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.

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  • blake

    I wonder if Mike Huckabee, Rick Warren, and Barack Obama have ever heard about Lawrence King?

  • nokkonwud

    Blake, I wonder if they even care

  • BrianPrince

    Why is the issue JUST about this boy? It is most definitely sad that he died, and it absolutely should not have happened… but isn’t hate-crime the larger picture?

    We’ve got… a myriad of people who are marginalized, criticized, beaten, abused, ridiculed, ousted… and some murdered — because they’re gay, lesbian, black, Jewish, Arab, Hispanic….

    Hate crime, of any degree… against anybody, for any reason, is completely and totally unacceptable.

    I don’t support the death penalty in any circumstances, but I seriously believe that ANYBODY who commits a hate-crime should be put in prison for double the maximum possible sentence for the crime, if it weren’t a hate crime.

  • Charles J. Mueller


    And I wonder that you wonder if they even care?

    Is the Pope Catholic? ;-)

  • Chiot Moite

    has anybody considered the possibility that he just ate too many Twinkies??

  • Casey

    No. 5: LOL @ your comment.

    Seriously though, RIP Lawrence King, you’ll get justice soon enough.

  • Mark Satterthwaite

    From what I have read about his home life he already had a grounding in bigotry and hate-this would have been just the first incident.

  • ben

    This case is sad and complicated, and a lot of relevant facts were left out in this summary. The principal was an out lesbian who had special support sessions with Larry, and teachers were supportive but having some difficulty balancing all the social and safety concerns. Both kids were very messed up and came from violent families. Larry became fixated on the killer, and his friends said he got caught up in fantasy and started falsely talking about the younger kid as his boyfriend and to harrass the kid with things like threatening to tell the whole school they were a couple. Larry was also female identified, which I think is harder for straight boys (and straight men too, really) to respect and deal with than homosexuality.

    The kid has to answer for the crime, but I hope he’s not tried as an adult because he isn’t one. I hope America also takes this as another reminder that hand guns lead to a more violent society and more deaths.

  • BrianPrince


    I disagree with you, on some things.

    I don’t argue the fact that it’s highly likely that the majority of the relevant facts were “inadvertently” omitted from this story… if only to elicit an outraged reaction from the queer community (after-all, the Media are experts and getting us to do what they want, but telling us ONLY what we need to know, to believe what they want us to believe).

    I, disagree, however, with your hope that the individual isn’t charged as an adult.

    Hate is a positive action — not that it’s good, but that it requires actual effort… it isn’t like… dislike. I don’t necessarily like my sister — but, I don’t have to take an ACTION to not like her… I don’t hate her… because that takes an action, and to be honest, given her situation and her lifestyle, she really isn’t worth the effort… but, even more importantly, I don’t think it’s worth my time or energy to hate (anybody).

    The fact that this individual took such an interest in this queer-child… so much so that he was able to muster the hate necessary to end his life — for whatever reason — leaves me questioning his development… a six year old, for example, doesn’t hate you — s/he gets pissed of when s/he doesn’t get his/her way… pouts, and eventually gets over it — hate is a completely different scenario.

    I don’t know about the entire… issue with this queer-child having fantasies and concocting some sort of mythical relationship — that may well be a possibility… but, I can tell you that as a gay child, at 13 years old, I was madly infatuated with another student in my English class… he (of course) was straight.

    I, too, wore make-up to high school… I used to get up at 3a.m. JUST to do my hair and make-up — I used to wear woman’s clothing to school (although, in all honestly, there was also a time when I wore a Leopard-Print Toga fashioned from polyester curtains I found in the basement)

    and I had the hell beat out of me. I don’t do any of that stuff anymore. At the time, I lacked a positive gay role-model (aside from the… 40 year old trolls who told me they’d love me, if I had sex with them) which I hardly consider a positive gay role models. I did what I thought I should do — what felt right to me, at the time. I know, now — that it’s just not me… I don’t do drag, makeup… anything like that.

    The fact that this child didn’t have the opportunity to evolve into a responsible, civilized member of the adult world… because he was gay… because he was searching for himself, and likely because his only positive gay role model was a lesbian (and let’s face it, as much as I love the lesbians… they’re not gay men)… he was murdered.

    I don’t think that this boy should be put in prison for life, and I don’t think that he should be put to death… but — on the flip side of the coin, I certainly don’t think that… a good five or ten years in the pen… with some sort of re-education would do him a great disservice, either.

    How many people have to die… trying to find themselves, because other people are afraid of difference?

  • corey

    I hope Brandon McInerney has a cute ass, and finds out what a “bad person” really is when he is in lock up, (meaning gays arent bad, but those that while be forcing themselves on him are, maybe then he will see the difference)

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