When I saw that two lesbian teenagers had been found in a Portland, Texas park, both shot in the head, my stomach sank and my brain went immediately to an empty field in Laramie, Wyoming 14 years ago. Yes, I thought of Matthew Shepard. How could I not?
Like Shepard, Mollie Judith Olgin, 19, and Mary Christine Chapa, 18, were young. Homosexual. Brutalized. Left to die. And yet, as the Internet jumps to the conclusion that the fatal shooting of Olgin and the serious injuries sustained by Chapa are the result of a hate crime, I can't help wondering if we're missing the real story.
The why matters here, sure. If these girls were indeed attacked because of their sexuality, it marks yet another sad sign that society has a long way to go until people are all treated as people. If police determine the shooting of these lesbian teenagers is a hate crime -- as yet they haven't given any motive, so again, I say "if" -- this case could be added to a list a mile long of reasons why laws should exist outlawing discrimination in every state of the nation, not just a few.
But that's just half of the story, isn't it? Let's talk about the who here for a moment.
Two young women were shot. One is dead at just 19 years old. The other is in serious condition in a hospital at just 18 years old. They were kids! Shot! In the head!
These girls, these women really, have families and friends who love them. Olgin's family now has a lifetime of grief ahead of them, Chapa's a long battle that hopefully will lead to recovery but will still be tinged by trauma.
To people in their small Texas community, these teenagers are more than representatives of a cause. They are people. Let's not forget that.
What do you think happened in that park?
Image via CarbonNYC/Flickr