Time's John Cloud has a smart and daring critique of the effort to use the murder of gay teen Lawrence King to gin up support for the Matthew Shepard Act, which would bolster goverment power to prosecute hate crimes. Cloud's argument against this is taken straight from the data of a group doing some of the loudest lobbying for the law.
[The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network] itself has published a great deal of survey data showing that most gay kids aren't suffering the way King did. Fully 78% of gay and transgender kids say they feel safe at school, according to a 2005 GLSEN report. According to another GLSEN survey released the same year, only 18% of gay and transgender students said they had ever been assaulted because of their sexual orientation (only 12% — probably many of the same kids — said they had been assaulted because of the way they express their gender). And of those who had been harassed or assaulted, more than one-fifth — 22% — said the incident wasn't serious enough to report. When they did report the incidents, the response from school staffs was positive about 70% of the time. That's not enough — it should be 100% — but it belies the dire picture painted by gay groups in the wake of King's killing.
More from those numbers…
True, 66% of gay and transgender kids said they had heard homophobic remarks. But roughly the same proportion — 62% — had heard sexist remarks. Some 16% of gay and transgender kids said they had been harassed because of their sexual orientation, but 18% said they had been harassed because of "the way you look or your body size." (Teachers reported they heard sexist comments more often than homophobic ones, and they also saw more harassment based on appearance and weight than on sexual orientation.) It's difficult to imagine the teenager who has never been painfully teased about something. We forget sometimes that to be a teenager — any teenager — is to learn to cope with the turbid, inchoate bigotries of still-developing minds.