On October 18th, 2009, Christopher Skinner was beaten by four people and, once on the ground, his assailants got into their SUV and ran him over. This happened in Downtown Toronto, literally steps from where I live.
Christopher Skinner was a gay man. It was speculated that he was attacked because he was gay. A hate crime. Because of the multiple CCTV's in DT Toronto, the attack was caught on tape, but the people, nor the SUV license was taken.
His soon-to-be-husband declared it a hate crime and many early reports, from main stream media as well as the gay community claimed it was a hate crime.
So how do we know it was a hate crime?- Did his assailants know him? Did they know he was gay? Did he "look gay"? Were his pants a little too tight? His walk a little too feminine? What were the stereotypes that Skinner was exhibiting that would have signaled to his attackers that he is gay?
We just don't and can't know for sure until we find the attackers.
In fact, new reports now demonstrate that Skinner appeared to be hailing a cab home and may have accidentally scratched an SUV that passed him by- evidently pissing off the people within it enough to beat and run him over. Now media is declaring that the hate-crime label is misguided. But regardless, we can still ask the same question- was he attacked because he was gay? Would his attackers acted the same if the person hailing a cab was in a different body? A body that didn't appear as an "easy target"? Would they have acted the same if this were a gruff-looking male? Or how about a female?
Regardless of motive, circumstance, the reaction received by the Queer community is overwhelming as there is still fear that it was, in fact, a hate crime.
I argue that it doesn't matter the reason for Skinner's death because, either way, it still has same effect of a hate-crime. Skinner's beaten and run over body represents the fear within the Queer community of gay-bashing. The outpour of the Queer community is due to the shored up fear that they live with every day- the fact that their bodies are always at risk. The instant 'hate-crime-reaction' externalized this hidden fear. At this moment of crisis it exposed the fact that gay men (and women) must, and do, watch their back every day of their lives for fear that people, who want to demonstrate their dominance, will inflict violence on their bodies.
This is the same fear with which women walk down the streets at night. No matter how independent or strong a woman thinks they are, there is that little voice in the back of your head that warns you to walk a little faster when getting home.
This phenomena is what Foucault calls "Discipline and Punsh"- Bodies are subordinated through either real violence or threats of violence. Once the body is conditioned to know the limits within which they can exist you don't need to routinely demonstrate actual violence because it is instilled within the person- the person is disciplined. But every now and then, if a person "steps out of its place", vionece will be demonstrated- the body will be punished for going beyond its circumscribed area. The reaction of the Queer community was a demonstration of how deeply these limits are felt and how deeply they understand the potential for vioence to be inflicted on their own bodies.
Vigil Tonight at 8pm for Christopher Skinner- Church & Wellesley RECOMMEND this Post on Progressive Bloggers CLICK HERE!
Sunday, 25 October 2009
TheVancouverManifesto by Samantha Orwell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://thevancouvermanifesto.blogspot.com/2007/12/about-this-blog.html.