Yes, the passage of this legislation is a step in the right direction, creating an assurance that people who commit hate crimes can be prosecuted fully under federal law. But this legislation is not preventative; it is responsive, occurring only once the crime has been committed. The legislation will be a deterrent for some perpetrators, but I can’t really imagine someone who is capable of committing a hate crime to be thinking about the consequences. People must come to know about the legislation, about what hate crimes are, and what they can do about them.
Education is needed for everyone to try to reduce the occurrence of all hate crimes. General education about hate crimes and their prevention will help all involved. Awareness is the key to prevention. We need to have a revolution within society to find acceptance, and it is slowly happening. But until acceptance and understanding can come about, it is necessary to educate yourself and those around you of these dangers. HRC offers a list of anti-violence programs and resources broken down by state (http://www.hrc.org/issues/hate_crimes/4885.htm).
But this post started about what parents can do. It is very important to stay mindful of what is going on in the community and to be active. Trying to educate those around you is a little step toward acceptance, and a reduction in hate. Be there for your children. This is who we are. It is what we accept every morning when we wake up, but it is just another day, just another moment of accepting ourselves and how society perceives us. We get scared too, but we can’t let that overcome us. Be open with us. Talk to us about how you feel in a loving way. We will do the same for you.
It is important, though, to understand that we won’t have the same experiences. We can listen and tell you how we deal with the realities of our lives, but there are resources for LGBT parents to communicate with each other about these issues and others. It is important to talk to people with the same experiences and to learn how they handle it. The biggest organization for parents of LGBT people in the US is Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) with chapters in every state. You can find support pages and chapters at their website, pflag.com. The Safe Schools Coalition also offer resources for parents, geared more towards what parents of LGBT youth can do about bullying. Both are great organizations.
Dealing with the potential of violence and harm can be hard. Being a part of a community which understands this hard reality can help, so I hope these resources are useful. If anyone else knows of resources I didn't mention, feel free to post them below.
“Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.” HRC. 28 June 2010. Web. 2
February 2011. <http://www.hrc.org>.