Patty Hails still shudders when she remembers the bashing.
It was Jun 29, 2003. She and her friends were climbing out of a cab by the 7-Eleven on the corner of Davie and Hornby Sts at about 2:15 am, returning from an evening at Club 23. It was just another night-until they saw the man in the middle of the intersection.
He was yelling something about the 2010 Olympics, Hails told me a few days later. He seemed drunk. He wasn’t hurting anybody.
Then the red car pulled up. There were two young men inside. They yelled “fucking faggot” at the man in the street and sped off. Hails and her friend Lori Neuen dashed into the intersection to try to coax the man back to the sidewalk. They didn’t get very far.
The red car roared back up and this time the men jumped out.
Still yelling about “fucking faggots,” the men backed up, got a running start, then launched themselves at the man in the street and started pummelling him.
The lesbians didn’t hesitate. Neuen and Hails-who is barely taller than I am-threw themselves between the two big bashers and their intended prey.
“I was just trying to defend this guy,” Hails later said. “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I just walked away.”
When the bashers finally fled-leaving everyone battered but alive-Hails and Neuen still didn’t walk away. They stayed to demand that the responding police officers take their statements and treat the incident like a gaybashing. Despite the lesbians’ repeated attempts to follow up, police never did catch the bashers.
You may remember this incident. You later picked Hails and Neuen as your Community Heroes of the Year at Xtra West’s 2003 Community Achievement Awards.
I still think about their intervention. And not just because Hails has since become one of my closest friends. I think about that night because I’d like to think that I’d be that brave if I saw a brother getting bashed in the street.
I’d like to think I’d have the courage to be a Community Hero.
Of course, there are many ways to be heroic, to contribute to our community’s continued growth, strength and well-being.
Ed Lee won the title last year when his determination to build Vancouver’s AIDS Memorial finally paid off, after eight years of persistently dodging red tape and a host of other obstacles.
Shawn Peters won the title in 2002 for taking it upon himself to build community and bring resources to the queer youth of Prince George.
Peters started the northern community’s first Youthquest and hosted its first queer youth dance on $30 from his own pocket. Then he challenged the local school board and city council to confront the homophobia in their midst, demanding gay-friendlier schools from one and a Pride Day proclamation from the other. He was only 23 at the time.
Whose contributions will you recognize this year?
I know I have a couple of suggestions. Several people have caught my attention in the last year as potential nominees for Youth Activist of the Year, for example. And I can think of at least one play that left me feeling breathless and charged by its exploration of a topic of importance to us all.
But right now, I’m more interested in your nominations. Who is your Community Hero of Year? Which live performance would you like to honour? Whose volunteer work impressed you most? Which Straight Ally would you like to thank and why?
There’s a nomination form on page two of this issue. You can’t miss it. Go fill it out and send it in. Or if it’s easier, just go to our website (www.xtra.ca) and fill it out there. Or look for the nomination forms we’re distributing at queer venues around town and fill one out there.
I don’t care how you do it-just do it! I want to hear your voices and honour your heroes.
For all of us.