Fun and Fear have always gone hand in hand on the gay scene: whether it be slurs and insults that can mar a night out; or open hostilities that erupted at the heart of Birmingham’s gay village in the early hours of Sunday 15th August.
Two men were viciously attacked with broken bottles by a group in a SUV. What started as a verbal exchange (whether cheeky banter or inflammatory slurs is point of debate), quickly escalated to a brutal assault, which left one man unconscious and his partner with extensive cuts. A female friend of the couple valiantly reached into the vehicle’s window, to retrieve their stolen phone, which the gang had snatched, only to find herself dragged along the road with legs flailing from the car!
I had been in the same gay venue as the victims an hour earlier, so must have seen them, but didn’t recognise either from their battered and bloodied post-attack selfie that appeared online.
Several days after the incident, West Midlands Police issued the names of three men wanted in connection with the crime, accompanied by existing mugshots (Clearly these guys were no angels).
One suspect resembled identical twins that had been working on a building project several doors up from my house.
It couldn’t be one of them… Could it?
I initially noticed this tall handsome guy, supervising the house renovation, whilst walking my dog walking around the block and frequently made any excuse to stop and chat. He was friendly and always awarded me a winning smile.
“You have got to see the hottie working on the house on the corner,” I told my partner. “He looks like a model!”
A few weeks into the building project, I saw him with his twin for the first time.
I rushed home and announced excitedly, “It’s just got better… There are two of him!!!”
The twin was nothing like his brother in temperament. He never engaged with me and just scowled as I passed by.
Good twin… Bad twin, a staple of every dodgy soap and daytime drama.
Over morning coffee, my partner read an update on the homophobic attack. Looking at the accompanying image, he commented on the resemblance to the local builder boy.
“I thought the same,” I admitted, “but dismissed it, because he didn’t look as hot in the photo.”
I suppose mugshots are rarely flattering.
“It says that he has a twin,” my partner continued.
“It is definitely one of them then.”
Although not sure which twin was guilty, I suspect it was bad-boy moody, but now both seemed less attractive.
The article stated whichever one it was had handed himself in, so there was no need to contact the authorities.
We scrutinised the other two mugshots with more attention and realised that we also recognised the youngest of the three. I regularly pass him in the neighbourhood, his severe fringe being particularly memorable, as it looked like his mother had cut his hair with a pudding basin.
The third of the three didn’t look familiar, but to be brutally honest I could pass his bulbous dim-witted face every day of the year and never give it a second glance.
Talking to neighbours, they thought they recognised all three of the assailants as some of ‘the boys’ at anti-LGBTQ protests outside a local school a few years back.
Birmingham’s busiest quiet road strikes again!
Statistics show that homophobic hate crime is on a steady increase.
Lawrence Barton, leading light of Birmingham’s gay village, said in a recent article in The Guardian:
“There has been an increase in this type of activity, locally and nationally. We had a homophobic attack on a drag queen only a few weeks ago.
“I’m out regularly in the gay district on a weekend, and it staggers me how many people come out with homophobic remarks, shout from their car windows and make comments as they’re walking past,” he added.
“Some people delude themselves into thinking that we live in a society that’s very progressive, and that we enjoy all these equalities and freedoms. But actually, when you cut underneath the surface, it’s clear there’s still a massive journey to true equality.”
Inevitably, I have encountered homophobic hostilities, such as having a bag of trash launched at my head from a third storey balcony (It missed) and drive-by abuse being yelled as I emerged from a gay bar, although three years of drama training meant my hearty response of “CUUUUUUUUNNNNNNT” was far louder.
Because of this current climate of hate and hostility, I found myself wary of a group of lads larking about on the pavement ahead of me, whilst taking the dog for a late-night walk.
I crossed the road to avoid them, but as we drew level, one of the lads glanced over and made a point of drawing his mate’s attention to me.
“Hey,” he called, “how’s it going?”
He then used a name that could only mean one thing… and I beamed a relieved grin.
He was clearly an ex-pupil from a local primary school I had worked at a decade ago, where the kids gave me an endearing nickname.
“I’ll always remember you,” he continued. “You made us laugh.”
“Sorry, I don’t recognise you,” I replied, “but I assume you didn’t have that beard when you were eleven.”
I crossed back over the road, chatted with the group and felt better about the world.
It was all good… this time.
At point of writing, all responsible for those malicious assaults have been located, charged and are currently on bail awaiting trial.
Ironically, for their attack on the gay community, they’ll serve time in a facility where they’ll experience more gay sex than they could ever imagine… which gives me far more pleasure than I suspect it will give them.
Suck it up boys!