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A Hate Crime Victim Recants

The gay blogosphere has been on fire with the latest developments in the Dwan Prince case. In 2005, Prince was assaulted by Steven Pomie in a hate crime that left him unconscious and partially paralyzed. Pomie was originally sentenced to 25 years in prison, but the conviction was overturned by an appellate court that decided he should be tried on second-degree assault and second-degree assault as a hate crime. He has been incarcerated since the first trial, and the retrial is set to begin on September 1.


Yet even that is in doubt after Prince wrote Pomie a letter in which he blames himself for the attack, wants him to serve only five years in prison, and expresses a desire to be friends after his release.  The New York paper Gay City News published excerpts on their website.


Some of the more shocking statements in the letter are “I have made some big mistakes in my life and that was the stupidiest and biggest one of all,” referring to the flirting that led to the beating, and “hopefully when you get out we can hang out.”


People who stay in abusive relationships and victims of child abuse and rape are often made to feel responsible for what happened to them.  But I have never heard a victim of a hate crime ask forgiveness from their attacker, until now.


There is a psychological term called Stockholm Syndrome that is used to describe hostages who proclaim their loyalty to their captor, regardless of how harrowing the experience is.  The case of Patty Hearst, the millionaire who was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974 but eventually participated in crimes planned by the SLA is perhaps the highest profile example of Stockholm Syndrome in America.  I believe something similar happened to Prince, because while he was not kidnapped, his attacker stole his life and identity from him.   


Considering that Prince was present at the first trial, what could cause this change of heart? Look no further than Prince’s statement that “I am looking for a female who I can marry and have my sperm washed and have children… With me going to church, I feel myself that I must try to live by the Bible, I must try to live by God’s law.”


It seems that Prince has enrolled in an ex-gay program that tries to “cure” homosexuality. Despite a recent announcement from the American Psychological Association that reparative therapy does not work, groups like Exodus International continue to prey on LGBTs who are struggling to accept themselves.


From where I sit, Prince is in need of professional help, but not the kind Exodus serves.


I’ve always wondered what makes people try to change their orientation after they’ve recognized they are gay. A strict religious background is usually a factor, but I also wonder if these individuals were unable to find their place in the gay community once they came out. The “community” can be viciously superficial, placing a heavy emphasis on looks, money, and sexual ability. Those who are don’t meet the media-dictated standard of “hot” can be made to feel unwanted.  I believe some people stay in the closet  because they don’t feel they have a place to come out to.


Actor Doug Spearman, most famous for the series Noah’s Arc, touched on the issue of community divisions in his essay for the HRC’s Equality Forward blog.  Speaking specifically about racism, Spearman claimed that racism in the gay community is worse now than during the 1980s, a sentiment shared by many older LGBTs.  Some people feel the growth of specialized events like  Lesbian Pride, Latino Pride, Black Pride, Asian Pride, bear festivals, and others is the result of people not feeling welcomed into the general LGBT community, which they perceive as catering to white gay men with a certain appearance.  


What are your thoughts? Have you found the gay “community” to be as accepting as you expected?  Are the various sub-sets of the LGBT world merely a case of people wanting to socialize among “their own,” or is a kind of social Darwinism to blame? I am curious as to your experiences have been.


From “Blackout” for 8/17/09 by Anthony Rucker


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