2008 Queer Year in Review: Lawrence King

All this week, Queerty looks back on the LGBT stories that marked 2008 for good and for ill.

On February 13th, Queerty first told you about the killing of Lawrence King:

Did an LA-based 8th grader shoot his classmate for being feminine? It sure looks that way – and definitely makes us ill. “Some students said the victim, whose name was not disclosed, sometimes wore makeup and feminine jewelry and had declared himself gay. They said he was frequently taunted by other boys and had been involved in an argument with the alleged shooter, an eighth-grader who also was not named, and others Monday. During the lunchtime argument, one of the boys shouted at Tuesday’s victim, “You better watch your back,” said one student who witnessed the encounter.

Soon, more details of the 15-year-old King’s shooting, emerged. King was the victim of repeated taunts for acting effeminately and dressing in women’s clothes, and when he asked classmate Brandon McInerney to be his valentine, McInerney decided to shoot King.

As vigils were organized and Sen. Hillary Clinton and Ellen spoke out against the crime, King’s death raised troubling questions: Could this have been prevented? Should gay kids be less flamboyant? Queerty wrote:

“Can being openly gay and out invited attack? Sure, yes, definitely. Should gay kids such as Lawrence King thus be encouraged to keep a lid on their lavender ways? That’s what some people say journo Neil Broverman advocates in a new Advocate article: “Mixed Messages,” which is currently excerpted on the magazine’s website.

The piece definitely packs a punch and has some readers doubled over in pain, particularly this paragraph:

“If they didn’t see the execution coming, most of King’s peers at school knew he was being bullied for being proudly gay and flouting male conventions by accessorizing his school uniform with eye shadow and high-heeled boots. In the months leading up to that morning, King had undergone a metamorphosis.

Guided by a welcoming support system at the group home where he lived, the teenager was encouraged to dress as he pleased and live as the person he wanted to be.

What King and others didn’t recognize was that this encouragement–and his response to it–placed him on a collision course with a culture that found him repulsive.”

We found ourselves hoping:

“Yes, it’s tragic that King died so young – and after leading a troubled life – but, like Matthew Shepard’s death so long ago, King’s murder will (hopefully) bring about much needed change in this country. Maybe one day kids won’t have to worry about being out. Maybe parents and counselors won’t have to worry about whether honest encouragement will bring a violent end. Maybe, just maybe, the United States will mature in the wake of this murder.

But, you know, that’s just us being uncharacteristically optimistic…”

King’s killer, after learning that he would be tried as an adult, had his lawyers argue that he was unfit to stand trial, but just this month, the court ruled that:

“Brandon McInerney, an Oxnard teenager accused of first-degree murder and a hate crime in connection with the shooting of a classmate, today was found competent to stand trial in Ventura County Superior Court. Judge Kevin McGee made the ruling after hearing from a psychiatrist and a psychologist.”

A hearing for a discovery motion in the case is set for today and the preliminary hearing in the trial begins Jan. 26. While justice may yet be served in King’s death, his story is a grim reminder of how institutionalized and socially-accepted homophobia has a direct impact on the lives of gays, lesbians and even kids who are just beginning to understand who they are.