It has been reported everywhere (Daily Mail, here) that in the last several days ISIS members in Syria have thrown a bound gay man off the roof of a seven-story building. When he survived his fall, a crowd who gathered at the foot of the building stoned him to death. This is only the most recent of a series of judicial murders of gay men in Syria. The Daily Mail also reports that last month two men accused of homosexuality were thrown from the top of another building and two others were crucified, and in December another man accused of homosexuality was thrown to his own death from the top of a building.
It’s not just happening in Syria. In Seattle, Washington, in August of 2014, two young gay men were murdered by a religious fanatic. Ben Carson was shot point-blank in the face in the West Village in NYC on May 18, 2013. These are two, out of dozens in the US. ISIS is not unique in its savagery. The English had a theatrical procedure for killing fellow citizens in the late middle ages, the sixteenth and seventeenth century—hang them first, and then before they were dead, take them down and draw them—pull them apart using horses—until they were almost dead, and then conclude by disemboweling them. Savagery is not the possession only of twenty-first century Islamic militants.
Savagery characterized the way white people treated black people in the United States, from the end of the Civil War to the beginning of World War II in the South, but also in other parts of the country that were not the South—Ohio, Kansas, Missouri and other places. Black men were tortured sexually, castrated and other ways emasculated, showing just what it was that terrified the white men in their hoods. Lynching was what they called it.
Just because we are close to getting marriage and have repealed DADT and invalidated DOMA doesn’t mean we aren’t still the object of the fears of every savage fanatic around the globe. Legal rights recognized by the Supreme Court aren’t going to change that. Being thrown off buildings in Syria, shot in the face at point-blank range in the Village and otherwise the object of urban or rural violence is not going to change as we get constitutional recognition of our rights under the Constitution.
This is because we are permanently a sexual minority, and this scares some people. Apparently, people—surely this means some men—are afraid of the possibilities that exist for other men who may do it in bed differently or better than they do, so they want to kill it. It is a way of measuring dicks and killing anyone who is not a normal length. This becomes, Everybody has to do everything like everybody else. Kill the outsider. Gay people are the outsider. The person we invite to our bed is not the same gender everybody else invites, and that’s not going to change.
Apparently ISIS’s preferred method of execution for gay people is from the top of a building. For the military and for journalists, ISIS appears to prefer beheading. For us here in the US, it appears to be an attack in the dark by a gang of faceless youths, a savage and fatal beating. Savagery may be universal, a universal, human response to difference.
It has always taken courage to be different, and the number of celebrities who come out is not going to change that. It still takes courage, which is also one of those universal, human responses to difference.