Andrew Christie winces as he laughs and touches his jaw, which was fractured in an alleged gaybashing on Commercial Drive Oct 9.
Several teeth were broken and his larynx was ruptured when he was attacked by three men.
They came out of nowhere, Christie says, as he, his brother and a friend were on their way to go bowling, having had a few drinks at a local pub.
“There were three guys walking towards us,” the slight, soft-spoken butcher and award-winning chef tells Xtra. “One of them said, ‘Hey, you look like a fag.’ I said, ‘Yes, so what?’ I just agreed.”
He says the men said nothing but one suddenly attacked him.
“Nothing, just punched me in the face,” the 33-year-old says. “I lost consciousness. He just straight up knocked me out.”
When Christie came to, he saw his brother, Matt, fighting off one of the other men.
Another man, standing beside Christie, hit him in the jaw as he regained consciousness. “It’s pretty hazy,” Christie says.
“It could have been a lot worse,” he adds, noting he didn’t sustain a concussion from the attack.
Christie, who still sports a bruise on his face, says his 29-year-old brother got hit in the head. “He’s got a good scrape on the chin. Apart from that, he’s all right.”
Christie says the next thing he remembers is being at his brother’s home, where he was told he should go to hospital.
Christie says he spent two days at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH), where he was tested, X-rayed and saw an ear-nose-and-throat specialist, a plastic surgeon, a radiologist, a dentist and social workers.
He now has a dental splint in his mouth but says, “We’re trying to avoid surgery as much as we can.”
It was while he was at VGH that Christie spoke with two male police officers. “They were great,” he says. “They told me they take these things very seriously.”
Vancouver Police Department (VPD) spokesperson Constable Brian Montague confirms an incident was reported as having occurred near the 4th Avenue and Commercial Drive intersection. “It was reported to the VPD on Oct 11,” Montague says. “The file is still open and the investigation is ongoing. There have been no arrests.”
Montague confirms that “derogatory terms” were used in the incident. “I’m pretty sure that language was used by the three men,” he says.
The VPD diversity unit is aware of the incident, Montague adds.
On Oct 21, VPD officers cordoned off 5th Avenue at Commercial Drive, not far from where Christie was attacked, after two men were found shot early in the day. Sergeant Randy Fincham says police don’t believe the incidents are related.
Fincham says Christie’s incident was initially reported to police not as a gaybashing but as an assault. He says police only began to look at it as a potential bashing after Xtra inquired.
But Christie says he told the officers at the hospital the circumstances of his assault. “I told them everything that had been said to me,” he says.
But, he adds, he can’t describe his attackers because it happened so fast and he’d had a few drinks; neither can his brother. “My brother got hit in the head a couple of times. I was unconscious,” he says. “My friend, she didn’t get involved. If you showed her pictures, she could probably identify them.”
Since the attack, Christie says, he feels “jumpy” on the street. He says he feels “less safe, more wary, less trusting of people.”
“I do feel more comfortable when I am with a bunch of people,” he says. “I’m quite a bit more aware of my surroundings.”
But, Christie says, he wants to move forward in the wake of the attack. He wants to raise community awareness and help other people who have been gaybashed deal with the aftermath of such assaults.
He’d like to see a community forum take place that includes politicians, people who have been bashed, and other community members to discuss ways to prevent gaybashing and to help make the community safer by being proactive.
He would also like to help the municipal Crime Victims Assistance Program find dedicated funding for people who have been gaybashed. He says he’s willing to do fundraising work, suggesting an event called Andy’s Gay Bash.
“There’s productive things that can come out of this,” he says.
Christie says he wasn’t bullied in school but acknowledges it is an issue that needs addressing. “I think the issue is the institution,” he says. “We need to be able to create a culture in our schools and communities where it is unacceptable to act out in violent ways. You need to build accepting, open communities and cultures.”
He says teaching youngsters about diversity in schools would be a good start. But, he adds, it’s something that needs to go to the core of education.