Why do they hate us so much?

Silhouette of man's head in front of computer monitor light at night
(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Some good things happened to me this week. It almost gave me time to breathe and reflect and feel hopeful. Almost. But being queer or trans in America right now means always being on guard, never knowing what terrible or terrorizing or even deadly thing might happen to you just for who you are. There’s precious little time — or luxury — to breathe.

The annual NLGJA conference — The Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists — was held this past weekend in Philadelphia. I was honored to be awarded the top journalism prize: The Sarah Pettit Memorial Award for the LGBTQ+ Journalist of the Year.

It’s been a good year — an exciting year — of awards for me. I also won the 2023 Inaugural Curve Award for Excellence in Lesbian Coverage and a first place award from the National Newspaper Association for my series on the MPX outbreak.

This recognition of my reporting is gratifying, but it’s more than that: it signals the impact of the work that I do to both my own community and to the larger journalistic community. It also highlights how critical it is that we have veteran reporters like myself in the trenches writing the stories of our queer and trans lives and telling them through the lens of personal experience and historical memory.

In my acceptance speech, I spoke about the value of the LGBTQ+ press, especially now. I said, “Receiving this award this year for my journalism in the midst of what HRC’s Kelley Robinson has rightly called a state of emergency has deep resonance. I report several LGBTQ news stories each week for various outlets and also write an opinion column. Stories like my recent coverage of the hate crime murder of Philly dancer O’Shae Sibley, the enactment of the death penalty in Uganda’s anti-gay/lesbian law, Italy’s stripping lesbian mothers’ names from their children’s birth certificates and the relentless GOP assaults on queer and trans people, which has become a weekly beat and national threat to us all.”

That last is the kicker. If there is one single thing that motivates me, it’s that: the assault on our community and the posturing by Republican elects claiming the sole rights to family and community while standing firmly on the necks of LGBTQ+ people as oppressively as possible and seeking, as some on the far right have said they want — to silence and even eradicate us.

Writing nearly every day about the hatred of LGBTQ+ people at home and abroad takes a toll. It’s a trauma beat — everything I write about and report on is painful and scary and hits close to home. It has deep personal resonance even as I stand outside these stories and tell them with the detachment demanded of reporting without editorializing.

So when I was the only journalist in the U.S. reporting weekly and biweekly on the wrongful detention of Brittney Griner last year, it felt personal. She was a lesbian, like me. She was married, like me. When I pressed the U.S. State Department every week for quotes, for news, for whatever they would tell me on or off the record, I was reporting that story through the prism of a lifetime of discrimination as a lesbian: I had some small inkling what it meant for Brittney Griner to be held as a political prisoner and the enforced silence demanded by that status and I feared for her safety and her life.

LGBTQ+ people throughout the world are at risk, under threat, devoid of full citizenship even in countries like ours, let alone dictatorships like Russia, China and Uganda. But the upwelling of hatred toward us as the 2024 election cycle heats up is as stark as it is ominous. The messages I receive in emails, texts and tweets daily are shocking for their viciousness, cruelty and violence. This sampling is just a handful from Sept. 13:

People who don’t get these messages from total strangers don’t understand the toll they take. There is a cumulative impact of all that viciousness and hate being directed at you that starts to wear away at you mentally, physically and emotionally. Some call these “microaggressions,” but are they really “micro” when they breed so many more haters? 

One of those people was incensed that I blocked her after her fourth assaultive tweet — the one attacking my dead wife. She posted a screenshot of me having blocked her with “the bitch blocked me.”

Yes, I did. Why would I want to engage with someone who hates me without even knowing me?

One man — not quoted here — was angry that I didn’t answer his demands about why I was a “pedo supporter” and “child mutilator” in a tweet he ended “asking respectfully.” 

Some say just get off social media. Others say ignore the trolls. But journalists need social media to promote our work and to engage with the people who appreciate that work. But we can’t pretend that it’s not often a highly toxic environment nor that the MAGAization of America hasn’t put people like me with 152,000 Twitter/X followers and a daily engagement of about 15 million impressions in a different set of crosshairs.

I ended my short speech to NLGJA saying, “In the current climate of extremist violence toward us, it has never been more crucial to have out queer and trans journalists telling our stories and knowing what stories need to be told and how. Recognizing the risk that comes with that reportage now, which includes harassment, threats and even violence, is vital.”

The fact is, you never know when the person who said you belong in GITMO for your crimes or the person who sent me an email saying I should be “raped to death” might decide to do more than just talk, like the man who shot Lauri Carleton in the head for flying a Pride flag at her shop or the teenager who stabbed O’Shae Sibley to death for dancing at a gas station. It’s a dangerous time to be LGBTQ+ in America — Canada just warned its citizens about that last week, as I reported here.

I don’t know the answer to the question “Why do they hate us so much?” just that they do. And that it’s getting worse, not better. So even if I don’t have an answer as to why, I can keep reporting the how — and reminding you of why you must stay vigilant.