4 min

Black, blue and green

No help when I need it

Credit: Xtra West files

Sometimes you look back on something that happened and wonder all kinds of ways when you should have seen it coming. My sweetheart and I had hatched a pleasant plan: go to Moderne Burger for one salmon platter add mushrooms, and one beef hold the tomato, and split the fries. Then it was off to Granville St to catch the matinee of Fahrenheit 911.

On the ride across the bridge I felt an absence in my pockets: empty where it should have been hard, room in my pants where there usually isn’t. Tragically, I had forgotten my cell phone in the diner. We were already almost late for the movie, so we couldn’t turn around.

While my girlfriend stood in line to buy tickets, I crossed the street to use a payphone and call the restaurant to ask them to keep my phone for me, and that I would come around later to retrieve it.

All three payphones were occupied: the first by a couple of tourists and a calling card and a weary piece of paper with an almost unreadable phone number on it. They were trying by trial and error to call home, and it looked like they were going to be a while.

The middle phone was being used by a loud-talking gum-chewing woman wearing uber-tight jeans and a fake leather jacket with faker leather fringe. She was going on at length to a guy named Dennis about that fucking bitch Rachel and what had Dennis told Rachel about her and Ricky anyway, because Rachel was freaking and how Dennis should know better than to tell her anything and besides, what had Rachel said to Dennis about her, and so forth.

Apparently, Dennis couldn’t get a word in edgewise, and neither would I for quite some time, so I focussed on the guy using the third phone. He was wearing combat pants and a super-clean white T-shirt, and he looked to me like the kind of a guy who could make a succinct phone call, just pass on a message and be on his way. The movie was going to start in two minutes. Combat Pants was definitely the guy to watch.

I was right. He dialled, spoke briefly and hung up. Then he did the same thing again with a different number. Then again. When he pulled a wad of change out of his pocket and slapped it on the shelf below the phone, I glanced at my watch and stepped up beside him.

“Sorry to bother you, but do you think I could jump on the phone for just one minute and make a quick call? I left something in a restaurant and I’m late for the movie.”

The woman in the fake leather fringe spoke before Combat Pants could answer me.

“Why don’t you back off and wait your fucking turn, dyke?”

This is where I would like to tell you that the man in the combat pants said, sure, go ahead and we both just ignored the woman in the tight jeans. But that is not what happened at all.

Combat Pants dialled his phone again, and I told the woman that I hadn’t been speaking to her, and that it is not okay to talk to people like that. That didn’t go over so well. She spit in my mouth and punched me in the head five times.

This where I would like to recount how the crowd of 50 or so folks milling around the theatre or bus stop sprang immediately to my aid, horrified to witness violence in broad daylight in a very public place.

I would like to tell you about the kind, elderly gentleman who lent me his handkerchief to wipe her saliva off my lips and collar. But that not what happened at all.

What actually happened was: nothing. The tourists kept trying to call home, Combat Pants continued with his phone tree, and the crowd pretended they hadn’t been witness to anything. The woman hung up on Dennis and started to walk away.

In retrospect, I guess I should have done the same. But someone who had just assaulted someone was about to disappear into the crowd, and someone had to do something. I followed her and told her to stop, that she had assaulted me, and as soon as I could get near a payphone, I was going to call the cops. She kept walking. I reached out and grabbed the sleeve of her coat, and she whirled around and jumped me, punching me repeatedly in the face, until I got my arms up to protect myself.

I thought about grabbing her hands to stop her, and, I must admit, I felt like punching her right back. But, given my look, I knew that at least some of the crowd thought they were witnessing a woman punching a man, and that if I were to be seen by any of them as fighting back or hurting her, that I could be jumped by some guy who thought he was doing the right thing, and seriously pummelled. So I just held my hands in front of my face.

She stopped punching me, called me a fucking dyke again, threatened to really kick my ass if I tried to stop her, and disappeared into the throng of people on Robson. Again, the crowd did nothing.

My girlfriend had heard the commotion from across the street, but was blocked from crossing Granville by two busses, one from each direction. She and a guy I know from the film industry came running up. It was all over.

One of the first things I said to her once we got in the car was to ask her to not tell any of our friends what had happened. I wanted to just forget about it. I felt hurt, and angry, and ashamed. She said she didn’t think silence was very healthy. She was right.

So here it is. I was gay-bashed on Fri Jul 10 on Granville St at 4:10 pm. No one who actually witnessed the assault did anything to help me, or stop her. I think they thought I was a man. I am physically fine; the bruises on my forearms have turned purple, then blue, then green and disappeared. The swelling under my eye was gone by the next day; the cut inside my lip was healed by the end of the weekend. I don’t have anything witty, or deep or uplifting to wrap this up with. I guess I could have avoided the situation by not asking the man to let me make one quick phone call, and I could have side-stepped further violence by walking away from her after she spit in my mouth and punched me the first time. But that is not what happened.

I see on the news that gay marriage is a bigger deal than the war in Iraq when it comes to voting for America’s next president, and I know that this will inevitably result in more hatred aimed at queers between now and their election. I am doing the only thing I know how to do to protect us.

I am refusing to be silent.