OCTOBER 22, 2013 by Eric Himan

“I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.”
– Malala Yousafzai”

I am feeling overwhelmed with emotion right now.

I just finished the book, I AM MALALA, written by Malala Yousafzai about her experiences standing up for girls education at 14 years old in the Swat Valley. After the Taliban targeted and shot her, she recovered and is still speaking out for the free education of everyone in the world. With knowledge, she feels that the world will be a better place. I believe her. Her book is filled with stories of her country, the way of life, the beauty she finds in her religion and Swat Valley. It also discusses how unstable it was to live in Pakistan with the Taliban taking over. Even the government  could not be trusted at times. As she goes to school now in the UK at sixteen years old, she still longs to return to Swat Valley and wonder if she will ever be safe to return there.

Last night, I watched HBO’s documentary, VALENTINE ROAD, about the murder of Larry King, a 15 year old boy who was shot and killed by a fellow student for being too effeminate. This brought tears to my eyes when I saw jurors in the trial for Larry’s killer, Brandon McInerney, feeling sorry for Brandon with no compassion towards Larry. I couldn’t believe my ears hearing these adults discussing how sad it is (for Brandon) to be tried as an adult at such as a young age. What about Larry? Isn’t it sad to die at such a young age by a fellow student? This didn’t have to happen. Both boys had troubled pasts and one is dead while the other sits in jail. The difference is one killed the other and you watch the adults sit around trying to decide what to do with Brandon. Larry’s teacher, whose class was the scene of the crime, was terminated from her position. So many affected by one kid’s choice to bring his father’s gun to school. As Brandon grew angrier as he grew up, Larry felt less angry. Larry felt more comfortable in his skin as his situation changed. He was placed in a home for abused teenagers where he felt safe to express himself. From the film, it appears that Larry was transgendered. He gravitated towards women’s clothes and attire. He even announced he wanted to be called by a women’s name right before his death.

Seeing youth being targeted in these ways just makes me cry. I recall my own childhood growing up feeling scared to come out as gay in the 90’s. Not getting too close to anyone for fear of being attacked for it or judged either. I didn’t want to make myself a target so I policed myself into just being a supporting character in other’s lives. I didn’t make mention of girls or boys and my feelings. I look back at the time as a really sad part of my life. I didn’t feel brave back then.

Larry was attacked for being too effeminate in school while I wonder if Malala was being attacked for appearing too masculine with her voice. Both being told to stay in their “place”, their gender roles. If Larry chose to be frightened by his hecklers and police himself into not appearing effeminate, would that be better? What if Malala decided not to speak up for girls education because she was silenced by fear after seeing young girls get acid thrown in their faces for the same in Afghanistan?

All of us have a voice. We also have the choice to use violence to get that point across. I feel the world is a better place when we use our voices for peace no matter the message. When we use our voice and it threatens a group of people or individual (Brandon in Larry’s case, the Taliban in Malala’s), why must that lead to violence? Why must their lives end? Can’t we live amongst those with different views?

Did Larry’s absence make “the problem” go away? Brandon’s in jail for the next 21 years, a movie has been made and Larry’s story has found a new way to be told all over the world. Did Malala’s attempted assassination silence her? The story of her shooting traveled around the world, she spoke at the UN, and just came out with a book from her own voice. Violence does not solve problems, I think it just ends up creating new ones.

My heart goes out to Larry’s loved ones and to Malala, who is making her voice heard despite criticism in her own homeland. Let this be a lesson so this does not have to repeat itself again.


To watch Valentine Road, check out:

To support Malala in her cause for girls’ education, donate to the: