Trayvon Martin wasn’t gay. But if you don’t think his death in a February shooting directly affects you, you’re wrong.
The shooting death of Trayvon isn’t just a racial issue. It’s an American issue and his death and the circumstances surrounding it hit closer to the LGBT community than many may think.
The 17-year-old who was approached and killed by a neighborhood watch captain in Sanford has captivated the nation’s attention and placed a brand new, bloody spotlight on racial tensions and unsubstantiated misperceptions in Florida and around the country.
While new allegations surface that Martin supposedly fought admitted killer George Zimmerman, the fact remains that if the neighborhood watch captain had not racially profiled the young man, followed him and then approached him, Martin would still be alive.
Trayvon was shot and killed while walking from a store where he had just purchased a bag of Skittles and an iced tea for his younger brother. According to reports, Zimmerman called police to report a suspicious person after he saw Martin walking back from the store.
Despite police instructing him not to confront Martin, Zimmerman approached the teenager. Witnesses say a scuffle ensued before Zimmerman shot the unarmed teen in the chest with a semi-automatic pistol.
Zimmerman confessed to the shooting, claiming self defense. Lawyers are citing the state’s stand your ground law, which lets Floridians use deadly force when they feel their life is threatened.
On March 26, Zimmerman’s lawyer released a statement saying that his client was attacked by the 17 year old and therefore, the shooting was justified. How can that be? It was Zimmerman who initially approached Martin, not the other way around. He even says so on a recorded 911 call.
Martin had a drink and a bag of candy in his arsenal. Zimmerman had a gun. It’s frustrating when you consider how simply the deadly altercation could have been avoided.
Zimmerman targeted the black teen because of the color of his skin and because he was a stranger in the neighborhood. It’s no different than when a member of the LGBT community walks into a straight bar, a new business or a conservative church. We are expected to be or behave a specific way based on the stereotypes engrained in the heads of those different than us. We are treated differently just because of who we are just like Trayvon.
Unfortunately, the bias doesn’t stop at the borders of our community. The people who are the LGBT that defines us have so much self-inflicted stereotyping that I’m often amazed we’ve made as much progress as we have. Too many gay men feel superior to lesbians; too many lesbians feel like all men should keep their distance; too often gay men and lesbians see their transgender brothers and sisters as just too different to care about; too many transgender individuals are so worried about being grouped in with gays, that it turns supporters against them; and bisexuals are often marginalized and labeled as undecided by gays and lesbians.
It has to stop. The more we make of our differences, the more armor those who oppose us have to support their discriminatory behavior.
If we ever want to fully surpass the equality hurtle in our country regarding LGBT rights, then we have to practice what we preach by supporting the rights of others and fighting discrimination in all of its forms and speaking out for Trayvon is the most timely and effective way to do that.
While supporters of Zimmerman are clamoring to clear the name of their friend by detailing his good deeds, it remains that an innocent kid is dead because he was perceived as a threat based on a stereotype that is antiquated and irrelevant.
As the media wrestles with the particulars about what photos are used to represent each man, the validity of a stand your ground law and the details surrounding gun ownership, it’s important to not lose sight of the main issue.
We’ve all been subjected to it and we’ve all done it. The only way to stop it is with our own actions.
And Trayvon’s murder is the latest example of why it has to end now.