I grew up in Adelaide, surrounded by the peaceful hippies of the Adelaide Hills.
Despite the reputation for serial killings and bizarre crime, Adelaide does feel exceptionally safe, but there’s not a lot of homosexual visibility.
Before moving to Sydney, my longest time spent here was in 2002 when I toured a one-man theatre show over for the Gay Games.
I believe my jaw actually dropped when I saw the Games’ banners lining the city streets, the queues of queers at Town Hall for registration, the palpable, engaging presence of this gay and lesbian convergence on the city.
Rightly or wrongly, at that time, I did feel it was a safe space, perhaps not a deeply cultural space, but certainly a town with an easy-going, tolerant, accepting attitude.
I adore Newtown, where the cultural heart of the queer community is migrating. But it was in Newtown that the attack happened.
I remember very little of the attack itself, but it seemed like hours. It’s a little like having a series of still photographs that you have to piece together in the order that they most make sense.
Eventually I managed to push him off balance and run, and I don’t know if he followed or not.
I have no memory of the run home, except one of those snapshot images. I passed under a streetlight and wiped my hands across my face. That’s when I saw the blood. Literally pooled in my hands. I was covered in it. Then nothing.
The next memory snapshot saw me being helped through the front door by my housemate.
The police were called. I had x-rays and scans, and within a week they’d realised my eye was sitting in my sinus. The next thing I’m in hospital on standby for surgery.
And all I really wanted was to go to bed for a month and pretend it wasn’t happening.
This is why I contacted the Anti-Violence Project at ACON quite early on. I needed someone else to keep track of where I was at in the steps that needed to be taken. My brain had shut down and I couldn’t really take the responsibility on for myself.
I’m a gay man who has been publicly waving a very gay flag for the last decade, and I have rarely felt the need to hide my sexuality when talking with strangers. But after being bashed, I did.
I don’t recognise the person who made that choice. But when I reflect on that decision, I get closer to understanding the problem we are facing with the under-reporting of homophobic violence.
Everybody you come in contact with needs an explanation for why you’re in the state you’re in. Meanwhile, you just want the whole thing to be over, so you keep it brief. I told them I had been mugged – just seemed easier.
When your life has been turned upside down because some bastard has a problem with your sexuality, you don’t have the energy to deal with anybody else’s discomfort with the issue.
And amazingly, nobody ever asked if I thought it was a hate crime. They’re looking at me, the person I am, they hear the nature of the attack and nobody bothers. I’ve just had my head bashed in, so do you really think being asked if I’m gay is going to be the low point of my week?
I still think about him [the attacker]. He even has a name – “Gummy Joe” is what I call him. If I were to ask you “who are the most influential people in your life” you’d talk about family and friends, colleagues and lovers – and I would too, but I’ve also got Gummy Joe on the list.
Since the attack I’ve battled with varying degrees of double vision and loss of vision, as well as the discomfort of having an implant in my head where they repaired the fractured bone.
Every time I have to close one eye just so I can watch TV or read a book, the first five minutes of every day when I only see double, whenever I get fed up with having to wear my glasses – he pops into my head. These are the aspects of my life that he has joint custody over.
Completely uninvited, this man holds a seat at the conference table in my head, and I resent that deeply.
I’ve thought a lot about what I would define as “justice”. I’m a big believer in stepping over the symptom and going right to the source of a problem. And for me, that is institutionalised homophobia at the highest level.
However, I do show greater caution when on the street at night these days. But I think many people in the 2010 postcode would say the same thing.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve stepped into an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, when the Hell-Mouth has begun to open beneath the town, and all the people on the street are turning nuts, talking to themselves, shouting at thin air, being intensely agro, insatiably looking for a fight.
Truly, Oxford St is turning into Sunnydale when Buffy is on vacation.
There were various community groups represented at the police forum last week, but I know why I got an invite.
Somebody had to be there to remind those who have been entrusted with planning “the response” that these under-recorded statistics we grieve over are actually the voices of people.
As told to Harley Dennett
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