In May 2013, an 8-year-old boy died in the hands of his homophobic mother’s wrath. Gabriel Fernandez suffered from torture and brutal beatings which soon led to his death. What he had to endure was just unforgivable. No person, much less a child, deserves such treatment.
Pearl Sinthia Fernandez, his remorseless mother, plead guilty to the first-degree murder charge, admitting that she committed the crime all because she thought he was gay. Four years after this sickening crime, Pearl’s boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, was found guilty of murder and that he intentionally tortured the child.
In June 2018, Pearl was sentenced to life imprisonment, while Isauro received the death sentence. George Lomeli, the superior court judge of the Los Angeles County, called the death of Gabriel “beyond animalistic.”
Gabriel’s tragic passing is but an extreme case of parents hating on their children simply for being homosexual. Such situations are unfortunately not uncommon, in spite of continuous widespread efforts to forward the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community. More often than not, it seems that the hardest unit to deal with in terms of encouraging acceptance of queer folks remain to be homophobic families where these homosexual individuals belong in.
Parents still resort to neglect or humiliation, exposing their own children to terrible conditions perhaps thinking that doing so would “cure” them of their homosexuality. The fact that this remains to be true is just horrific, especially in communities that supposedly uphold conservative ideals. Some religious sects still proclaim that homosexuality is a sin. Prejudices against homosexuals are still widely practiced. Too many people still latch onto backward thinking in terms of how they treat members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Society may claim to be progressive, but the aching gaps remain to be visible.
Studies show that gay and bisexual men are now four times more probable to attempt suicide than straight men. Suicide is presently the leading cause of death among homosexual men, more prevalent than cases of AIDS.
The Still Here project, an initiative formed in the Men’s Health Research Program of the University of British Columbia, suggests that a great factor to this prevalence of suicidal ideation among gay and bisexual men is homophobia among their own circles. This includes families, schools or communities.
The hatred, neglect and humiliation brought by homophobia harm queer folks both mentally and emotionally, even physically in cases where homosexuals suffer from such abuse.
Experiencing homophobia at a young age increases the chance of developing mental illnesses in adulthood. This is according to a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention on adverse childhood experience. Results of the study showed that the most damaging experience for a child was “recurrent chronic humiliation.” Invalidation and criticism not only drag down a child’s self-esteem, but they may also cause worse long-term effects such as self-destructive tendencies.
Such shame is especially encountered by queer children, and the magnitude of the experience due to the societal stigma that fuel it leave homosexual minors “overwhelmed” with it.
Several gay people rather choose to not “come out” and even try to suppress their sexuality, as suggested by common homophobic remarks. They develop a sense of shame in their own identities — again a probable cause of mental health problems. This denial may lead to external hatred toward openly-gay individuals.
Oman Mateen, the man behind the tragic attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, was said to have been a closeted homosexual. Having been a regular at the club and seen to have used gay dating apps, his ex-wife even believed that he was gay.
In February 2018, a 20-year-old man named Ethan Stables was convicted of preparing an act of terror. Ethan planned to attack attendees of a local gay pride in Cumbria. He then revealed that he was in fact bisexual and was later found to fall under the autism spectrum. Beyond his problematic politics, his homophobia may have stemmed from his own homosexuality which he struggled to come to grips with.
These people are to blame for their unpardonable actions and the disasters that came after, but the problematic system plays a pivotal role in the development of these killers.
Homophobia kills. It destroys lives and creates monsters, draining people of remorse and humanity.
This is why we should keep on striving for LGBTQIA+ rights: for safe spaces for queer folks, for change in society’s perception on homosexuals.
Photo: Steve Johnson