This morning's required reading is the brand new cover of Newsweek, Young, Gay and Murdered, a surely-to-be controversial examination of the life and death of portrayal of the late Lawrence King, the 15-year-old gay teen who was gunned down in February.
The magazine asks some of the same questions we have raised in recent weeks—"Kids are coming out younger, but are schools ready to handle the complex issues of identity and sexuality?"—and paints a disturbing and a times unsympathetic portrait of the flamboyant, biracial gay teen.
Larry King was, admittedly, a problematical test case: he was a troubled child who flaunted his sexuality and wielded it like a weapon—it was often his first line of defense. But his story sheds light on the difficulty of defining the limits of tolerance. ...
In January, after a few months at Casa Pacifica, Larry decided to dress like a girl. He went to school accessorized to the max, and his already colorful personality got louder. He accused a girl to her face of having breast implants. Another girl told him she didn't like his shoes. "I don't like your necklace," Larry snapped back. Larry called his mom from Casa Pacifica to tell her that he wanted to get a sex-change operation. And he told a teacher that he wanted to be called Leticia, since no one at school knew he was half African-American. The teacher said firmly, "Larry, I'm not calling you Leticia." He dropped the idea without an argument.
The staff at E. O. Green was clearly struggling with the Larry situation—how to balance his right to self-expression while preventing it from disrupting others. Legally, they couldn't stop him from wearing girls' clothes, according to the California Attorney General's Office, because of a state hate-crime law that prevents gender discrimination. Larry, being Larry, pushed his rights as far as he could. During lunch, he'd sidle up to the popular boys' table and say in a high-pitched voice, "Mind if I sit here?" In the locker room, where he was often ridiculed, he got even by telling the boys, "You look hot," while they were changing, according to the mother of a student.
Lawrence King, who suffered from ADHD and a dysfunctional home life, was clearly troubled and his father wasn't convinced his son was gay. One assistant principal, Joy Epstein, who is openly lesbian, was clearly an influence on King and reportedly "some teachers believe that she was encouraging Larry's flamboyance, to help further an 'agenda,' as some put it." Unfortunately, no gay rights groups such as GLAAD, PFLAG or GLSEN were interviewed in the piece.
Lawrence King's gender expression caused the most problems for the boy, and, while the school and teachers were generally sympathetic to the boy's wardrobe and gender expression, he is said to have "pushed" his boundaries and "flaunted his sexuality and wielded it like a weapon." The father suggests his dead son sexually harassed the alleged shooter, Brandon McInery, and at least one teacher expresses sympathy for the alleged gunman. She calls Lawrence ... a bully. "We failed Brandon," the teacher says. "We didn't know the bullying was coming from the other side—Larry was pushing as hard as he could, because he liked the attention."
Young, Gay and Murdered [Newsweek]