The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Intersection of Gender and Race/Ethnicity in Sexual Orientation-Motivated Bias Crimes

Saturday, January 19, 2013: 2:30 PM
Executive Center 3A (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Rebecca L. Stotzer, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Hawai`i, Honolulu, HI
Background: Sexual orientation motivated bias crimes (SOMBCs) have been found to be particularly pervasive and damaging to victims and their communities. However, categorizing bias crimes as “sexual orientation-motivated” obscures other intersecting identities, such as race, class, and gender, that may also be related to victim selection. Some theories suggest that racial/ethnic minorities would be frequent targets of SOMBCs because of their multiple minority status, and suspects’ opportunity to oppress multiple groups simultaneously. Other theories have explored how gay culture is primarily perceived as “White,” and thus suspects looking to “fag bash” will most likely seek out predominantly white gay neighborhoods in search of victims. Still other theories suggest that racial/ethnic groups are motivated to “patrol” their own groups most closely – high power group members to guard against endangering their status, and low power group members to punish one another for their lack of power – suggesting that racial/ethnic group members would primarily victimize sexual minorities of the same racial/ethnic group. Given the dearth of information about intersecting identities in SOMBCs, the purpose of this study was to uncover racialized aspects of anti-gay and anti-lesbian crimes by examining the racial/ethnic relationship between suspects and victims.

Methods: Anti-gay/lesbian bias crimes from 2002-2008 (N = 893) collected by the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations from a variety of law enforcement and social service networks was utilized for this study. Data includes demographic information about suspects and victims (age, race, gender), the type of crime (offense, location, etc.) and a basic case description. Prior studies have used descriptives alone, but new methods from criminal justice have advocated for the use of rates, rather than raw counts, to understand interracial/intraracial crimes. This study employed a method developed by Hipp (2007) to account for victims’ and offenders’ probability of interacting (based on percentage in overall population) to create an adjustment factor in calculating rates to determine if there is preferential selection of sexual minority victims based on the race of the race/ethnicity.

Results: Raw counts suggest a pattern consistent with theories that groups patrol their own in-group members more closely than others, as most victims and suspects were racially/ethnically matched in both anti-lesbian and anti-gay crimes. This pattern held when calculating the adjusted rates based on population statistics for anti-lesbian crimes, but revealed that Latino suspects were twice as likely to target Black than white or Latino gay men. However, this pattern was only maintained between Whites, Blacks, and Latinos, while Asian (who make up 13% of the population of LA) were almost completely absent from bias crime incidents.

Implications: Results suggest that SOMBCs have an understudied racial/ethnic dimension that highlights high rates of in-group racial/ethnic victimization, even when taking population racial/ethnic composition into account. These findings suggest that racial tensions may be acted out through SOMBCs, not just crimes marked as race/ethnicity based bias crimes. These findings also highlight how racial/ethnic relationships between suspects and victims need to be examined more closely to better treat, and hopefully prevent, bias crime victimization.