Valentine Road is an important documentary of an incident that should never have happened and which could have been prevented, and which raises the question of who was right and who was wrong.
Lawrence “Larry” King wasn’t like other 15-year-old boys. Larry was already out of the closet. He also dressed in a very feminine way, at times even wearing make-up and high heels – bold and unusual behaviour for someone so young. He appeared so comfortable in who he was that one day he approached fellow classmate Brandon McInerney and asked him to be his Valentine. The next day Brandon shot Larry point blank in the back of the head while in computer class at E.O. Green Junior High, in Oxnard, California. Two days later Larry died in the hospital from his gunshot wounds.
The school had allowed Larry to dress the way he wanted to, and one of his teachers even gave him a strapless, green chiffon gown. And while Larry found himself being bullied time and time again, he didn’t care. Yet being bold enough to ask Brandon to be his Valentine shows he had no clue of the consequence of his actions.
Marta Cunningham’s documentary raises a lot of questions. Should the school have stopped Larry from dressing the way he did? After all, how many other schools would allow a 15-year-old boy to do that? However, because of a Californian anti-gender discrimination law the school could not legally prevent King from dressing the way he wanted.
And was Larry sexually harassing Brandon by shoving his homosexuality in his face? Larry was bold enough to tease other guys in the school hallways by making sexually suggestive remarks to them, even in the locker room.
Larry’s death made national news in America and was compared to the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard. After the first trial ended in a mistrial, McInerney eventually pleaded guilty to second degree murder and will spend 21 years locked up.
Larry King is buried in a cemetery in Oxnard, near to a road called Valentine Road. His friends at school planted a tree in the school yard in his honour. However, school officials refused their request to put a plaque under the tree with Larry King’s name.