South Bay's Dirty Little Secret

6:49 PM

Despite being near Los Angeles, South Bay has become a hub of discomfort for the LGBT folks living here. Rampant homophobia is a problem that is rarely addressed, but it takes place constantly in our schools and work environments, as well as in everyday life. While this district often votes blue, the beliefs of those who live here lack the empathy that Democrats claim to have.

By politics editor, Cameron Price

In Redondo Beach, LGBT students like myself are all too aware that our schools harbor extreme homophobia. Every day I am at school, I feel afraid and I know I can never be my most authentic self. Since I already feel the need to stay relatively silent about my own sexuality at home, being silent at schools means I rarely get to truly live as myself. My best friend and I have running jokes where we make fun of the homophobes at school, but we both feel the very real threat of becoming victims of hate crimes. 

Even after threats of harassment and violence are made, the school does not do anything. We are forced into situations where a potential attacker is only feet from us. The administration ignores our pleas for safety and make no attempt at creating a safe environment-- despite their LGBT ally stickers and posters. When we complain about the use of slurs by classmates, we are told that we are being too sensitive. Where hate speech lies, violence may not be far behind. Students with the biggest track records of bullying LGBT students are uplifted. Our voices are constantly quieted by an administration more keen on getting grants than keeping us safe. It has made our school a place where we no longer feel safe in.

A little less than a month ago, I fell into a depressive spell because of the new medication I was taking. I knew I would not be able to handle going to school for a couple of days, as the hateful environment would have caused me more mental distress. Instead of reaching out and understanding the problem, my principal and counselor shamed me for my absences. They followed me out as I was leaving early and disparaged me for the days I was gone. This ended in me having a panic attack in my Lyft home, all the while reminding myself of how they truly do not want to make a safe space for us. 

Our administration continues to prove they don’t care about those who stray from their idea of normal. My principal cannot even say “LGBT” correctly. It always comes out as some weird mix of the four letters. 

Homophobes have previously made violent threats via social media and even in person, but nothing changes. Hate speech is often overheard by teachers and staff, yet no one has been punished. Every day, we are forced to be surrounded by people whose regular speech patterns consist of mostly slurs. Many do not even know I am a lesbian, and regularly make conversation with me where they say “dyke” and the ever-popular slur directed at gay men. When direct threats to our safety do not warrant action, I wonder what will. 

Safe spaces simply do not exist at our school, as we do not have clubs or teachers who understand our plight. We don’t even have a gender-neutral bathroom, despite the fact that our two bathrooms can only be used by one person at a time. In history class, I have had to sit through more than one conservative documentaries where gay people are called “unnatural.” 

I have had my own small forms of protest-- i.e. wearing a pride flag patch and sporting shirts with slogans like “love is love” and a drawing of Freddie Mercury dressed in drag-- but my counselor still makes the assumption that I am heterosexual. I feel as though me correcting her would be useless, and that it might just make things worse. 

Our classrooms continue to wreak havoc on my mental health, but bullying is never prevented.

Our businesses are not much better. Small businesses in the area regularly refuse to hire LGBT people and openly discriminate against their LGBT employees. Most folks who face this discrimination feel too powerless to report it so employers do not receive any punishment. It is not uncommon for businesses to not hire trans people based on their gender identity, as many jobs require you to present your social security and birth certificate when getting hired. It is also not uncommon for transgender individuals to face harassment at work. 

Despite the hate crime rate towards LGBT people in LA County going down, they have become more violent in nature. Hate crimes towards transgender individuals have risen higher than ever before. Additionally, LGBT people in LA County faced the second highest rate of hate crimes per marginalized group.

People here often assume that homophobia is not an issue anymore, but it continues right under our noses. A homophobic hate group called MassResistance hosts a chapter in Torrance. They have gone so far as protesting a Torrance Target for allowing gender-neutral bathrooms to interrupting a town hall hosted by Maxine Waters. The leader of the group and his followers are not afraid to yell in the faces of their opposition and harass members of the LGBT community for simply existing. While they may seem like outliers, the simple fact that their operation has lasted for years shows us that they have garnered a good amount of support. They call themselves “pro-family,” which can be translated to “anti-gay and anti-trans.” 

The fight against homophobia is not close to over, even in liberal areas like the South Bay. It is necessary that allies call out their friends and end the culture that would rather see us silenced than living as ourselves. Slurs have a deeprooted history of abuse and even murder, those who say them should be held accountable-- no matter who they are. Even casual homophobia can lead to violence against us. Be an active safe space for your LGBT friends. Reevaluate your allyship and make sure you are not part of the problem.

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