Boston vigil in memory of Lawrence King

by Ethan Jacobs

Bay Windows

Sunday March 9, 2008

LGBT youth and allies will gather at the Community Church of Boston March 12 to mourn the death of Lawrence King, a 15-year-old gay middle-school student from Oxnard, California, who was gunned down in his classroom last month. Police believe the murder was an anti-gay hate crime.

The two organizations planning the vigil, the Boston Alliance of GLBT Youth (BAGLY) and the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) of Boston, are encouraging youth to attend and to use the event to talk about their reactions to the murder.

"We're hoping to invite young folks to speak about their own experiences, particularly the members of BAGLY and Boston GLASS and Boston Youth Organizing Project," said Jessica Flaherty, BAGLY's program director. Boston GLASS (Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services) is a community center for LGBT youth, and the Boston Youth Organizing Project is a youth-led organization committed to creating positive social change in the city.

Flaherty said organizers also hope to have a representative from the Massachusetts Commission on GLBT Youth speak at the event. Flaherty herself is a member of the commission.

Since King's murder Flaherty said the youth at BAGLY have been talking about the incident and connecting it to the issues they and their peers have faced locally around feeling unsafe at school. Flaherty said the BAGLY youth have been particularly struck by media accounts that King did not conform to male gender norms, wearing make-up and jewelry to school.

"I think that in general what people are feeling like is that this is discrimination that needs to be talked about not only on the basis of sexual orientation but particularly around gender expression, and what's resonating with folks is that Lawrence, it was reported that he was beginning to cross-dress and express his gender differently, and that's the part that's really resonating with folks, that one of the ways we begin to experience discrimination at the hands of straight people is through our gender expression," said Flaherty.

The Boston vigil is one of several being held in cities across the country. The national GLSEN organization has created a website, www.rememberinglawrence.org, to list the various vigils.

The vigil for Lawrence King will be held March 12 from 7-8 p.m. at the Community Church of Boston, 565 Boylston Street. For more information contact BAGLY at 617.227.4313.

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