Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Proud Sport of Fag-Bashing

What is the saddest part about this savage gay-bashing on Oxford Street over the weekend?

Is it that it occurred on the street we like to think, perhaps naively, still as our own - a refuge where shit like this does not or should not happen?

Is it because, in the testosterone-fuelled madness of the closeted, microscopically-endowed men-children, they beat up a guy who was actually straight?

Is it because the security guard working the Columbian at the time - last I checked, still a gay, not just gay-friendly venue - allegedly claimed it "wasn't his problem" when asked for assistance from a man whose front teeth had been knocked out?

Is it because "at least two dozen people" allegedly walked past without offering any assistance to the victims?

Is it because in the Surry Hills Police's latest restructure, a full-time Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officer was made redundant, replaced by 5 part-time equivalents - none of whom were apparently rostered on that night?

Actually, they're all quite tragic in their own way.

As long as I've lived in Sydney - nearly 4 years now - I've never really felt 100% safe on the Golden Mile in the wee hours of a Sunday morning, especially at the western/Hyde Park end where there has been a steady increase in straight venues with their aggressive clientele of labotomosied, drag-racing bogans and their horrifically trashy lady friends.

Admittedly, these sorts of attacks are few and far between so I don't mean to sound alarmist - but when you are there, at that time, going into or coming out of Slide (pretty much the only good gay venue in that localised area) there is certainly always the sort of vibe where you feel a punch-up could break out at any moment. For every one vicious and cowardly attack like this, there would be maybe ten occasions of wankers yelling out "fag" or "poofta" as they drive past (reeeeal tough-like). There are maybe twenty dagger glares or comments under the breath. So while the attacks are incremental, the source of resentment always seems to be there, festering in one form or another.

You're meant to develop a thick skin to the abuse, and most of the time you can brush it off. I had some charmers get stuck into me and my partner in Kings' Cross a few weekends ago, and while I was drunk enough to get past it, they were obviously looking for something, and sometimes - sometimes - all you want to do it take the fuckers on and beat the shit out of their ignorant, homophobic arses. But as always, with these sorts of confrontations, it's all fun and games until someone pulls out a switch blade and scores a carotid artery.

Then we had to cop it on a recent retreat to the Blue Mountains - nothing major, just stupid kids on a bike bravely making a comment after riding past us. It seems no matter how far you travel, you'll never quite escape it. But it's sad to see homophobia is still alive and nurtured in successive generations. I honestly thought most people under 25 these days could deal by now. Again, I must be naive.

I'm not going to get too self-righteous about the people who walked past without offering help - I imagine it would be nerve-wracking to reach for the mobile phone when there are 10 men in spitting range who might just as easily turn on you when they see you attempting to call for help. But I'm pretty sure that, while most people walking by didn't want this to happen and hoped it would quickly, there would have been some - maybe even just a couple - who enjoyed the show.

And I wonder at what point of their development did they achieve this state, where they actually derive pleasure out of either bashing a fag or watching it happen? Would those kids on the bikes in the Blue Mountains got a laugh out of it? What about the drive-by verbal abusers? Would they stop the car and get out to cheer?

There still seems to be this unspoken element of pride within traditional constructs of masculinity when it comes to fag-bashing. Something to do with putting us in our place, I guess, like I imagine wife-beaters (literally, not the singlets) feel when they're giving their missus another good slapping.

Of course, alcohol and chronic lack of self-esteem are almost always involved, but the bashing themselves ultimately are manifestations of extremists picking up and running with what they perceive to be "legitimate" homophobia. You can understand why they might think, in their own deluded little brains, that what they're doing is a form of community service. They hear mainstream politicians talk of us as a threat to the family. They read columnists write about how the pendulum has swung "too far" to the other side and needs to be re-balanced. Hell, when your country's government and beloved Fearless Leader are financing gay-bashing thugs, what other message is there to be heeded?

Campaigns like Maxi Shield's, to reclaim Oxford Street, are admirable but ultimately only band-aid solutions. Questions need to be asked about why men, in a developed, supposedly secular nation, still feel it's OK to bash fags. These poisonous attitudes do not exist in isolation. No, I'm not saying John Howard, Tony Abbott or even Fred Nile are personally responsible for what went on Saturday night. But I am saying that while gay-bashers are the cause of the problem, ironically they are also a symptom.

And I for one am getting pretty fucking jack of it.

21 Comments:

At 7/9/06 6:20 pm, Blogger JahTeh said...

Maybe ComicStripHero could answer this better but do lesbians get the same abuse from women as gays get from men?

 
At 7/9/06 6:48 pm, Blogger M-H said...

I'm not ComicStripHero, nor do I play her on TV, but I am a lesbian. I've never been abused by a female stranger. I have been abused by male strangers, often. Maybe I've been lucky. Dunno.

 
At 7/9/06 6:48 pm, Anonymous FKAB said...

I've experienced something similar, only I was the one in the car while my brother (the stupid thug) shouted obscenities at a lesbian couple. I tried to mask my sympathy for the women, but then I just felt like crap for weeks afterwards for not speaking up.

It left me wondering whether it's really worth campaigning for political change when there's still going to be morons like that out there.

 
At 7/9/06 7:57 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Im a gay man and the worst verbal abuse Ive experienced has actually come from women. Im not sure why.

Ive never personally experienced physical abuse. In fact my partner and I have been very lucky - we hold hands almost every time we go out in the ghetto and weve barely had so much as a sideways glance. I suspect its because we are both over 6 feet tall (though we are far from butch or muscly). I think the height is enough to make the homophobes think twice....lets face it they are not usually the bravest of people.

Having said that Ill probably get clobbered this weekend. :o) Chris

 
At 8/9/06 10:05 am, Blogger mindlessmunkey said...

It is depressing to me that we even need a police "Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officer", or that there is a designated "Golden Mile" where people can feel safe.

On several occasions, I have walked through the middle of Melbourne holding-hands or linking-arms with my boyfriend. At first, it would make me nervous, but now I think "Fuck it". I'm not going to wear sequins and dance on a float to show I'm proud of who I am and who I love. And I refuse to be segregated to specified "gay friendly" areas. I am simply going to walk down the street, with the person I love.

For the record, I guess there have been a few odd/intrigued looks, but no-one has ever said anything - abusive or otherwise. Maybe I've just been lucky.

 
At 8/9/06 10:18 am, Blogger Sam said...

Hope not, Chris - don't jinx yourself :-/

I agree MM, it would be nice not to have to feel so segregated - but I think this bashing only serves to show why segregation exists.

And yes, I'm very lucky too that I also haven't - knock on wood - been targeted for my sexuality and physically assaulted. But maybe the victims at the weekend hadn't been either. The fact that there's always a chance it might randomly happen one day is what shits me.

 
At 8/9/06 10:47 am, Anonymous swatschy said...

Gay-bashing isn't the sport it was in the eighties, when several Sydney gay men were actually murdered by teenagers (some of whom are aged in their early 30s and still serving their sentences now). But it does seem, anecdotally at least, to be getting worse.

Is it the demographic change at Oxford Street clubs that's to blaim? Or is it drugs? Irvine Welsh once said gay bashing stopped in the late 80s in the UK because thugs stopped drinking and started taking ecstacy. What do you reckon, Sam?

 
At 8/9/06 11:09 am, Blogger Sam said...

Interesting question swatschy. In the past I've explained to my parents that, as a very broad generalisation, fights are more likely to break out in or around straight venues than gay ones because excessive ecstasy/K as opposed to alcoholic consumption is far more likely to result in us wanting to hug each other to death, rather than bash each other to death.

It would certainly be more difficult for a thug to have the frame of mind to beat someone up when he's peaking. Again though, not sure this is an ideal long-term solution :)

 
At 8/9/06 3:32 pm, Blogger Ghetto Boi said...

I was actually the victim of an attack on a train leaving Central Station in Sydney going to Newcastle. My partner and I noticed one of the guys walking through the cabin, asking for smokes or change and he stopped near us, leaned over and called us faggotts. I thought nothing of it, went back to reading my book. That sorta stuff was like water on a duck's back to me.

I got the shock of my life when I looked up to see he's come back with at least 5 of his friends all screaming "FAGS!"

What happened next happened very fast. One guy bashed into my partner while two guys held him, and I was being stomped and kicked by the rest. I got the feeling this could end very badly and then a straight guy from one of the other cabins came and literally pulled the guys off us.

This attack happened in full view of a crowded train cabin. None of our fellow passengers were willing to help, or even raise an alarm. We were met with apathy by the gaurds, who were otherwise occupied during the attack. They seemed to think it was our fault somehow.

That incident has made me open my eyes to the very real dangers that are posed by a pack of drunk straight guys with something to prove to their mates, and I've never felt 100% safe on Oxford Street since then.

I sometimes wonder if we have become so complacent that it takes such shocking violence to realise that even inside our little ghetto bubble, there are people who still want to harm us.

 
At 8/9/06 3:32 pm, Anonymous Gay Erasmus said...

Totally agree with you Sam that there are deeper issues here.

Compounding the whole issue of fag bashing is that the local police station is famously homophobic and indifferent to gay-related violence. A queer police office friend actually warned me to stay away from that station if I ever needed help. How do you stand up to violence if not even the police support you?

 
At 8/9/06 3:58 pm, Blogger Sam said...

That's awful, Ghetto Boi. My heart goes out to you and your partner.

And I think you raise a valid point about the isolation that comes with living in the 'bubble', too. There's a good quote of Terrence Stamp's character in Priscilla, something along the lines of whether the barriers are designed to keep us in or them out.

GE: I have heard the warning stories about the local beat, too. I think the apathy of others - the police, the passers-by, the passengers on the train, the security guards, etc - who are involved, whether they want to be or not, is even more infuriating than the bashers themselves. If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem, and all that.

 
At 8/9/06 9:13 pm, Blogger mscynic said...

This is a truly appalling story.

You have written about it thoughtfully, passionately and sensibly.

That guy in the pic is FREAKIN' HOT!

All the good ones etc etc

xxx

 
At 9/9/06 1:16 pm, Anonymous byron said...

I have but one thing to say...

Why the cunting fuck do they only want help from a Gay & Lesbian Liason Officer?

What possible advantage could it provide them with?

Does Cabramatta police station have a Vietnamese Liason Officer?

Do the police stations on the Gold Coast have a Japanese Businessman On Holiday Liason Officer?

Does Manly Police Station have a Brazilian Backpacker Liason Officer?

I'm disgusted that something like this attack can still happen, but unbelievably saddened by how ridiculous and pathetic the Gay & Lesbian "Community" have become in their special brand of equality without integration.

 
At 9/9/06 1:30 pm, Blogger Ron said...

The police have lots of multicultural liaison officers

http://www.apmab.gov.au/mlo/contacts/nsw.html

They also have youth liaison officers and aboriginal liaison officers and victim liaison officers etc. etc. as a very small amount of research will show you. Why not G&L liaison officers?

 
At 9/9/06 4:04 pm, Blogger JahTeh said...

The way I see it Byron, the Liaison officer is there to keep an eye on the other cops to keep them from doing something stupid.

 
At 9/9/06 9:04 pm, Anonymous Brendan said...

It's not just invasive agressive straights that are problematic on Sydney's gay scene. Soul-rotting drugs like crystal meth are producing some equally nasty characters within the gay scene itself. On my last foray to Sydney, Sat 5 Aug, I went to ARQ with friends. In the small hours of the morning, I was cornered, verbally harrassed & threatened by an ARQ manager (whose advances via Gaydar I had politely declined a year prior). That same day, I spoke with Surry Hills police -- initially I did ask for a GLLO, apologies to Byron who seems consumed with resentment over the very notion of a GLLO -- about some of the things this individual said to me, including threats he made. I also subsequently spoke to and made a written complaint to ARQ's General Manager. I have heard nothing from ARQ since but the offending individual, using a new Gaydar profile (as his prior one was banned for threats he made using that account) bailed me up in a private chat, threatening me once again and mocking me with words to the effect that my complaint achieved nothing and that "every1 thinks your a fool now". The behaviour of this person would, in any other reasoned Australian workplace, have resulted in disciplinary action if not his summary dismissal. Why does ARQ seem to take a less serious view of this sort of behaviour by one of its employees?

The upshot is that the gay scene and venues cannot turn a blind eye to the viciously anti-social actions of a nasty minority -- be they gay, straight or otherwise.

 
At 10/9/06 8:02 pm, Anonymous wamut said...

I got my cheekbone smashed in last xmas for no good reason. (my lovely cheekbone! luckily the surgeons put the bone back in place for me). But crazily enough it wasn't a gay bashing - just a stupid paranoid fuck who wanted to smash someone.

violence is shit. and alcohol has an awful lot to answer for...

sorry to all those who have experienced violence because of being gay. it's fucked. let's hope the rest of us don't have to find out what it's like.

 
At 10/9/06 8:02 pm, Blogger Sam said...

I'm all for mixing a bit of integration at our end in with equality, byron - but I think the issue is that the Japanese/Brazilian tourists etc you use as examples are not assaulted in those areas based on those specific factors.

Plus also what JT and GE have identified as problems within the police force generally when it comes to dealing with G&L victims. Maybe if they had a better proven track record the need for a G&L officer would be redundant.

 
At 14/9/06 2:31 pm, Anonymous JP said...

I've had the same experience as M-H. Happened again late Friday night getting a cab down the Hyde Park end of Oxford St where you start to become extremely visible to messy straight boys. Never been abused by the trashy girls.

 
At 18/9/06 6:32 pm, Anonymous kate said...

I was never abused by women when I was a young queer gal about town either (now I go to bed by 10.30, I used to have trouble getting to the bar by then). I was yelled at by a carload of men once, who slowed down while my gay male friend and I walked down Smith St Collingwood (a pretty queer friendly area of Melbourne). I saw them coming and took preventative action - I kissed him - and they sped up again. He agreed later than it was better than risking violence. Various women friends have been yelled at, or had things thrown at them, by men. Only one complained of homophobia from women, she's quite butch and was regularly questioned rudely about her right to be in the Ladies loos.

Another gay male friend was with a group of guys when one of them was beaten by the bouncer of an alledgedly gay friendly club. He ended up in hospital.

 
At 24/9/06 2:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is quite common for these thugs who bash gay guys to be in denial of their own sexuality. God knows how confused one can be about their own sexuality having myself had to come to grips to whether I was bi or gay. I never resorted to harming or abusing anyone.

 

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