Vancouver
3 min

Call 911

We have got to report gaybashings

Imagine my surprise when I logged onto xtra.ca from Montreal to find a man had been gaybashed on Davie St just for holding hands with another man.

Let me tell you, the surprise was minimal.

Gaybashings in our village don’t surprise me. They happen all too often, whether we want to admit it, or report it, or not.

This summer alone, I got several calls about attacks involving people who didn’t want to come forward. One caller told me about a gay man whose face was shattered by a group of attackers who apparently objected to his faggy demeanour. Last I heard he was in the hospital waiting for the parts required to rebuild his face.

Repugnant? Yeah, more than I can even say.

I can’t imagine how I would feel lying in a hospital bed, surrounded by tubes, waiting for doctors to repair my face because some asshole’s rage collided with my sexuality.

I don’t blame the man for not wanting to publicly share in his moment of likely despair.

I do, however, salute Jordan Smith for having the sheer guts and determination to come forward, broken jaw and all, to say no.

I hope to meet him someday, to tell him how much I respect him and appreciate his willingness to reach out to us in his moment of pain, particularly since I gather he didn’t feel overly connected to the gay community prior to being attacked.

And I hope that we, in turn, live up to his trust and seize this opportunity to stand together and demand change.

Oct 12’s rally was an excellent start.

“My heart broke a little when I heard the news,” Joan-E tells the crowd that has gathered at the site of Smith’s gaybashing, having walked together up Davie St hand in hand.

When Joan-E first arrived in our gay village 20 years ago, she says she felt “free at last.” Now that feeling has faded.

Now she takes a cab the few blocks from Celebrities to the Odyssey when she’s in drag. And the two times she didn’t, she got harassed.

But she didn’t report either incident to the police.

“So this is a call,” she tells the crowd. The Vancouver Police Department tells us we’re not reporting when we get bashed, she says. That has to change. We need to program 911 into our cell phones and call whenever any one of us gets attacked.

“Nobody here is alone. We’re all among friends in this community,” Joan-E says. “Together we stand; divided they pick us off one by one.”

I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s time we tried trusting the Vancouver Police Department. Chief Jim Chu spoke at the rally and promised to take our safety seriously and be there when we call.

So let’s call.

If the police respond poorly we can hold them accountable then. But first we have got to call. We have got to report it when we’re gaybashed.

We’ve got to publicly record the violence against us so we can get a real sense of how prevalent the problem is —and get the resources we need to unravel it from its roots.

As I stand at the corner of Davie surrounded by my community, I think back to the last time we marched through the village in the wake of a brutal gaybashing.

“Why are we still here, seven years later?” Aaron Webster’s cousin Denise Norman asks the crowd. “Why is this still happening?”

Why indeed. Why are some people still driven to rage by the mere expression of our healthy sexuality? Why do they still feel entitled to act on that rage? And why are they still getting away with it?

Clearly, calling the police is just the first step. We also need to watch Crown counsel to make sure they get over their reticence to recognize gaybashings when our cases come to court.

And if the Crown fails to seek a hate crime designation in Smith’s case and skirts the question of homophobic hatred as a possible motivating factor?

Then we’ll be back in the streets, promises rally co-organizer Jim Deva. Then you’ll see the full force of our community’s anger unleashed.

In the meantime, says Joan-E to thunderous applause, “We are not victims. We are witnesses for the prosecution.”