Friends are mourning the sudden death of 43-year-old Steven Gian who died Oct 9, almost 11 years after he suffered severe head injuries in a gaybashing.
Little Sister’s manager Janine Fuller and Gian’s ex-partners Michael Gray and Joseph Scott all remember the Windsor, Ontario-born native as a caring and compassionate person with a special place in his heart for animals, particularly his two Jack Russell dogs.
“He’s been a fixture around the West End and a regular at the PumpJack,” notes Gray. “When I’ve had to describe to different people who he was, I was like, ‘Oh, you know the guy with the crazy Jack Russells,’ and they immediately knew who he was.”
Fuller last saw Gian hanging out at Melriches. Seeing him there was part of everyone’s day, Fuller says, and not seeing him there now is “a real hard thing.”
“I do think that the violence that happened in his life was one of the most difficult paths he ever had to be part of,” she says. “Being beaten and then going through those kinds of injuries, they’re really hard to come back from.”
Gray and Scott say Gian spent the last 11 years dealing with the fallout from the injuries he sustained from the beating that occurred in the English Bay area on Nov 26, 1998.
“He was beaten up on my birthday,” Scott recalls. “What I remember is that there were people that were walking by and saw his body lying down by the water. He was basically left for dead, and I never got from him whether he had any recollection of it.
“It was startling for me to see the effects of brain injury on someone’s personality — the overnight change,” Scott continues, noting Gian’s “absolute inability to concentrate.”
In its Dec 10, 1998 issue, Xtra West quotes Sgt Rick McKenna of the provincial hate crimes unit saying Gian took “some pretty hard shots.”
A week after the assault, Gian’s right eye “was swollen shut and the left side of his face and fore-head were littered with stitches,” McKenna told Xtra West at the time.
It’s safe to assume the assault was a hate crime motivated by homophobia, McKenna said.
Gian still had all his money on him when the paramedics found him. The attack was the third serious hate crime reported in the West End that fall.
No charges were ever laid in the case, a source of ongoing frustration to Gian, Gray notes.
Another source of frustration, adds Gray, was Gian’s feeling that he would never fully recover from his injuries, particularly when he began having seizures.
Scott says what needs to be determined is the sequence of events leading to Gian’s death — whether he suffered a seizure, fell, hit his head and sustained a new head injury followed by cardiac arrest.
The Vancouver Metro Coroners office confirms that Gian died Oct 9 but won’t release cause of death or any further information as the case is still under “active investigation.”
Perhaps Scott’s most vivid memory of Gian is his response to seeing a woman drop her soda on a cinema floor.
“Steven excused himself and he came back and tiptoed up to her and handed her a new pop and then came back and sat beside me,” Scott recalls. “He said, ‘Ooh, I could smell it was Orange Crush,’ and I thought, ‘Wow, there’s a guy that’s really paying attention.’
Scott says that was the first time he thought, ‘I really like this guy and the world really deserves him.’”