Toronto
2 min

Respond to hate – with art

Bashed queers push the issue into het bars

WHICH WITCH? Alon Freeman plays with the blurring of glamour and gore.

A gaybashing in the ultra-het entertainment district has led a group of gay men to respond with chalk outlines on sidewalks and other street-level art activism.



“I decorated pepper spray canisters with rhinestones and sparkles and kind of made them a little more Libarace-esque,” says Alex McClelland, who – along with friend Alon Freeman – was bashed Jun 7 near King and Augusta.



“If I had pepper spray at that point I would have been so happy to spray it in the mother-fucker’s face who was beating me up.”



McClelland also did another piece called Prada T-shirt.



He took the ripped shirt he was wearing during the attack and

plastered the date and time of the incident on its front.



Both works were included in Free To Bash Back, an exhibit at Who’s Emma, the anarchist book store in Kensington Market (at 69 1/2 Nassau), put on by Will Munro (McClelland’s boyfriend).



“There were too many incidents going on,” says Munro, who noticed an increased number of attacks among his friends.



He saw the show as a way of dealing with the frustration of the bashings, while spurring discussion among the urban and suburban youth who hang at the punk-friendly bookstore.



Freeman took to the lens to express himself.



“I did a piece that was a set of Polaroids that were kind of like staged Polaroids of bruises and bloody pulpy lips and bruised eyes.”



“I guess I wanted to straddle the line between staged and them being realistic looking. The eyes are kind of bruised and made up.”



The collection of photos is called Yeew And Yur Make-up.



Says Freeman: “When it happened I was wearing some eye liner and glitter and stuff and the guy who assaulted me actually said to me: ‘You and your glitter’ or something like that before he hit me in the face.



“It kind of left me with this image of him going home with make-up on his fist.”



The photos are set up so that it’s hard to tell where blood and bruises end and the make-up begins.



“I guess it was a way of digesting the act and manifesting the experience in the glamorous protective skin that acknowledged the act and warns against it.”



He used one of the images for a sticker that friends posted around the city.



Munro also took it to the streets. He drew chalk outlines with McClelland and a friend and added details of the attack – including the fact that people stood by while the assault took place and did nothing.



And he put together posters with info on the bashing and posted them in the popular hetero nightclub zone, centred along Adelaide.



“At the bottom it said: ‘This message brought to you by Queers Bashing Back.'”



The posters – which, coincidentally, went up at the same time another group used bashing back slogans after an assault in the gay ghetto – garnered attention.



People have told Munro they wanted to join the organization. So far, it doesn’t exist.



But Munro says: “If enough people come together, there is the possibility.”