A UNIVERSITY of Queensland student has been met with a torrent of support following an alleged verbal homophobic attack against him on campus earlier this week, prompting him to report the incident to university security today.
Open affection with his partner was something that Bird said he hardly ever gave a second-thought to, often walking hand-in-hand in what they perceived to be a non-threatening and welcoming environment.
However, after a class around midday, Bird said he was approached by three men he had never seen before while sitting on a bench.
The three then allegedly launched into a verbal attack after recognising Bird as the “faggot who walks around campus and holds hands with his partner”.
“It was a typical bully mentality, they saw an opportunity to have a go,” Bird told the Star Observer.
“I don’t think it was pre-meditated in any way. It was just so much of them walking past seeing me and thinking ‘lets go give this guy some schtick’.
“I doubt they would have said anything if I was with my partner. It appeared that they did only have a go at me then because I was by myself.”
According to Bird, the abuse started fairly tame but still derogatory, with the trio making suggestive sexual slights against him. Bird said it was when he dismissed them that it escalated.
“I was being a bit sarcastic with them in light of the particular sexual nature of what they were saying to me and I think that they took real offence to that, and that’s when the abuse got worse,” he said.
“It didn’t occur to me until much later that it really was quite a dangerous situation to be in.”
Bird said he was also disappointed that no one intervened despite seeing many people walk by, observing the verbal abuse. He also said some looked at him in the eye as it played out.
“It did shock me. I know I’m the type of guy who would step in and obviously I can’t speak for everyone and how they’d react but it really did shock me. I was genuinely surprised,” he said.
Coming from Queensland’s Lockyer Valley and Ipswich, Bird said he was well-versed in appropriate times and settings to be affectionate with his partner and despite the incident, he still felt that the university campus was an accepting place where he could openly be himself.
“It was certainly the last place I had expected this sort of abuse to happen and you get the feeling that universities are a space for people to be open,” Bird said.
“My view of the university has not changed though. This was very much an isolated incident and the people on campus who share the same views as the three guys are very much in the minority.
“The more I thought about it the more I realised it was nothing other than an opportunistic moment from three douchebags who thought some homophobic jokes would be funny.”
UQ deputy vice-chancellor Joanne Wright had urged Bird to report the incident, stressing to Fairfax Media that the campus was safe for all students.
“There’s no place for intolerance and bigotry at the University of Queensland and I condemn any incidents of such behaviour,” Wright said.
“We’re concerned for the welfare of all of our students and encourage anyone who has been treated inappropriately to contact Student Services.”
Following encouragement from his partner, Bird first posted his story to UQ student services social media where he was inundated with messages of support — before reporting it to security today.
“I realise that I’m not a typical run-of-the-mill queer guy… and that reporting the incident may not effect me personally but I originally decided to post my story to the page because I know there are people out there who would not handle a similar attack as well,” he said.
“This is something that could very easily escalate to depression, self-harm and other issues, and more often than not goes unreported.”
Bird said he reported the incident because he wanted to add his voice to the campaign to have homophobic abuse reported to authorities, and encouraged other victims of homophobia to not remain silent.
“Providing police and authorities with as much data and information as possible on homophobic abuse is a good thing to get behind.” he said.
Bird highlighted that he did not want his security report to lead to a witch-hunt for the trio.