Brandon McInerney’s trial for the murder of Larry (also called Latisha, hereafter just Larry) King is over. In a surprise plea deal this week, the now-17-year-old killer pleaded guilty to second degree and involuntary manslaughter in exchange for the prosecution not retrying the case before a new jury. He will serve 21 years in prison for shooting his gay (possibly trans) classmate in February 2008.
It’s not the outcome I would have liked, but I suppose it’ll have to do. At least this way we won’t have to watch the judge wink at another jury and tell them to go easy on the boy. At least we won’t have to watch another jury decide that shooting a gay (possibly trans) kid twice in the back of the head at point blank range because he’s gay not only isn’t a hate crime, but also isn’t murder. At least it’s over.
Except, not quite.
Those of us who care about LGBT kids are left to clean up the mess, as Republican and religious right figures (as if there’s a difference) blame Larry’s school and the LGBT civil rights movement for his murder.
But the worst, most galling accusation comes from Larry’s own mother. She blames not the school (look deeper than her words), and not the murderer, at least not completely. Here’s a snippet from the LA Times article about McInerney’s plea deal.
The victim’s mother, Dawn King, revealed for the first time Monday that she had contacted school officials four days before the shooting in an effort to solicit their cooperation in toning down her son’s behavior. The boy had been taken from the Kings’ home two months earlier by authorities because of problems at home.
She said she was told that her son had a civil right to explore his sexual identity.
“I knew, gut instinct, that something serious was going to happen,” she said. “They should have contained him, contained his behavior.”
Over and over we hear about kids going to their teachers and principals and getting no help. Over and over we hear about their principals telling them that it would stop if they would just stop being so damn faggy or girly or butch or different.
That is, in essence, what Larry’s mother is saying. She couldn’t stop him. The school wouldn’t stop him. So instead of blaming the person who pulled the trigger and put two bullets through the back of her son’s head, she blames her dead son because his identity didn’t match what she wanted.
Over and over our kids tell us that they just want to be themselves and be safe, and we tell them, well, you should be able to have that. Over and over they test the waters and go into hiding, or worse, kill themselves because the adults they look to for guidance say just what Larry’s mother is saying here: If somebody makes fun of you or beats you up or scares you or murders you, it’s your own fault because you won’t stop being queer. It’s a shocking abdication of a parent’s job, but I’d wager it’s something we’ve all heard before, even if it’s only been implied.
What happens next? We keep on telling our stories, letting those around us know that we are their family members, their coworkers, their classmates, and their friends. We keep on telling straight people until everybody knows, until it becomes impossible for straight people to accept the silly notion that we’re monsters to be feared and mistreated. We keep on telling the next generation of trans, bi, lesbian, and gay kids that things will get better because we’re making things get better.
As this year comes to a close, my hope is that someday very soon, Larry’s death and his mother’s accusation will be relics of a past as unimaginable to our descendants as that future is to me today.