Does Gay-Bashing Suspect Kathryn Knott Deserve Your Sympathy?

Yes, says longtime national LGBT magazine The Advocate.

I have spent most of my time over the last couple of weeks reporting on the alleged Center City gay-bashing that occurred on September 11th. Most recently, that attention has been dedicated toward the misdoings of gay-bashing suspect Kathryn Knott. Those stories have made it all the way to the U.K. and onto Friday night’s episode of Inside Edition.

A lot of people hate Kathryn Knott. In fact, national gay magazine The Advocate has gone so far as to label her “the most hated woman in America” and the “modern-day Anita Bryant” in a new op-ed that appeared on Friday. But in the same piece, writer Neal Broverman, Advocate columnist and editor-in-chief of Out Traveler, argues that we should have sympathy for Knott. And it’s a perspective worth sharing.

Here is his commentary in full, reprinted with permission:

Op-ed: Finding Sympathy for the Most Hated Woman in America

Three people were arrested this week for attacking a male couple in Philadelphia, but it’s the lone female suspect being burned at the stake.

Nazi. Bitch. Scum. Kathryn Knott is all of those, according to non-anonymous Facebook commenters, reacting to the 24-year-old’s alleged involvement in the bashing of a gay couple in Philadelphia that sent one of the victims to the hospital and left him with 24 stitches in his face. Knott wasn’t alone in the beating; there were two men arrested, like her, for their participation, and they were part of a larger mob of as many as 15 people. But you almost wouldn’t know that from the media, especially the gay blogosphere, which is focusing its gaze on this modern-day Anita Bryant.

Knott certainly has all the credentials needed for her new position as most hated woman in gay America — her title until Michele Bachmann verbally vomits again — with her vile Twitter account. She expresses awful sentiments not worth repeating, but take my word that they’re vulgar, xenophobic, racist, and, yes, homophobic. It’s also her relationship to her father, a police chief in Bucks County, Pa., that feeds the scorn. On that same dreadful Twitter feed, Knott brags how her powerful daddy punishes her enemies and treats her like the princess of her suburban kingdom. She comes off entitled, privileged, and none too bright (speaking of less-than-smart moves, the emergency room tech was just fired after tweeting out patients’ private medical history).

All of that is enough to make her an anti-star on Towleroad and JoeMyGod, but there’s more at play. The unspoken feeling that Knott has betrayed us, gay men, is evident. Her actions feel more egregious than those of her two hateful, privileged male friends, since most of us expect that, if we’re heckled or bashed, it will be by straight men (or men who pretend to be straight), not women. For the most part, women didn’t push us into lockers. They didn’t tie Matthew Shepard to a fence. Women may not always be gay men’s allies, but they’re rarely our enemies. It’s sexist to think that women are nurturing, not nihilistic, but we still do tend to believe that. Unfairly or not, she’s being held to a higher standard.

Knott’s repellent behavior stings because women are supposed to know what it’s like to be oppressed. Women typically face an uphill battle in a misogynistic world that demands clearly defined gender roles. She comes off like a traitor, siding with the patriarchal society that says gay men are disgusting and deserving of violence. Most gay men love the women in our lives; how dare she not love us back?

This is a reminder that people in other oppressed groups (in this case, women) who hate other social minorities (gay men) don’t necessarily comprehend or care that we’re all fighting similar battles — or that we’re even in one. Knott’s actions and messages make it clear that she doesn’t understand the deficits she faces as a woman. Even if she is pretty, young, blond, and the daughter of a police chief, those assets and connections may have helped her in the past, but they’re doing her no favors now. There’s nothing the public likes more than to bring a perceived spoiled brat — someone seemingly handed everything her whole life — down to earth. Seeing the mighty fall is a blood sport enjoyed by everyone, regardless of orientation.

But back to that cop dad. While his daughter loses her job, her reputation, and, perhaps, her freedom, Karl Knott gets off mostly scot-free. Let’s remember that hate is learned, not inherited. It’s pretty clear that Kathryn Knott was raised to think she’s better than people who speak Spanish, have dark skin, or fall in love with someone of the same sex. If Karl Knott raises a bigot for a daughter, what are the policies he enforces in Chalfont Borough, Pa.? Karl Knott is the kind of person who makes you realize why so many minorities have no faith in the police to protect and serve fairly.

When Kathryn Knott’s Twitter feed was discovered to still be live (face-palm), I had the urge to send her a message. I would never call her the names others have, but I wanted her to understand that the way she’s going through life, as evidenced in her feed, is wrong. Before I could articulate a missive, I stopped and realized how dumb and hubris-filled it was to think that this 24-year-old was going to do a 180, and suddenly devote herself to LGBT equality, subscribe to Ms., or volunteer at the ACLU simply because I told her to. Knott is probably too far gone at this point, and if not, too angry, scared, and confused to think clearly. But I do hope she can grow from this and understand why the world is so livid with her. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still fuming at her actions and entitlement. But she’s a victim too; of bad parenting, segregation, misinformation, and misogyny. After this public lashing, maybe that will finally sink in.