the author.

Movie Review:

Matthew Shepard’s murder resulted in a national outcry. Unfortunately, Matthew Shepard is only one example of a young person who faced homophobic violence. The documentary interviews a girl and her lesbian parents, and a gay teenager’s family. The girl started being the brunt of homophobic taunts when she was in Grade 6. She was attacked and bashed by a male student. For safety reasons, the girl withdrew from school. A year after withdrawing from school, she still faces verbal taunts when she leaves her home. One of her lesbian parents was assaulted. Willi, a gay teen, and his family are also interviewed. His family moved to get a safer place, after Willi came out to his parents. Will’s father commented about how difficult school is for queer students. “Most parents worry about if they make a grade, make a team, or do things like that. When we sent Willi to school, we worried that it would be the last time we would see him.”

Violence against gays impacts on straight people. Mark, a straight man with children, was brutally assaulted by somebody who thought he was gay. The police response gave Mark the impression they thought he was gay and were not making the case a priority. He hired a private detective to pressure the police to investigate the case.

The movie examines what or who is to blame for hate crimes against gays. The national rate of crime is decreasing, but the rate of anti-gay crime is increasing. Because of the unprecedented increase in crimes against gay people, some call the trend a jihad or a holy war against gays.

Commentary in the movie links an increase in societal tolerance to an increase in hate crimes against gays. Because of more tolerance, larger numbers of gay people are coming out of the closet. Gays are now wanting to exercise the same rights straight people exercise. The increased profile of gay people in society is threatening to many people.

Homophobic hate crimes are especially problematic with adolescents. Those adolescents who feel some same-gender attraction do not want to admit to their attractions. Professor Jack Levin, a Northeastern University criminologist, comments that these questioning youth feel superior when they bash gay people.

The role of homophobic religion is discussed. Many churches portray gay people as either very sinful, or as almost demonic. While churches condemn hate crimes against gay people, it is possible they might have a role in anti-gay crimes. Some activists are deeply concerned that anti-gay sermons could encourage a small minority to react criminally against gays. Criminologist Jack Levin states attacking gays can come to be seen as attacking the devil, an animal, or sin, not as attacking a person.

Homophobia is most frequently seen in prejudice and discrimination against gay, bisexual, trans-identified, and "gay-acting" straight people. At times, homophobia is dangerous. Homophobia is the cause of many deaths. Because homophobia is not a minor societal problem, we need to understand the causes of homophobia, and the nature of homophobia. This documentary is an excellent starting place for discussion of the roots of homophobia.