Hate is alive and well
Published Thursday, 30-Mar-2006 in issue 953
Always searching for the next buzz topic, mainstream media has glommed on to our community as the next cause celeb. And with our near-equal status in many states, including full marriage equality in Massachusetts and domestic partnership rights here in California, life as a GLBT person today really ain’t such a raw deal.
Just ask someone who’s been around for awhile. Not long ago, politicians didn’t line up to take part in San Diego’s Pride parade, and questioning youth and adults couldn’t simply log on to the Internet and have access to thousands of people searching for answers and connections just like themselves.
Yes, these are different times. But don’t be fooled. While acceptance of our community is on the rise, not everyone is thrilled with the advancement of the “gay agenda.”
Nothing illustrates our community’s false sense of security more than the recent brutal murder of Raymund Catolico. On Tuesday, the District Attorney’s Office amended charges against defendant James Alexander Hardy from first degree murder to murder motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation, making it a hate crime. Hardy, a 19-year-old Marine, allegedly strangled and stuffed Catolico’s body under a bathroom sink in the victim’s Little Italy apartment last month. After seeing his photo on all the major local news channels, our community recognized Catolico and had the sneaky suspicion that his murder was due in part to his sexuality.
Hardy was arrested Feb. 11 for murder and later pleaded not guilty. Images from a bank’s surveillance camera show Hardy using one of Catolico’s credit cards just days after his death. Was this just a case of murder motivated by robbery?
Following the murder, several questions needed to be answered: What was this 19-year-old Marine doing at the 39-year-old victim’s home? And why was no one asking about the relationship between Hardy and the victim?
Reports on the nightly news did mention that the two had met at least once prior, but said nothing more about the nature of their relationship.
Catolico was an avid user of adam4adam.com, a popular gay chat and hook-up Web site. Instincts told us that the victim may have met his killer online and invited him into his Little Italy apartment, where he ultimately met his fate. Shortly after Catolico’s murder, postings appeared on Craigslist San Diego, a popular site where people post personal ads, warning the community about the real dangers of online dating and meeting for sex. Was this some confused 19-year-old Marine who snapped for some unknown reason and then strangled his victim, or was this premeditated murder using the Internet to prey on gay men?
Just last week, a GLT employee was walking to his car from our office in University Heights, a neighborhood known for having many gay and gay-friendly establishments. A resident allegedly called our staff member a faggot and threatened to shoot him and leave his body in an alley.
Our employee phoned the police, but little was done. They gave the basher a talking to, but said no crime was committed and that no report would be made. We did get an incident number, but were told that in no way would the incident be designated as motivated by hate because, according to the officers, the term “faggot” is just another derogatory comment.
Must we be ever conscious of the potential for hatred to strike, even in our safety zones? Absolutely. We’re not advocating mass paranoia, but conscious concern and an understanding that despite our community’s progress, not everyone is on board. In fact, with such rapid momentum in our GLBT civil rights, we should expect some backlash, especially in the desperate form of violence.
The Internet has moved in and revolutionized our society, and, more specifically, how we as a community relate to each other. Discretion, it seems, has gone out the window as personal information flows freely with little discrimination. Whether you meet someone in public first or simply leave the door unlocked, we all need to take better precautions, no matter where we fall in the spectrum.