Homophobic Hate Crime

My Sister Was The Victim Of A Homophobic Hate Crime And It's Time For The Government To Do Something

Stop using your religious agenda as a justification for your hatred.

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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.

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Austin Alexander Burridge, Volunteer Advocate, Shares 3 Great Reasons to Volunteer and Help Others

Austin Alexander Burridge is an avid academic who studies Environmental Science at Winona State University and believes that work in the service of others is a key pillar to personal development.

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Sometimes it's easy for someone to adopt a "me, me, me" attitude. While focusing on oneself, a person may feel nice in the moment, but serving and helping others will bring lasting benefits. While there are many great reasons to serve and help others, there are three universal truths that resonate with volunteers around the globe.

Austin Alexander Burridge's 3 Reasons to Volunteer:

1. Accomplishment

Often, people fall into a trap of focusing on themselves when they are feeling down. Maybe someone did not get a job they wanted. Or perhaps a person gets dumped by an expected lifelong companion. Maybe someone feels they have underachieved after looking at Facebook and seeing great things a high school classmate has accomplished. When feeling down, helping others is a proven way to improve one's mood and attitude, and it can provide a sense of pride and accomplishment. The act of giving to those in need is an inherently good action and leaves people with a wonderful feeling of joy.

2. Gratitude

One can become more appreciative of life by serving others that have less. Whether volunteering at a soup kitchen, visiting the elderly at an assisted living center, or helping families after a natural disaster, service enables people to be grateful for what they have. Seeing people who have fewer advantages, especially those who are spirited and thankful for small things, allows one to realize just how fortunate he/she is in life.

3. Friendships

Volunteering is a great way to build meaningful friendships, not only with other volunteers but also with those who are served. One of the most profound and fascinating aspects of these relationships is how volunteers will learn from those served and vice versa. As these special bonds are built, they lead to impactful connections that last for years to come.

Of course, these are just a few reasons to volunteer and serve others. One can never go wrong by helping others as opposed to merely focusing on oneself. Volunteering invariably and inevitably contributes to personal growth, development, and satisfaction.

About Austin Alexander Burridge: Helping others has been of paramount importance to Austin, and as a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Austin gave back to the community around him. He also has participated in annual peanut butter drives, The Minnesota Sandwich Project for the Homeless and collected canned goods for local food shelters. Additionally, Austin has a passion for the environment, which he pursued when visiting the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, and the Amazon Rain Forest while studying at the School of Environment Studies, which investigates ecological systems and their sustainability

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Terrors Behind "Toddlers & Tiaras" - Beauty Pageants Need To Go!

Why Honey Boo Boo is not the girl we should be idolizing...

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Honey Boo Boo is famous for her extravagant persona, extreme temper tantrums, overwhelming attitude, and intense sassiness. All of these qualities are shared by many other young girls who participate in beauty pageants - not just in "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" but also in TLC's notorious "Toddlers & Tiaras," a show that depicts the horrors of little girls who have dedicated their childhood to winning the crown.

These shows, and the pageants they glorify do nothing but force girls to grow up too quickly, send negative messages to viewers and participants and pose health risks for the girls involved.

Therefore, beauty pageants for young girls should be abolished.

The hypersexualization that takes place in these pageants is staggering. Not only are young girls' minds molded into having a superficial view on beauty, but they are also waxed, spray-tanned, given wigs, retouched in pictures, injected with Botox and fillers, and painted with fake abs and even breasts.

Sexy is the goal, not cute. Girls of ages 2-12 wear skimpy clothing, accentuating only their underdeveloped bodies. A 4-year-old girl on "Toddlers and Tiaras" once impersonated Dolly Parton with fake breasts, another dressed as Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (so basically, a prostitute), and another even pretended to smoke a cigarette to look like Sandy from Grease.

In Venezuela, people are so obsessed with pageants that they send their daughters to "Miss Factories," to train them to win. At these factories, underage girls undergo plastic surgery and hormone therapy to delay puberty in attempts to grow taller. In addition, they often get mesh sewn onto their tongues so that they are physically incapable of eating solid food. This idea of taking horrific measures to look slimmer is not unique to Venezuela. A former Miss USA explained that she would "slather on hemorrhoid ointment, wrap herself up with Saran wrap, and run on a treadmill with an incline for 30 minutes to tighten her skin and waist up." Many countries, including France and Israel have banned child beauty pageants because it is "hypersexualizing." Why has the US yet to follow in their footsteps?

Additionally, the pageants strip their young contestants of a childhood by basically putting them through harsh child labor. Oftentimes, girls as young as 18 months old participate in pageants. There is no way that a girl under 2 years old has the capacity to decide for herself that she wants to participate in a beauty pageant. Not to mention, education often takes a backseat in pageant girls' lives as long practice sessions interfere with sleep and homework. This causes long-term distress for the contestants, including widespread unemployment for former pageant girls.

Moreover, these pageants tie self-worth and self-esteem to attractiveness. They teach girls that natural beauty and intelligence are not enough, when in actuality they should be doing the opposite. In fact, 72% of pageant girls hire coaches to train girls to be more "attractive."

Finally, these pageants pose potent health risks for the girls competing. Not only do intense rehearsals interfere with their sleep cycles, but they are also impacted by the harmful methods taken to keep them awake. One example is Honey Boo Boo's "go go juice" - AKA a mixture of Mountain Dew and Red Bull. She is known for drinking this continuously throughout pageant days to stay awake and energetic - but the health risks associated with the drinks, let alone for such a young girl, are completely ignored.

And, the future health problems associated with pageantry cannot be looked past. Participating in beauty pageants as kids leads to eating disorders, perfectionism, depression - in fact, at least 6% suffer from depression while competing. "The Princess Syndrome," as Psychology Today calls it relates to a small study published in 2005 that showed that former childhood beauty pageant contestants had higher rates of body dissatisfaction. This sense of dissatisfaction can so easily be translated to more severe mental and physical health issues, including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. The average BMI (Body Mass Index) of a Beauty Contestant in the US in 1930 was 20.8, which is universally in the middle of the "healthy" range. In 2010, it was 16.9, which is considered underweight for anyone.

So, despite the entertainment these shows and pageants provide, they should most definitely be stopped due to the immense amount of issues they cause for those involved and those who watch.

Although Honey Boo Boo is (sadly) considered one of America's sweethearts, her experience in pageantry has certainly not been a positive influence in her life nor in the lives of her fans - and this is the case for nearly all young pageant girls.

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