Candlelight vigil for Matthew Shepard, 1998

Confession of a Gay Basher Haunted By His Crimes

“I Am A Gay Basher”, a harrowing story about a brutal gay bashing, showed up on Reddit over the weekend. It’s a rough read and not for the faint of heart. An anoymous user calling himself GuiltyGayBasher wrote a graphic 3,300 word account of a brutal gay bashing that he perpetrated twenty years ago.

FBI 2014 Hate Crime Statistics
2014 Hate Crime Statistics
(via FBI)

The guy describes his 17-year old self as easily led, a stoner jock with good grades and bad friends. Avoiding specifics, he says he lived in a somewhat rural part of a red state, one where gay kids were seen as less than human. “They weren’t people,” he says, “and this was pretty much universally accepted.”

When a nerdy new sophomore shows up at school, the other kids immediately target him for being skinny and quiet. Worse, when they call him a faggot he doesn’t deny it.

“It was the nature of the beast that you gave shit to lessers at school,” the guy writes, emphasizing that the gradually escalating attacks were very coordinated. “In no way were we ‘just having fun’ with him.”

The situation came to a head when the kid decided to fight back against an alpha bully, an athlete who also happened to be everyone’s weed hookup. That’s when things got really bad. The bully and two friends, including GuiltyGayBasher, trailed the kid home from the mall, nearly driving him off the road in a pickup truck. Then they took him to an industrial park and beat the shit out of him, ruining the kid’s bike and then kicking and punching him until they weren’t sure he’d be able to stand up. Then they left him there.

The guy describes the scene in great detail, with years of memories filling in gaps that he couldn’t possibly remember first-hand. The slapping, the hair pulling, the spitting, the name-calling. The groin kicks. They took the sophomore’s money, even though they didn’t need it, so that when he got home he could blame the attack on robbers.

“I remember thinking that it must be like a soldier who is in combat the first time,” the Reddit writer remembers thinking on the ride home, after they abandoned their prey. “It was exhilarating. We laughed.”

What happened next? The guy went to church the next morning, because it was Sunday and that’s what you did. The kid never went back to school, ever, and over time they all forgot he had ever been there in the first place. The friends split up and the writer moved on, admittedly becoming more open-minded in college.

It wasn’t until nearly two decades later, when he had a son of his own, that the guy began thinking about the attack. With his own marriage breaking up, the memories of that heartless assault began haunting him. “One night I sat in my home office and I had the clear realization that I was an utter piece of shit… I bawled. I just collapsed. I admitted to myself the fact that I had done something so inhumane to someone who didn’t deserve a bit of it.”

He clearly can’t let it go, although he’s not asking fellow Reddit users for absolution. “I imagine his terror, his pain, his humiliation, his sadness. I go to sleep with him in my mind. I look at my hand and see his blood on it. I see his gory face. I hear his shrieks.”

The worst part isn’t the guilt that he did it. It’s the guilt that he never felt bad about it. “I’m not religious anymore,” he says, “but I sometimes think there should be a Hell for someone like me.”

Though that was twenty years ago, gay bashings still happen with alarming frequency. According to FBI statistics, about 18 percent of reported hate crimes were committed against LGBT people in 2014. That’s down slightly from the previous year, and the overall number of hate crimes reported was also down, although it should be noted that hate crime statistics aren’t reliably reported. (The state of Mississippi, for instance, only reported one hate crime for the entire year.) According to the FBI, school campuses are the third most common site for hate crimes.

(featured image: candlelight vigil for Matthew Shepard, 1998, via Elvert Barnes)