On Sunday afternoon, while I was immersing myself in rainbows at New York’s Gay Pride Parade, eighteen-year-old Mary Christine Chapa was lying in a hospital bed after a gunshot wound to the head. Her girlfriend of five months, nineteen-year-old Mollie Judith Olgin, was dead. The two girls had been found in the grass of Violet Andrews Park in Portland, Texas, near Corpus Christi, on Saturday morning after being shot at midnight on Friday night. The irony is bitter.
While it’s still not yet clear if the girls were the victims of a hate crime, officials are investigating whether the two girls were targeted for their sexuality. There should be a more eloquent way of phrasing this, but in the absence of one, I just have to ask: what is going wrong in our country? If something as innocuous and delicious as an Oreo can become the target of outrage and a boycott after the company released a rainbow-colored pride advertisement, or if two girls can die for falling in love, it seems we’ve got bigger issues on our hands than debates over who should be allowed to marry.
Of course, neither of these recent incidents should come as a surprise: JC Penney just received backlash for a Fathers’ Day advertisement that showed two gay dads. It seems, though, that the tensions between the LGBT community and its supporters and those who oppose homosexuality are increasing. When one side advances by painting the filling of an Oreo rainbow-colored or openly acknowledging a homosexual relationship, it triggers a backlash from the opposing side. This backlash, rather than silencing LGBT supporters, in fact motivates more openness and a more active fight for equality (as it should). And so it will continue to build, until it reaches… I don’t know.
I don’t know how these tensions in our country will climax. I’m scared that this shooting will drive other gay couples underground, but I’m equally scared to think how many more Mollies will become martyrs in the fight for equality just because someone felt threatened by her walking around a park with her girlfriend. If our country’s track record with respect to race is anything to go on, the future doesn’t look too bright: decades passed between the beginning of the Civil Rights movement and the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
Our country is making strides toward LGBT equality, but legal changes and cultural changes will both be necessary. Interestingly, the shooting of Mollie and Mary provides some evidence that attitudes towards homosexuality are changing: the girls’ friends said that the couple was never treated anything but positively, even in their small town in Texas. Our generation’s minds are changing, and all we can do is hope that adults catch on.