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When homophobia comes knocking

Couple says neighbours want to drive them out of Montreal suburb

Last month a former big city homo turned suburbanite felt the impact of homophobia in his new neighbourhood — literally.

Davyn Ryall, a resident of Vieux Longueuil, Quebec — a south-shore suburb of Montreal — says he was punched in the face by a stranger shouting antigay slurs.

Ryall says he was home alone on the afternoon of Jan 16 when he answered a knock at the front door. He opened it up to find a man he describes as approximately 25 years old, six-foot-two and 175 pounds. He says the man told him he had accidentally hit a car in the building’s parking lot. As Ryall was trying to determine whose car had been hit he says the assailant sucker-punched him in the face, knocking him into his hallway and onto his back. He then called Ryall a “pédé,” French slang akin to “faggot.”

“He didn’t just punch and run. He stayed to say what he wanted to say,” says Ryall. “He clearly wanted to send a message.”

The man then ran down the street and into a car that was waiting for him nearby. The incident left Ryall with a bloody nose and multiple abrasions.

When police and an ambulance showed up on the scene, Ryall says they were reluctant to photograph his injuries.

“Covered in blood, I had to insist they take pictures of me before we left my residence, which [an ambulance driver] eventually and reluctantly did,” Ryall stated in an open letter after the incident.

He adds the officers did not seem interested in the antigay aspect of the incident; the incident hasn’t been classified as a hate crime. No suspect has been identified.

A spokesperson with the Longueuil police says there’s no evidence indicating the attack was the result of homophobia. He declined to comment further on the grounds that the investigation is ongoing.

The incident comes after months of what Ryall describes as a conspiracy to drive he and his partner out of the neighbourhood.

Ryall, 50, and his partner Ricky Smith, 33, moved out of Montreal’s gay village and into a quiet residential neighborhood in Vieux Longueuil in December 2005. Ryall, who works as the artistic director for Montreal’s queer theatre festival, says he and his partner stand out from the rest of their neighbours for three reasons: they keep to themselves on a tight-knit block where everyone knows everyone else, they are Anglophone and they are gay.

The couple is currently facing eviction from their triplex apartment for excessive noise.

“But we were clearly targeted because we are gay,” says Ryall. “It has nothing to do with our 30-pound puppy and everything to do with the 265-pound faggot who lives upstairs.”

In his open letter, Ryall says he had been warned about homophobia in the neighbourhood.

“We were even told by the police that there were nicer areas ‘for people like us’ to live other than where we have chosen to live. Does that mean we should pack up and move, giving in to these self-styled moralistic homophobes? I think not. I didn’t spend the past 30 of my 50 years out of the closet just to be pushed back in.”

Ryall says he’s disappointed by the lack of local response. “Just because we now have the right to marry doesn’t mean that we can believe that we are any more accepted than we were a few years ago.”