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In Memoriam

Remembering Larry King

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Today I remember Larry King, who was killed six years ago.

On February 12, 2008, in Oxnard, California, 14-year old Brandon McInerney brought a gun to E.O. Green Junior High School, stood up in the middle of class and shot 15 year-old Larry King twice in the back of the head.

Lawrence King, murdered Feb 12, 2008.

Lawrence King, murdered Feb 12, 2008.

A few days later Larry was taken off of life support.

Like so many other LGBT youth of color, Larry* spent his life navigating violent and unsupportive foster care and educational institutions.

At the time of his death, Larry was homeless and living in an emergency shelter at Casa Pacifica. There, for the first time he found support and, according to his friends, became more confident. For the last two weeks of his life, Larry came to school wearing make-up, high-heeled boots and jewelry.

A few days before Brandon shot Larry, Larry had asked Brandon to be his valentine. Brandon, who is white and grew up surrounded by family violence, was so uncomfortable with Larry’s gesture that he killed him. But if we focus on Brandon, we lose sight of the multitude of systems and institutions that led to Larry’s death.

In Valentine Road, director Marta Cunningham, tells the story of Larry’s death and Brandon’s trial in this more complex picture of systemic violence. Perhaps most striking in her depiction are the remarks of Larry’s former teachers and the jurors in Brandon’s trial, which resulted in a mistrial.

In one particularly chilling scene, three jurors reflect on the case and their concern for Brandon. “Where are the civil rights of the one being taunted by another person that is cross-dressing?” one juror said.

Echoing this sentiment, one of Larry’s teachers, Shirley Brown, expresses sympathy for Brandon in the film and says if put in a similar position she would also take violent action towards Larry.

“I don’t know if I would have taken a gun, but a good swift kick in the butt might work really well,” Brown said while reflecting on King’s death.

So many people with power in Larry’s life, on some level, facilitated his tragic murder. Their actions and the larger context in which Larry lived and died might be best understood through the lens of Ruthie Gilmore‘s definition of racism: “the state-sanctioned and/or legal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerabilities to premature death, in distinct yet densely interconnected political geographies.”

If we understand racism, homophobia and transphobia beyond the Brandon McInernays, George Zimmermans, and Michael Dunns, we have a better chance of reforming and transforming the systems that caused the deaths of Larry King, Trayvon Martin, and Jordan Davis.

As a gender non-conforming person of color, Larry was especially vulnerable, as Gilmore explains, to premature death. Last month, the Williams Institute issued a report finding that 41 percent of transgender respondents of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey had attempted suicide at some point in their lives as compared with 4.6 percent of the overall population.

Meanwhile, transgender women of color are 49 times more likely than their white cisgender counterparts to be living with HIV.

At school, transgender and gender non-conforming youth report critical levels of violence. In a 2011 national survey of almost 2000 transgender and gender non-conforming people, 76 percent reported verbal abuse, 35 percent reported physical abuse, and 11 percent reported sexual abuse in school. So while Brandon pulled the trigger and killed Larry, this larger set of conditions made it so much harder for Larry to survive.

Six years after Larry’s death, there is still so much work to be done. And some of that work is as simple as loving one another.

As Laverne Cox poignantly reminded us at Creating Change a few weeks ago, in our world with so much targeted violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people, particularly transgender women of color, loving transgender people is a revolutionary act.

We remember you, Larry. You were so loveable.

*At the time of his death, Larry used male pronouns so I use male pronouns when referring to him. But I also want to acknowledge that we can’t know what gender pronouns Larry would prefer if he were alive today.

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34 more reader comments:

  1. So sad

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 8:32pm
  2. Hard to believe it has been a year already.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 8:35pm
  3. Very sad, I hope the guy who killed him is serving some type of sentence for this crime. Nobody deserves to be killed for being who they really are. :(

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 8:35pm
  4. Thoughts go out to the family

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 8:36pm
  5. Was a wonderful documentary.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 8:37pm
  6. I highly recommend the documentary Valentine Road, which tells this story of Larry,

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 8:37pm
  7. Rest in peace little lamb. :)

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 8:42pm
  8. If Larry had been a girl and said “Be my Valentine”, and Brandon had been gay, would these people still condone Brandon’s actions? I think he would have been dealt with harshly.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 8:43pm
  9. I am getting sick of GUNS in the hands of kids. GUNS KILL, no matter where.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 8:46pm
  10. Hailey Childress Brook Carrell

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 8:51pm
  11. what the literal fuck.

    Replied on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 8:53pm
  12. idek

    Replied on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 8:54pm
  13. Wasn’t saying no to the invitation enough? Since when is it ok to kill someone because you don’t want to date them? I just don’t understand why some people feel this is ok. The teacher condoning it makes me sick. If they were straight or born opposite genders then murder would not be an appropriate action so why is it if one person is gay or transgender? It just baffles me.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 8:57pm
  14. I remember when this happened, so heartbreaking..

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 9:03pm
  15. Unfortunetely we have seen this over and over again. Society and the system failed Larry King long before Brandon killed him.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 9:04pm
  16. Sad.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 9:04pm
  17. I remember this :-( very sad

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 9:07pm
  18. Rest in love❤️

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 9:10pm
  19. …way too young to die!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 9:12pm
  20. RIP Larry his story touched my heart like no other be4 my heart hurts 4 this baby

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 9:24pm
  21. This kid had the bravery to be an icon of generations, and the world has been robbed of his presence. I hope that this documentary inspires all who view it.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 9:37pm
  22. A simple no thank you would have done the job….

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 9:47pm
  23. I forgot about this case. Another young life ended too soon.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 9:59pm
  24. Brandon McInerney was sentenced to 21 years in 2011.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:00pm
  25. If anyone has an address and/or phone number for Shirley Brown I would love to see it posted. It would be interesting to see how she reacts to hate directed toward her. What a foul excuse for a human being let alone a teacher.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:00pm
  26. Fucking tragic…he deserved better

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:04pm
  27. This truly sad and he did not deserve to be killed for being who he was no one does and teachers are suppose to teach their students not judge them for who they are and I think some teachers show favoritism over other students and violence does not belong in schools and they need to be more accepting of all their students no matter who they are

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:04pm
  28. If someone you don’t like asks you out, a simple “no”would suffice. Pure ignorance to say he deserved any sort of violent treatment. What a terrible teacher. I hope they fired her. I also hope that kid rots in prison for his actions. Despicable.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:07pm
  29. Is this a child or the talk show host u need to specify

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:09pm
  30. That poor dear ;( if I was his age i would of gladly been his valentine…rest in peace Larry you’re safe up in the lords realm now where you are loved.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:17pm
  31. I believe, just as these victims became “fair game” to the ignorant, misguided FUCKS, that these perpetrators, if not prosecuted to the full extent of the law (which these victims were not afforded . . . really, let’s be honest) should be made fair game to the “law abiding” public-at-large!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:25pm
  32. I think the segment that puzzles and disturbs me the most: “In one particularly chilling scene, three jurors reflect on the case and their concern for Brandon. “Where are the civil rights of the one being taunted by another person that is cross-dressing?” one juror said.

    Echoing this sentiment, one of Larry’s teachers, Shirley Brown, expresses sympathy for Brandon in the film and says if put in a similar position she would also take violent action towards Larry.

    “I don’t know if I would have taken a gun, but a good swift kick in the butt might work really well,” Brown said while reflecting on King’s death.” –3 seemingly simple comments that speak so many levels of ignorance, heartlessness…that I guess I will never fathom.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:31pm
  33. Tragic.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:32pm
  34. Bad Parenting!!!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:38pm