As many of you know, I haven’t posted anything new on this blog in the last several months and if I’m being completely honest, I wasn’t planning on posting anything new on this blog for at least the remainder of this calendar year. However over the last several days a few rather atrocious comments have been made in regards to Sophie Lancaster and as a result I have decided to break my silence and shed a little light on this topic.
I know many of you know all about Sophie Lancaster or have at least heard the name, especially if you live in the UK, but For those of you who don’t know about Sophie Lancaster, allow me to explain.
One night eight years ago in Lancshire, United Kingdom Robert Maltby and Sophie Lancaster were walking home. The two had been dating for three years and both were very much immersed in the goth subculture. On the night of August 11th 2007 the couple were passing through the skate park area of Stubbleey Park on their way home, when without warning, Maltby was ambushed by a group of five teenagers. The attack was completely unprovoked. The attack was so brutal that it left Maltby unconscious. The mob then drew its attentiong to Lancaster who was trying to protect her boyfriend from the ruthless attack. Lancaster was then beaten senseless. An eyewitness of the attack told police that the mob was “kicking her (Lancaster) in the head and jumping up and down on her head.” Another witness called emergency services from his/her cell phone stating “we need an ambulance at Bacup park, this mosher has just been banged because he’s a mosher.” Once the attack finally stopped witnesses described how the attackers bragged about what they had done telling their friends they had “done summat (something) good there’s two moshers nearly dead at Bacup park.” A few witnesses tried to tend to Maltby’s and Lancaster’s wounds but there wasn’t a whole lot they could do. Both were beaten into a coma. Maltby later woke from his coma but was sadly left with permanent brain damage. Unforatenly Lancaster didn’t survive her attack. After spending thirteen days in a deep coma here family made the difficult decision to take her off of life support. She was just twenty years old.
As for the five attackers in this tragic case, two were convicted of murder and the other three attackers were convicted of “grievous bodily harm with intent.” You can read more about the attack and trial here.
Following the death of Sophie Lancaster on August 24th 2007, Lancaster’s mother, Sylvia Lancaster, established the Sophie Lancaster Foundation and the S.O.P.H.I.E. or Stomp Out Prejudice, Hatred and Intolerance Everywhere campaign. The foundation became an established charity in 2009 and has three main goals:
- To create a lasting legacy to Sophie
- To provide educational group-works that will challenge the prejudice and intolerance towards people from alternative subcultures.
- To campaign to have the UK Hate Crime legislation extended to include people from alternative subcultures or Lifestyle and dress.
Yesterday marks the 8th anniversary of Sophie Lancaster’s death, a death that should have never of occurred in the first place. A death that occurred because a group of people with hate in their hearts saw a couple that dared to be different. This mob then decided these people must be destroyed and violently and brutally attacked them.
Over the last few days the internet has been reacting to a few despicable comments made in regards to Sophie Lancaster’s death. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, see the image below:
These comments are nothing short of despicable. Fortunately these morons have been publicly shamed for their comments and in a way, I might add, that was actually done civilly. Kristian Dobson was the drummer of the UK metal band Gods of War, a band that has officially broken up because of the backlash of this mans comments. John Mcteggart worked for Napalm Promotions. Since his comments a number of bands have refused to work with this individual and have dropped out of previously booked shows. A number of fans have called for a full boycott of all Napalm shows. The future of this company is in doubt. Needless to say these fools have been dealt a good dose of public shaming and rightfully so. They have both apologized but “too little, too late” seems to be the general consensus. Since they have been so thoroughly shamed and have apologized I will not be addressing their comments. I will however urge everyone to remain civil. Often times in situations like this emotions get the best of people and threats are made. DO NOT. I repeat, DO NOT threaten these people. It will get you nowhere. It will only make a bad situation worse.
Instead of addressing these comments I will be addressing the hurt people feel in regards to the tragic death of Sophie Lancaster and what we can do do prevent future tragedies like this.
I first learned about Sophie Lancaster and the foundation named after her a few years back while thumbing my way through my Facebook feed. As some of you already know, I’m an avid fan of UK thrash metal, in fact I travelled to the UK earlier this year to attend the Full Thrash Assault festival. One of the many bands I follow on social media posted a link to a charity show for the Sophie Lancaster Foundation and like any curious person, I looked up what the foundation was all about. I was expecting to learn that Sophie Lancaster had died of cancer or another horrible disease, but what I found was so much worse and shook me to my very core. As a metalhead I can think of countless times that people have looked at me funny for wearing a band shirt, labelled me a devil worshipper, and criticized me for listening to the music that I love. I can recall one instance when I was fifteen and applying for jobs. I walked into the local Rite Aide and politely asked if they were hiring. I had long hair and I happened to be wearing a Trivium shirt that day. The person looked me up and down replied “no” and then immediately walked away. I couldn’t help but feel slated and judged. I’ve seen that look before. We all have. And for what? Being a metalhead? Dressing differently than others? Not fitting into the mold that society has cast for us? “Fuck you. You don’t know me” I can remember thinking as I walked out.
I know for a fact all of you have a story where someone has judged you unfairly or bullied you because you were different. It’s the reason why Sophie’s story resonates, not just with goth kids and metalheads, but with everyone. The world is a cruel and scary place and often times, that can make it difficult to be who you are or live your life how you want. The constant fear of be bullied and rejected is something that many people, especially young people, know all too well.
It’s a feeling I myself know a lot about. Growing up in a conservative town, I was an outcast. In high school I had long hair and constantly wore Megadeth shirts and to top things off I was (still am, in fact!) gay. If people weren’t giving me shit about the music I liked I was off hiding because I didn’t want anyone to know I was gay. I wasn’t living my life as myself because I was afraid to. That fear lead to a lot of depressing years for me growing up and the lingering effects have followed me into my adult life where I’ve just recently come to terms with my problem with alcohol and acknowledged I should probably go talk to an expert about my long periods of depression.
The fears I had growing up in the closet aren’t a whole lot different from the fear a lot of kids have about totally different things today. “I want to express myself by dressing a certain way, but what if kids make fun of me?” “I like this music, but the kids at school don’t and because of that, they make fun of me.” Those that do live their life authentically or “dare to be different” are often times harassed with out mercy. It doesn’t take a whole lot to go from silly teasing, to bullying, to constant harassment and then eventually to physical violence. It’s a pattern seen time and time again. Just because you don’t hear about it every single day on the news doesn’t mean it isn’t happening every single day. Sadly the threat of physical violence from peers isn’t the only thing people who dare to be different have to face. Often times harassment leads to depression and depression can often lead to suicide. People are cruel and many times victims of bullying feel the only way to escape the cruelty is by ending their own life. Of course there are better ways to deal with these issues than by ending ones life but take it from a guy who has thought about killing himself on more than one occasion: when things are dark you just want there to be light, it doesn’t matter if that light is at the end of a tunnel. Obviously I didn’t kill myself. I’m out and proud and I love life. I just wish the kids that have ended their life because of bullying could have lived long enough to realize just how great life can be.
Now I’m sure there might be a few people reading this that are thinking: “I was bullied and look how I turned out. It builds character. Kids these days need to toughen up!” To which I simply say: fuck you. If you’re one of those people thinking that ask yourself: how did you turn out? You’re an adult so scarred from being bullied that even to this day, as an adult, you’re too afraid to stand up to bullies. You don’t have any character if you don’t think kids being bullied, harassed and physically abused for being who they are is a huge problem that needs to addressed. And don’t you dare be one of those douche bags that says: “Bullies? What about ISIS?” Fuck you too, asshole. Don’t you dare try to distract from one problem by bringing up another. They’re two different issues and they need to be addressed separately.
Fortunately people are starting the open their eyes to these issues, but unfortunately it’s tragedies like the death of Sophie Lancaster that are making them open their eyes. One death is too many and if we don’t act soon, it’s only a matter of time before there is another tragic death like that of Sophie Lancaster’s. That is why I am not only donating the The Sophie Lancaster Foundation, but I’m spreading the message of the S.O.P.H.I.E. campaign. Because no one deserves to be bullied or beaten or killed for being who they are. Whether their goth, punk, metal, gay, trans or whatever else. At the end of the day we’re people, and although we may often falter and make mistakes we all deserve to be respected and loved for who we are.
I leave you with two things. The first is an impassioned speech from actress Ellen Page, a speech that she gave when she came out of the closet last Valentines Day the the first annual HRC Time To Thrive Conference. Although it is a coming out speech, it’s overall theme makes is applicable to this very topic. Stop judging people, stop the hate, and learn to love one another. I urge you to take the 9 minutes out of your life and watch it in the player below.
The second thing I leave you with is a challenge. Now I know a lot of you are angered and upset by a few comments made by a few insensitive people. Rightfully so. When you’re done calling them out, call out a bully. Stand up against injustice. Help make this world a better place for all. I know this can be hard, and I know this can be scary. I have longed stayed quite myself out of fear. But a better tomorrow can only happen if we do something today. You can start by donating to The Sophie Lancaster Foundation and spreading the word of the S.O.P.H.I.E. campaign in any way that you can. The world may be a shitty place now, but if we all ban together, we can make it a better place for our future generations to come.