As I wrote a month ago in “Trans-fer,” I think for some it’s an easy step from fear and hate of non-conforming others to eradication.

This past week, a middle-school kid, Lawrence King, was shot to death in Oxnard, California. Apparently gender-variant, he had been coming to school in high heels and makeup. Some of the boys at the school said it was starting to freak them out.

So he was eradicated.

Whether he was gay or transgendered doesn’t really matter. In an excellent op-ed piece in Salon.com a couple of months ago, Susan Stryker pointed out that violence against someone who’s “queer” is almost always going to be about how they act and dress, not what they do in the bedroom, and thus this violence is always about gender norms, not about sexuality.

It’s about conformity and how frightened, small-minded people strike out at those who do not conform. It’s also about those of us who are tolerant of difference–opinion, sex, politics, gender expression, sexual orientation, race, religion–and how we need to make it clear that a pluralistic society will not stand for this sort of intolerance, not just through lip service but through personal action. This personal action extends beyond lobbying for laws or expressing disapproval at intolerant people; I think we also have a responsibility to recognize the hate and fear in ourselves, to acknowledge that we are all racist and homophobic and xenophobic to a certain degree, and through that acknowledgment to vow to work on our own tolerance and understanding.