Despite state numbers showing a drop in hate crimes in 2011, many who work with the gay community say the data is inaccurate because many crimes go unreported.
“I think the numbers are much higher,” said Adriana di Bartolo, director of the Queer Resource Center at Pomona College in Claremont. “There are a lot of reasons why someone wouldn’t report a crime like this. If you’re not out to the larger community, you can out yourself by reporting the crime.”
Hate crimes with a sexual orientation bias were the second most common type of hate crime, making up 23percent of all reported hate crimes in 2011, according to numbers recently released by the California Attorney General’s Office. That number is slightly down from 2010.
Those statistics were released several days after a gay slur was spray painted across the garage door of a Claremont home and one day after four Camp Pendleton Marines allegedly attacked a gay man outside a Long Beach gay bar. The Long Beach incident is being investigated as a possible hate crime.
“I’ve known one person who was beat up pretty bad a while ago who didn’t want to report it like a hate crime,” said Charlie Santos, a 25-year-old gay man who declined to say where he lived, only saying he lived in San Bernardino County. “He told the police it was just a fight.
“He didn’t tell him the guy who did it had been calling him names for a while before the fight happened. He didn’t want the cops to know he was gay.”
But attacks are not always physically violent.
“Many of the incidents we see are more verbal where someone is called a gay slur or someone makes jokes at their expense,” said Ebony Williams, program coordinator at the Queer Resource Center.
Lashing out against gays is one of the last acceptable forms of hate speech, according to some in the gay community.
People will use the term “gay” in a derogatory way quite openly and without much thought as to what the term actually means, said Santos.
“You hear everyone say it, even kids,” he said. “`That shirt’s gay.’ `What he did was so gay.’ It happens a lot but people don’t really think about it. It’s just an insult.”