Vancouver
3 min

Big black boots

What part of me stoked his rage?

I noticed his big black boots before I fully registered his swagger.

He was walking towards me on Clark, heading north to my south. He moved to intercept my path.

He was tall, taller than me anyway. Hair shaved to a buzz cut. Leather jacket.

Later, someone would tell me the jacket was full of swastikas. I didn’t see them in the dark.

I just saw this man coming towards me, exuding menace in a way I could sense if not name.

I moved over, to my left, to give him space to pass. I never actually expected violence.

I mean, how many times have I sensed a threat — an objection to my being, to my sexuality, to my gender expression, to my something — without violence actually ensuing? Too many times to count.

This time the threat materialized.

I was so shocked when he hit me. I know better than anybody that gaybashings occur frequently, but I was still shocked. Violence is shocking.

With a primal scream he hit me full in the face. I’ll never know if it was a closed fist or an open palm. It happened so fast and so unexpectedly and I had averted my eyes as we passed to avoid antagonizing him. I suspect it was an open palm because a fist would have likely done more damage, though he did hit me with sufficient force to send my glasses flying down the sidewalk and leave a bruise above my left eye that took a week to fade.

I ran. I ran like I run the bases in softball, sprinting, not looking back. He couldn’t have caught me had he tried.

I couldn’t have decked him had I tried.

I wanted to. In that moment of violence, before it fully registered, I began to turn towards him, to ask him what the fuck he thought he was doing. But even as I turned towards him another part of my brain suddenly understood the danger I was in and realized it was time to run. So I did.

I made it safely to my friend’s house and called the police.

Later I wished I had somehow asked the man in the black boots why he hit me. Was it a gaybashing? I have a rainbow pin on my jacket but it’s small and it was dark out and in the dark I didn’t notice the swastikas reportedly covering his jacket.

I didn’t even think I looked particularly gay that night, though my friends assure me I always do. But that night I needed a haircut and my unruly hair was insufficiently gelled and I was wearing my big red backpack because it’s large enough to accommodate the Batman suit I was planning to change into for Halloween.

I would have thought I looked more like a 13-year-old boy preparing to trick or treat than an adult dyke.

I just want to know what part of me he objected to. What stoked his rage. Why he hated me on sight.

The police didn’t catch him so I guess I’ll never know. But they tried and the officer who took my statement the next day heard everything I said and flagged it as a possible gaybashing.

He even said that had a similar assault happened on Davie St he’d have no doubt it was a gaybashing. I agreed with him completely and told him how pleased I was to hear him say that.

If Const Tom Stamatakis is any indication, the Vancouver Police Department is starting to hear our community.

And if Daniel Porte is any indication, at least one Crown counsel is listening too.

I was stunned to hear that Porte sought a hate crime designation in the hammer guy’s case (see page 7). The attack took place on Pride weekend, in a gay space and the accused made blatantly homophobic pronouncements when he was arrested at the scene. The context of the attack must be considered, Porte said.

Porte just got my vote for Crown counsel of the year. Let’s hope his colleagues follow his lead and that we won’t have to wait another six years for the Crown to seek a hate crime designation in a gaybashing case.

Because I am not about to take the rainbow pin off my jacket.