In the wake of last weekend's massacre at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida, it is important to remember that the shooter set out to kill individuals who identify as LGBT. Violent hate crimes against LGBT people around the world are far from rare. In fact, a new analysis of data gathered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation by the New York Times confirms what many LGBT activists have been saying for years: people in their community are targets of violent hate crimes more often than any other minority.
According to FBI data, LGBT people are twice as likely to be the targets of a violent hate crime as African-Americans, and since 2005 the rate of these attacks has outstripped hate crimes specifically targeting Jews, who were previously the largest targeted group, Haeyoun Park and Iaryna Mykhyalyshyn report for the New York Times.
“Of 5,462 ‘single-bias incidents’ (hate-crime incidents with one motivation) in the FBI’s 2014 hate crime statistics database, 1,115, about a fifth, were motivated by bias against a [perceived] sexual orientation or gender identity,” Ella Koeze writes for FiveThirtyNine. “Of those incidents, 54 percent targeted gay men specifically.”
Even these numbers don't tell the full picture: hate crime data is extremely difficult to collect as it relies completely on self-reporting and a large number of hate crimes are never officially classified as such by authorities. Even the definition of a hate crime can vary from state-to-state, making reporting and recording these incidents even more difficult, Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center tells Gwen Ifill for PBS Newshour.
“It can happen in private with no notice at all," says Potok. "So it’s not the kind of crime that is carried out in order to send a message to thousands of people, as terrorist crimes are, or to change the way an entire community acts.”
In the days since the massacre, many in the LGBT community have watched as politicians have argued over whether the shooting, which killed 49 people and injured 53, was a hate crime or if it was terrorism. Just as there is a long history of violent hate crimes against LGBT people, there is a long history of their community being ignored and disrespected by authorities and law enforcement. On Wednesday, FBI officials called the massacre both—an act of terrorism and a hate crime, ABC News reports.
As the country continues to mourn, process and reflect on this tragedy, the Times' analysis highlights the importance of remembering that the largest mass shooting in U.S. history—which is also being considered the most significant dommestic terrorist act since September 11, 2001—was directed at people who are the primary targets of hate crimes in the country.