Throughout history, persecution of minorities has been based on philosophies that por­trayed those minorities as illegitimate, subhuman, or evil. Likewise, homophobia is not just a set of attitudes; it creates an atmosphere in which people feel they are permitted hate crime to harass, assault, and even kill homosexuals. Hate crimes are those motivated by hatred

a criminal offense, usually involving violence, of someone’s religion, sex, race, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, or ethnic

intimidation or vandalism, in which the victim is

targeted because of his or her affiliation with a group. They are known as message crimes because they send a message to the victims particular group. affiliated group (American Psychiatric Association, 1998).

The American Psychological Association reports that hate crimes against homo­sexuals are the most socially acceptable form of hate crimes. Homosexuals are vic­timized four times more often than the average American. It is estimated that 80% of gay, lesbian, and bisexual youths are verbally abused, and 17% are physically abused (Meyer, 1999). One woman in 8 and 1 man in 6 reports being assaulted, raped, robbed, or vandalized because of his or her sexual orientation (Brienza, 1998). When people are asked whether they have ever used threats or physical violence against a gay, lesbian, or bisexual person, 1 in 10 admit that they have, whereas another 24% acknowledge that they have used name-calling (Franklin, 2000). Many young adults believe that homosexual harassment is socially acceptable, mainly because of peer pressure.

After an assault, a homosexual may suffer from what is called “secondary victim – ization”—losing his or her job, being denied public services, or being harassed by the police in response to being the victim of an antigay attack (Berrill & Herek, 1990). For that reason, a large percentage of hate crimes against homosexuals go unreported (Herek et al., 2002). Whether or not they are reported, hate crimes have a more se­rious psychological impact on victims than other types of crime (Brienza, 1998).

Hate Crimes Against Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual PeopleQuestion: Are people really homophobic because they fear that they themselves are homosexuals?

The question is difficult to answer, but many psychologists believe that fear of one’s own sexual desires is a factor in homophobia. The best evidence is the level of brutality of gay hate crimes; the degree of violence suggests that there is a deep fear and hatred at work. Why such hatred of somebody you don’t even know? The answer must lie within oneself.