Hate crimes are crimes such as assault, murder, arson, or vandalism with the added element of bias. They are crimes that are inherently more heinous than other violent crimes. They are crimes that not only affect the victims but affect the communities around them. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), on average 250,000 hate crime victimizations occur yearly, with over 90% of hate crimes being violent crimes.1 Over 1 in 5 hate crimes reported to the Unified Crime Reporting (URC) Program target LGBTQ individuals either on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity,2 although the true proportion of LGBTQ victims is likely higher. That means on average 64,250 LGBTQ people are victims of hate crimes based on their sexual orientation each year, with an overwhelming proportion of them being violent crimes.1
Even with the disproportionate violence being committed against LGBTQ individuals, only 32 states have legislation that addresses crimes of hate that target LGBTQ people. Only 20 of those states have legislation that addresses hate crimes based on gender identity.
Unlike other violent crimes, hate crimes have an inherently more heinous effect on society. When a hate crime is committed against an LGBTQ person, it not only affects the immediate target and their family but rather has a lasting impact on our lives and our communities. These acts of violence do not just target LGBTQ people, they target LGBTQ people's sense of safety. They incite fear and oppression, even our schools are not safe. Over 10% of hate crimes occur on school grounds.2
Even in states that have protection for LGBTQ individuals against hate incidents massive disparities exist in reporting hate crimes to police, arrests for violent hate crimes, and justice for the victims of such a crime. Over half of all hate crimes are not reported to the police. Furthermore, non-hate violent crimes are 3 times more likely to result in an arrest than violent hate crimes.1 That disparity means that a person is 3 times more likely to get away with a violent crime if they use hate language, hate symbols, or target the person on the basis of hate.
While the Youth Pride Association does not currently operate any programs that address hate crimes specifically, we aim to address the root causes through our awareness programs and educational programs. Moreover, our education and support programs in schools help foster a safer and more accepting environment for all students, hopefully reducing the alarming proportion of hate crimes that occur on school grounds.
To begin to address this issue, all states must adopt hate crime legislation that not only protects individuals based on sexual orientation but also protects individuals based on gender identity. In order to properly address the current gap between hate crimes occurring and hate crimes reported to police, training is necessary for all levels of law enforcement. Additionally, reform must occur to address the alarming disparities in arrests made between violent crimes and violent hate crimes. Perpetrators of these heinous acts are too often given a pass to commit such acts again.
Finally, the root cause of these hate crimes must be confronted. Hate is not something a person is born with, it is a learned behavior from society. Educate where we can, and bring awareness to this issue as a whole. It is on all of us as individuals and members of our communities to confront hate when and where we see it.
This epidemic of hate-fueled violence is a scourge on society, heinous acts do not only affect the victims. It does not just affect the LGBTQ community. It affects all of us.