AARP Pride Information and Resources for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender People, Families and Allies - AARP
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Roanoke's WDBJ-7 reported yesterday that the married couple suspected in the beating death of 80-year-old Harold Markham were apprehended in South Carolina on Friday. Justin and Meghan Musser who were tenants in Markham's home are facing one count each on the charge of murder when they are returned to Roanoke for arraignment.
Markham was a retired barber who made extra money giving haircuts in his Dale Ave. home. He was also an employee of Video World, an adult video store on Williamson Road. What none of the local news services has mentioned, however, is that Harold Markham was gay. Initial reports do not suggest that his brutal murder was a hate crime. My sources tell me that the Mussers are known crystal meth users and that this crime was most likely drug related.
The Roanoke Times story on Friday did mention where Mr. Markham worked, perhaps because of the hint of salaciousness it brought to the story. But leaving out the fact that Harold Markham was gay is demeaning to the memory of a man who was part of Roanoke's LGBT community for 80 years. I'll give the Roanoke Times the benefit of the doubt and say that perhaps they just didn't dig deep enough to find out more about Markham's life. I prefer to believe that the reporter wasn't a homophobe, just lazy.
Harold Markham was one of the last remnants of the pre-Stonewall generation. He was someone who grew up at a time when there were no Pride Parades, no LGBT Marches on Washington and no way for LGBT people to live their lives openly. All of this has been completely ignored by all of our local media.
The plight of gay seniors in a culture that prizes youth and beauty has also been ignored, not just by the media, but by us. Markham was an uncomfortable reminder to the LGBT community that, God willing, we will all grow old and we will do so without the Social Security survivor benefits that heterosexual widows and widowers are entitled to. If we are fortunate enough to be able to afford a senior living community or retirement facility, we may be forced back into the closet, because very few of these places are queer-friendly, nor are they prepared to care for geriatrics living with HIV/AIDS or even recognize our relationships.
Harold Markham also reminds us of a side of our community that we are embarrassed to admit exists, the Bookstore Culture. Everyone from the dog catcher to the corporate executive visits the the adult bookstores for a quickie now and then, but no one wants to admit it. To those people Harold Markham was just the guy behind the counter, but he was also a human being and deserves to be remembered with dignity and respect.
It is difficult enough to get Roanoke's mainstream media to cover our stories. Most of them don't even bother to cover Pride any more. So it's up to us to tell our own stories, to seek them out and listen to them. The most important lesson we can draw from this tragedy is, "There, but for the grace of God, go I."