Weighing King’s Culpability

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.

Certainly the argument can be made that King’s unashamed approach to bullying only encouraged more verbal torture, but such an explanation reduces the horrible murder to its most essential element: King’s contentious sexuality. To completely understand the entire situation, one would also have to look at alleged gun man Brandon McInerney’s background.

What makes a 14-year old kid take a gun to school and shoot his classmate? Blind rage? Perhaps he had a traumatic childhood. Maybe, just maybe, McInerney’s struggled with his own sexuality. We may never know what went on inside the accused killer’s mind, but one thing’s for sure – and this will sound gruesome – the amount of attention and discussion this death has caused does far more good than Brandon’s bad.

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…