Vancouver
2 min

Wrestling with Safegay.ca

Filing complaints from inside the closet

Credit: Xtra West files

Queer people have historically spent more time under the boot-heels of the police than in partnership with them.



Police departments are paramilitary groups predicated on a legitimized threat of the use of violent force. Power is their shtick and thankfully they use it most often to ensure our peace, order and good government.



Today, though, hoodlums lurking in the bushes with blunt weapons in search of ‘peeping toms’ are responsible for gaybashings; not police.



In fact, we have a gay liaison officer and sympathetic friends on the police force and at city hall. And we’ve got a well-funded Community Policing Centre in the Davie Village that’s doing great but difficult work by engaging police without merely lamenting our victimization.



If cops would just consistently acknowledge, however, that queer people are regular targets for crime because of their sexuality, it would go a long way to putting the kibosh on gaybashing as a recreational outlet for common thugs.



So when a press release for a fundraiser for safegay.ca crossed my desk a couple of weeks ago, I was torn.



Safegay.ca is a new website, courtesy of our gay liaison officer Const Chris Smith, in cahoots with well-known Vancouver club-land impresario, Vance Campbell.



According to Smith, the site is a safe vehicle for gaybashing victims who want the discretion to anonymously report attacks without actually having to deal directly with random uniformed cops.



Here’s where I’m torn.



Safegay.ca may give some gaybashing victims a more comfortable way to report violent crimes against them. It’s another option for victims, and it’s better than a kick in the teeth.



It will also help ensure those secret cock-sucking enthusiasts who get privately bashed but who publicly have a wife, dog, minivan and family pew will get to keep their alter egos incognito.



And it’s something a VPD officer is doing of his own initiative to acknowledge, however obliquely, that violence against queers is a problem. It is the expression of a reasonably admirable sentiment and it’s not something we’ve had in the past, so it can’t be all bad.



But I don’t think it will do much to build trust or improve relations between queers and random cops. It acknowledges neither the need for comprehensive sensitivity training among police, nor the very real fear among some queer people that they’ll be re-victimized by police simply for reporting a gaybashing.



Smith seems to be running under the assumption that bashing victims sometimes don’t contact the police because they’re ashamed and don’t want to come out.



The reality is bashing victims don’t always contact police because they don’t think they’ll get treated with dignity.



The prevailing attitude among the badge and pistol set seems to me to be that a good way to curtail gaybashing is to allow victims to file complaints from inside the closet.



That attitude is reminiscent of sentiments among homophobes that when a queer gets bashed it’s usually at least partly his own fault. If he weren’t out sucking on another man’s cock, he wouldn’t get smashed in the face in the first place.



That’s not a good way to stop crimes against homos, or at least it’s not the right mindset for stopping gaybashing.



Then there’s the question of who’s going to pay for this new program.



Smith says the money raised at the Mar 24 fundraiser will be used to bankroll the site and that once it proves its value, government funding may become available so we won’t have to pay for it with our donations.



Are we gay folks being asked to dig deep into our own pockets to finance our own protection?



Safegay on its own will not stop random crimes against queer people. Indeed, there is likely no magic bullet that will. But Const Smith’s efforts are an indication that some elements of the VPD, at least at an individual level, are trying to come to a greater understanding of the needs of the entire queer community and that is a positive step.



Just possibly not in the right direction.