As a straight individual, I basically am blind to the struggles that LGBTQ individuals face on a day-to-day basis in their lives. It is personally so difficult to believe and furthermore accept the fact that despite living in the 21st century, where same-sex marriage has been legal for more than 10 years now, the LGBTQ community still are not treated the same as straight people. And I, unfortunately, became a first-hand witness to this when someone I knew was assaulted two weeks ago.
On November 30, a 20-year-old woman and her friend got aboard an E train headed towards Manhattan. Bored and exhausted from a day full of classes and then work, she pulled out her phone and began to take selfies on Snapchat, posing with her friend. No crime there — we as millennials pretty much do this all of the time.
Her friend innocently leaned it to give her a kiss on the cheek, something any two best friends would do, but they were unaware of the individual watching them from a few seats away, his mind full of evil thoughts. He began to approach the women, the two completely unaware of his intentions.
"Do those gay things in front of me again, and watch what happens."
The woman and her friend, infuriated not by his misinterpretation of their sexual orientation but rather his blatant homophobia, didn't stay silent. They argued back, and after being fed up of his stubborn homophobia, got up to leave the cart and get on another one, away from his overwhelming presence.
The man, however, followed them to the door to carry out an act so inexplicably barbaric and heart-wrenching that my eyes are brimming with tears as I'm typing this.
He punched one of the girls in the back of her head, and then with one push sent her crashing down to the train platform. As the two women dealt with the shock of the incident, he ran off the train and got aboard another one. He had disappeared, but the effects of his hate would linger on for weeks for the victim. The assault caused a concussion and a fracture to her spine, in addition to the debilitating PTSD she would have from the incident as a whole. She swears to never take the train again.
The fact that she wasn't in actuality lesbian and was just taking pictures with her best friend was irrelevant. This man was so fueled by his unjustified homophobia that he found it necessary to attack two girls that hadn't done absolutely anything to him. They were having fun in their world, and obviously, some aspect of this was enough to tip him over.
The news attracted a lot of attention from the media and eventually found its way to the largest news channels such as NBC and Huffington Post where those who shared the articles all had one unanimous goal — to find and punish this man severely. This crime was not just an act of hatred committed against those two girls, but rather against the entire LGBTQ community, signifying how their struggles in this world are everlasting.
The victim in this story was my sister.
Usually fueled by news of problematic events like these, I initially was very numb. I was afraid for my sister, afraid of the world, afraid of how much hate exists out there. And then when I realized that we needed to find this man and punish for him the heinous crimes he had committed, something inside me sparked. I shared every article I could find on all of my social media and asked my friends to help share the story — to help mobilize the cause.
Three days ago, the NYPD received an anonymous tip of the man, after the city had spent about two weeks trying to find him. He was arrested, pled guilty, and is now waiting on his sentence. This entire incident struck as a very difficult time for my sister and our family, as she is still recovering both physically and mentally. My family and I, in addition to her friends, are trying our best to provide comfort and moreover support her as she heals.
One thing I have taken away from this entire incident as a whole is that we often overlook the privilege of being straight and how even though gay marriage is legal within the United States, hate crimes against the LGBTQ community continue to occur. To say it is extremely disgusting is an understatement, but what trumps it is the fact that our government does little to nothing to address the issue. The LGBTQ community deserves, just as much as straight individuals, to be able to go out and not be fearful.