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Hate Crimes Against LGBT People Are Sadly Common

The massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando on Sunday was the worst mass shooting in American history and the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11. Through another lens, however, it was not an outlier. The gunman’s choice of target, a gay club, makes him just one of many to commit hate crimes against gay Americans. Although the magnitude and violence of the attack was unusual, the targeting of LGBT Americans is sadly common.

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BIAS AGAINST … NO. OF INCIDENTS
Race Overall 2,568
Blacks or African-Americans 1,621
Whites 593
Asians 140
American Indians or Alaska Natives 130
Multiple races, group 81
Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islander 3
Sexual orientation and gender identity Overall 1,115
Gay men 599
Lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons, group 241
Lesbians 129
Transgender persons 58
Gender non-conforming persons 40
Bisexuals 30
Heterosexuals 18
Religion Overall 1,014
Jewish people 609
Muslims 154
Other religions 107
Catholics 64
Multiple religions, group 44
Protestants 25
Atheists/agnostics/etc. 11
Ethnicity, disability and gender 765
Total 5,462
‘Single-bias’ hate crime incidents by motivation, 2014

Source: FBI

Of 5,462 “single-bias incidents” (hate-crime incidents with one motivation) in the FBI’s 2014 hate crime statistics database, 1,115, about a fifth, were motivated by bias against a sexual orientation or gender identity.1 (This count is almost certainly much lower than the actual number of hate crimes. Data on hate crimes is notoriously difficult to collect, as it relies heavily on self-reporting and many hate crimes are never categorized as such.) Of those incidents, 54 percent targeted gay men specifically. Only two groups were the targets of more hate crimes than gay men: black and Jewish people. (Obviously, all these groups aren’t mutually exclusive.)

Taking into account the relatively small size of the LGBT population, these numbers are even starker. According to an analysis by the Southern Poverty Law Center using FBI hate crime data and population estimates, LGBT Americans are targeted in hate crimes at 8.3 times the rate you’d expect based on the size of their population; that’s higher than the rate for both Jews (at 3.5) and black people (at 3.2).

The Orlando attack was a little more unusual in its choice of location. Nightclubs are relatively rare as locations for hate crimes against LGBT people.

LOCATION SHARE
Residence/home 32.2%
Highway/road/alley/street/sidewalk 23.0
School/university 7.6
Parking/drop lot/garage 5.8
Restaurant 2.2
Bar/nightclub 2.1
Park/playground 1.6
Air/bus/train terminal 1.3
Jail/prison/penitentiary/corrections facility 1.3
Government/public building 1.2
Other 21.7
Hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity by location, 2014

Of 1,115 hate crimes classified by location

Source: FBI

However, the shooter’s choice of location may have been all the more insidious for that. A gay-friendly bar or club is supposed to be a safe place. Even before Sunday’s shooting, nightclubs were slightly more dangerous for LGBT people than for other groups; only 1.6 percent of all hate crimes in 2014 occurred in bars and nightclubs, compared with the 2.1 percent of those that targeted people for their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The motivations of the killer may become clearer as investigators learn more. Nevertheless, in his choice to target gay people, he wasn’t alone.

Footnotes

  1. Eighteen of those incidents were targeting heterosexuals.

Ella Koeze is a visual journalist for FiveThirtyEight.

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