Blow is the author of the Lambda Literary Award-winning memoir Fire Shut Up In My Bones. He and his cousin Larry grew up in what he describes as a “segregated Louisiana hamlet of about a thousand people.”
Though Larry never actually came out to anyone in his family, it was assumed by most everyone that he was gay, Blow writes, “because of the way he carried himself and the fact that he didn’t date women or marry one.”
In 1993, Larry was found tied to a bed and murdered in what appeared to be a hate crime. No one was ever charged with the killing, however, and the story went unreported.
“The gossip was that his life had been taken because of the way he had lived it,” Blow writes. “Such were the dangers of being both black and different.”
Blow continues, “Five years after [Larry] was tied to the bed and killed, Matthew Shepard, a young, white, openly gay man, was tied to a fence and killed in a small Wyoming city. While [Larry’s] death hardly made the local papers, Matthew’s provoked an international outcry. That discrepancy would haunt me.”
Blow suggests the reason his cousin’s murder didn’t receive much attention was because he lived an “amplified erasure,” being both black and gay in a time and place where there were few resources or almost no protection.
Twenty years later, little has changed. The most recent study by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found that nearly 80 percent of all anti-LGBTQ homicide victims in 2014 were people of color, and 60 percent African American.
“I wish that Larry had survived to see a time when the country was fighting to affirm both parts of his identity, fighting to acknowledge that his black life mattered and his love life mattered,” Blow concludes. “I wish he had lived to see more people come to understand the intersectionality of oppression — that racism and homophobia are born of the same beast.”