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Violence against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and the transgendered

Violence against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender (LGBT) people (hate crimes) can occur either at the hands of individuals or groups; or as part of governmental enforcement of laws targeting people who are seen to violate heteronormative rules. People who are merely perceived to be LGBT (but who are actually not) may also be targeted.

Anti-LGBT violence can include, but are not necessarily limited to, threats, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, rape, torture, attempted murder, or murder.

Many religious figures who condemn homosexual behaviour and thoughts have been accused of lending spiritual support to violence. However, many of these figures also oppose violent behaviour, as a principle, believing God will exercise judgement, and perhaps punish sinners. Media reports may emphasise gay-bashing by religious figures over reporting those (although rarer) religious advocates who vocally oppose gay-bashing.


In the United States, the FBI hate crime statistics for 2004, the most recent year available, reports that hate crimes based on perceived sexual orientation were down from 16.4 to 15.6 %. Of Anti-LGB violence 61 % was against gay men, anti-lesbian violence made up 14 %, anti-bisexual violence accounted for 1 %, attacks against heterosexuals made up 2 %, while attacks against GLB people at large made up 20 %. [1]

State-sponsored violence

Sexual relations between individuals of the same sex have frequently been repressed by the state under pain of mutilation and death. Such events (represented as buggery or sodomy) took place in Europe from the fifth to the twentieth centuries, and in Muslim countries from the beginning of the Muslim era up to and including the present day. Among the states that have historically punished homosexuality with death are:

  • The Roman Empire starting under Constantine around 400.
    • Illustrative victim: Abbasid Baghdad under the Caliph Al-Hadi (785-786)
  • The City of Florence during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
    • Illustrative victims: Giovanni di Giovanni (1350 – 1365?), Florentine boy, castrated and “burned between the thighs with a red-hot iron” by court order;
  • The Swiss canton of Zurich in the Renaissance
    • Illustrative victims: von Hohenberg d. 1482, Swiss knight, burned at the stake together with his lover, his young squire;
  • The kingdom of France during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
    • Illustrative victims: Jacques Chausson (1618 – 1661), French minor writer, burned alive for attempting to seduce the son of a nobleman;
  • England from the Middle Ages until 1861;
    • Illustrative victims: William Maxwell, 1829; King Edward II
  • Nazi Germany; see History of gays during the Holocaust
  • Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban (1996-2001)

Present-day countries where homosexuality is still punishable by death:

  • Iran
  • Mauritania
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Sudan
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Yemen

See Homosexuality laws of the world

Individual violence

Individuals, singly or in groups, have at times taken it upon themselves (usually flouting the law) to repress those alleged to manifest variant sexual behaviour. In some legal jurisdictions in the United States, these acts may be legally classified as hate crimes, which increases the resulting penalty if convicted.

Some notable incidents of hate-related assaults include:

  • Tennessee Williams was the victim of a gay-bashing in January 1979 in Key West, being beaten by five teenage boys, but he was not seriously injured. The episode was part of a spate of anti-gay violence inspired by an anti-gay newspaper ad run by a local Baptist minister.
  • The fatal stabbing of James Zappalorti, a gay Vietnam veteran (1945 – 1990)
  • The rape and later murder of Brandon Teena, a transsexual man (1972 – 1993)
  • The beating death of Matthew Shepard, a gay student (1976 – 1998)
  • The bombing of the Admiral Duncan pub by David Copeland in 1999
  • The fatal beating of gay teenager Jeff Whittington in Wellington, New Zealand on May 8, 1999.
  • One notorious incident of gay-bashing occurred on September 22, 2000. Ronald Gay entered a gay bar in Roanoke, Virginia and opened fire on the patrons, killing Danny Overstreet and injuring six others. Ronald said he was angry over what his name now meant, and deeply upset that three of his sons had changed their surname. He claimed that he had been told by
  • God to find and kill lesbians and gay men, describing himself as a “Christian Soldier working for my Lord”. [2]
  • The non-fatal stabbing of Bertrand Delanoë, a gay politician, in 2002
  • The killing of Gwen Araujo, a transsexual woman (1985 – 2002)
  • The killing of Paul Broussard, a Houston-area banker (1968-1991)
  • The beating death of Charlie Howard in 1984.
  • Aaron Webster, a gay man in Vancouver, British Columbia, was beaten to death in Stanley Park in 2001.
  • On February 2, 2006, 18 year-old Jacob D. Robida allegedly entered a bar in New Bedford, Massachusetts, confirmed that it was a gay bar, and then attacked patrons with a gun and a hatchet, wounding at least three. [3]

As the process of identifying non-heterosexual traits is often sloppy, violence has been committed against heterosexuals who are merely perceived to be gay. Prominent incidents include:

  • Actor and comedian Norm MacDonald (of Saturday Night Live) was attacked by two men in New York City. They thought he was a gay man because he was well-dressed, with styled hair, and lanky. He was walking through Greenwich Village, a centre of the city’s gay community. He suffered a concussion.

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