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2 min

Yeah run, you faggot!

How safe is Ottawa?

Dan Ziemkiewicz is an out gay man, a member of the Ottawa Wolves rugby club, an up-and-coming photographer and not ashamed of flaunting his sexuality.

But on Saturday, July 30, his blasé attitude nearly led to a gaybashing.

Ziemkiewicz, his boyfriend, Guillaume Coudé-Levesque, and three friends were leaving the Lookout Bar in Byward Market when Ziemkiewicz spotted a cute guy standing on the curb near the Chateau Lafayette on York St.

As Ziemkiewicz passed the guy, he said, “I’m not angry at that.” When the guy said, “Fuck you,” Ziemkiewicz retorted, “Maybe later — I’m busy right now.”

Ziemkiewicz kept walking, and then heard the words, “Hey faggot.”

“I turned around to see that guy I had made the comment to take a swing at me,” Ziemkiewicz says. “When
I stepped back, my glasses fell off. When I stooped to pick them up, I noticed three other guys behind him.”

When Ziemkiewicz first contacted Xtra about the incident, via email, he wrote, “When I realized his buddies were there with him to pound the shit out of me, well, I jogged to the Mercury Lounge, which I know is a place that would not tolerate that kind of behaviour, to seek refuge.”

As Ziemkiewicz and his friends made their way to the bar, he says, the guys behind kept yelling, “Yeah run, you faggot.”

As they stood outside the Mercury Lounge the guys walked past, calling out “There’s that fag,” before turning around to face Ziemkiewicz.

“There were four of them staring me down in that almost-ready-to-charge bull-like way,” he says.

Ziemkiewicz says that Sara Ainslie, the owner and manager of Mercury Lounge, came down to the door and suggested they go upstairs.

“Our mandate, and I am sure that it is the same at Lookout, is to keep people safe. We want to provide a safe environment,” Ainslie says.

Ziemkiewicz admits that it was 2am and that they had all been drinking, but he says it’s not the first time he has commented on a cute guy.

“I am not a really political guy. I don’t go to many things. But I think by being who I am… to me, [that] is my activism. Maybe it’s putting myself in danger, I guess, but at the same time, it’s that direct-marketing approach,” he says.

Ziemkiewicz is irked that he didn’t stand up for himself — instead of fighting, he ran.

“I feel like here I am trying to make a statement, but by my actions, when it comes to it, I kind of folded,” he says.
“I don’t know how to explain it, but I felt really defeated, like I did exactly what they were expecting to happen. I’m giving the community a bad face. I’m 250 pounds. Even if I get hit a couple of times — so what?”

Ziemkiewicz says that before the incident he and Coudé-Levesque were making out on the Lookout Bar balcony, overlooking the market. They felt comfortable and at ease, but what happened after has shaken his idea of how safe
Ottawa really is.

“I just want people to be aware that this does happen in Ottawa. Regardless of how I feel, maybe this will get people talking about their experiences,” he says. “It is 2011, it is Ottawa and it is Pride. It’s a big city, and that is where people come from smaller towns to escape the dangers of living a gay life — but guess what? It’s not [always safe].”