A Man Is Serving 40 Years In Prison, But Not For The Hate Crime He Committed

by Zara Barrie

"Life is beautiful! We should all just love who we want to love and stop TALKING about gay rights. It's not like that anymore!"

Someone privately wrote that message to me today following an article I wrote about bi-phobia.

And for a moment — a small, tiny, weak moment — I thought maybe, maybe she's actually right.

Maybe I need to shut the fuck up about all of the gay rights stuff I'm constantly writing about. Because the world isn't like THAT anymore.

At least not in MY country. Not my city. No. No. No.

And right after I got that private message, someone wrote a trolly comment on another article I wrote and accused me of "creating problems".

Did I mention I'm also wildly hungover and raw as hell right now?

I began to feel stupid. I hate feeling stupid, it's my biggest trigger in the world.

Right as I was about to give up on all challenging subjects to tackle because the world seemed too cold and I felt too dumb and out of touch, right as I was about to write about a serene wedding, my friend sent me a link to this article.

Please allow me to ruin your day with this awful hate crime just in case, like me, you temporarily felt like we need to shut up about gay rights since "homophobia doesn't exist anymore".

Back in February, two boys, Anthony Gooden, 21, and Marquez Tolbert, 23, were in a relationship and sleeping soundly when they were woken by scalding-hot water being poured over their sleeping bodies.

"Get out of my house with all that gay," screamed Martin Blackwell, the assailant who also happens to be the boyfriend of Gooden's mother.

Tolbert told WSB-TV he couldn't "stop screaming" the pain was so intense (you can see graphic images of the burns in this article from Huffington Post).

“They was stuck together like two hot dogs,” Blackwell told the police, according to the report. Blackwell also stated the two men were "having sex" when he walked in, however, Tolbert family friend Vickie Gray denied that charge to The Washington Post.

“I poured a little hot water on them and helped them out,” he said. “They'll be all right, it was just a little hot water.”

“We were just burning. My body was just stinging,” Tolbert told Project Q Atlanta. “It was like a really, really severe kind of stinging. I could hardly think straight.”

Tolbert, 21, believes he and Gooden, 23, were attacked because they are gay. In THIS country, in a major city (Atlanta), with a huge queer population.

Yeah, maybe this is why I still need to bore you with my incessant articles about gay rights.

Because gorgeous, innocent boys have third-degree burns on their bodies because some people in the world are full of so much hatred, they would bestow such wicked pain onto a person because of their sexual identity.

Yeah "life is beautiful," isn't it?

“They'll be all right, it was just a little hot water.”

Yeah, they were fine. They were totally all right. They just suffered second and third-degree burns, a five-week hospital stay and emotional scarring that will last the rest of their lives.

And for what reason did they suffer? What purpose? Because of their sexual orientation.

And shit like this happens every day. The world isn't the liberal internet. The world isn't the West Village where I can make out with my girlfriend on the streets without even a second look.

The world isn't like New York City, where the worst thing that's ever happened to me because of my sexuality is creepy looks from horny men who fetishize my gayness.

So, why am I bringing this up now? I mean, it happened months ago, before the Orlando massacre, before I got angry letters from readers who are sick and tired of me bitching about how hard it is to be queer.

Well, this Wednesday, a jury found Blackwell guilty of eight counts of aggravated battery and two counts of aggravated assault.

Blackwell was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Will that remedy the trauma these two poor boys endured? Fuck no. But it sends a message out to the rest of the country.

We take this kind of abuse seriously. And that's important, especially to the closeted kids in rural America who feel unsafe and unprotected from homophobic hate crimes.

Speaking of hate crimes, one charge that Blackwell will not be getting is an actual hate crime charge.

Georgia is one of the 20 states in the US that doesn't include sexual orientation in its hate crime laws, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

However, federal officials are considering hate crime charges against Blackwell, in which sexual orientation and gender identity are both included.

If Georgia doesn't recognize the crime for what is really is, maybe the federal government will.

And the country sending out this kind of message is far more powerful than one lone state.