Getting Personal: the Aftermath of Being Attacked – LGBT History Month

I have been staring at the screen for the last 5 minutes. I wrote the text, proofed it, and the only thing that is standing between thinking and doing is one click at the publish button.

It started yesterday, when I was talking with a friend about the LGBT History Month. He was telling me that we everyone has a cross to bear, and that he did not understand why we should be having a whole month for the LGBT crowd; and then I told him what I am about to tell you. I felt as vulnerable sharing it then as I am feeling now, but if it helps at least one person, in any way possible, I genuinely think it will be worth it.

Everyone has a cross to bear. This is mine.

When I was 17, I woke up in a hospital. My mouth was parched, my head sore, and my eyes unable to focus. I felt the weight of the sheets, comforting and sickening at the same time, and swallowed hard. Next to me, my best friend was sitting looking bored stiff.

I asked him what happened; he looked at me quizzically, weighing in his head what response he should give someone lying on a bed with a bruised face and no memory of the many times he asked the same question in the space of the same day; he began by telling me that I had already asked him several times, he answered me several times, and after I dozed off, I would wake up to ask him again. When I started promising that I would remember, he finished my sentence with the exact same words I told him all the previous times. Nevertheless, he sighed, and started telling me.

I was visiting him, as he was just settling in a different city for university. On the day that I was scheduled to leave, I offered to run some errands. When I returned home, I had a massive bruise running from my forehead down to my chin. I told him I was ok. We sat down, and I looked at him blankly, before asking him if he just put that vase on the table; he reminded me that I put it there before leaving. I nodded, stood still, and formed a puzzled expression on my face. Minutes later, I asked him: ‘oh, did you just put this vase on the table’?

He called our friends, and they told him he needed to take me to a hospital. He called my father, who jumped on the first plane, and we hopped in a taxi. Of course, I did not remember all this; I still don’t. But I remember him telling me. And I then fell asleep.

When I woke up, my father was sitting at the corner of the room. His worried face was focused at me. I looked at him, and he smiled. I smiled back. I knew I was keeping a secret locked in my head, and for some reason, I felt that it should remain there.

We then went to a cafe before catching a flight back home. It was spacious, with large windows allowing the light to flood the room, fall on people’s faces and expose their identities. I sat there, watching my dad and best friend trying to talk as if nothing happened. I noticed that the room was getting quieter by the minute, time slowing down as a thought slid though me like a knife: he could be here. Whoever hit me could be here, in this room, and I would not know it. I would not recognise him. He could be the waiter, or the guy with his daughter, or someone passing outside. I blinked hard, and bit my lips. Time came back to normal, and my father was asking for the cheque.

The truth about that day escaped me for many years. I once dreamt that I was back on that street, panic ringing in my throat, when I noticed two men coming towards me from the opposite sidewalk. I woke up gasping for air and touched my forehead. I lied back down, and stood still as my heart was racing.

Throughout college, I took an active interest in psychology, and especially the study of homophobia. I did research, run experiments, and published work on the subject. I was particularly interested in the line between verbal and physical bullying, the split second that separates the swear word from the knuckles thrusting into flesh. I never knew why, until I came to London.

Pieces of the event were slowly coming together. I remembered dropping off the DVDs at the rental store; picking up my tickets to fly back home; talking on the phone to my friend as I was walking home. My memory stopped when I turned the corner to the street I was hurt. Then everything cuts sharply to black.

One night, I was out with a good friend. One drink led to another bottle, and soon we were talking about everything from our sordid past. And as I was telling her about this event, for a moment I stopped being in the pub; I was back in the street. My eyes were scanning the street, and I saw myself lying down, facing the pavement. And then life moved backwards, and I got up, and a man’s hand moved away from my face, and him and his friend moved away from me, walking backwards. I took a sharp inhale, and I was back in the pub, in uncontrollable tears. I remembered.

I was walking down the street when two men were walking towards me in the opposite sidewalk. I can still not remember their faces or shapes, but I am assuming that they must have been attractive, as I was looking at them. They changed their direction and came towards me. They asked me why I was looking at them, wanted to know if I was a fag, and moments later were hitting me to the ground.

My friend took me to her house, where I slept on her bed. In the morning, my cheeks were covered with dried tears, my eyes were blank, and my mouth was half open, ready to say something, not sure what it was.

I still have no detailed recollection of what happened that day. I will probably never know. What I do know though is that I can not ignore homophobia when I see it; I know that mocking someone and physically attacking them is not far away when you are with like-minded friends, caught in the macho moment in time. It is easy to feel superior by pointing the thing you consider inferior to the other. It is much harder to feel safe in your sexuality, and accept others.

This is why we should be having an LGBT History Month. It first started in the US, in October of 1994, and moved to the UK in 2005. since then, It relies on the individual and collective effort for change, both on a national and local level. From uncovering the sexualities of major historical figures, like Florence Nightingale, William Shakespeare and Leonardo da Vinci, to presenting the achievements and lives of current LGBT icons (with the recently popular J. Edgar and Alan Turing), it bring the LGBT identity out of the shadows.
This serves a really important purpose: show that gay people are not caricatures in the background of a 90 minute episode; are not an exotic addition to your daily life; are not ‘the other’.

You can find the full schedule of the London Events here.

Let’s change the world, one prejudice at a time.

Love,

G

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62 thoughts on “Getting Personal: the Aftermath of Being Attacked – LGBT History Month

  1. I had no idea there was such a thing as LGBT history month. But I’m glad there is. It seems to me that everyone nowadays is making a huge deal out of sexuality, be it homo-, hetero-, or otherwise, for absolutely no reason. I’ve been following the issues of the LGBT community ever since I started college. Thankfully, I go to a very LGBT friendly school, but the rest of the country doesn’t seem to feel the same way, which is a pity. Stories like yours, hard as they may be to tell, are a necessary part of moving towards a more accepting world view. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I can’t really express how this story affected me – I admire you for sharing it and it serves as a reminder of the work to still be done to stop vicious acts like this from happening. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. I couldn’t agree with you more. The number of times I was in situations where I could feel the proverbial ‘line’ of verbal and physical abuse unravel in front of me. Especially in High School. I could remember one instance where had my best friend not have turned the corner, I may have ended up just as you did. I’m sorry this happened to you, and I support raising awareness with a LGBT history month just as you do.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Dear Mag. Something:

    I love you. There. I’ve said it. I know it’s effusive–very American of me. But that is exactly what I wanted to say when I finished reading this fantastic piece.

    I wasn’t going to say so, but then I thought it really described what was important about what you’re saying. You’re story made me care about you so much. It made me want to be your friend, to protect you. To kick those guys….well, you can imagine the rest of my fantasies…Then I realized I didn’t want to hurt them so much at all. The better part is the understanding.

    By sharing your story, you made me want to support LGBT history month, and to tell others to do so as well. I really do think you’re fantastic and courageous as well.

    Thanks!

    Heidi

  5. I admire your courage in speaking up about this. I had a gay roommate at a Christian college in the US about a decade ago, of course I had no idea he was gay until a few years ago when I found him on Facebook. What a sick world we live in where people are forced to hide their true identities and live a lie in order to avoid persecution.

    As someone with a Computer Science degree, your mention of Alan Turing also caught my attention. It is a travesty that one of the heroes of World War II was driven to suicide because of persecution by his own government.

    It will take time, but things will continue to change and improve. Thanks for speaking up, it’s very important.

    1. The Alan Turing case was so tragic, it really touched me when reading about it.

      I agree that it is horrible to feel that you can not share your sexuality with people close to you, and I really feel for your roommate; what is amazing though is the fact that I see how your response shows me how accepting you would have been had he told you.

      Thank you so much for your response.

  6. hey G,

    I’m glad you pressed “post” can I ask for permission to repost this piece on my blog. I could just do a link but i dont think that people read links much. And what you just said cuts to the chase.

    I think you have an idea of my blog and what i’m about.

    Whada ya say……pleeeeaaaasssseeee 🙂

    Neil.

  7. It took a lot of courage to write your story, and even greater courage to share it. It’s by telling the hard stories that we most help others, and in the process move toward deeper personal healing. Bravo.

  8. Wow! Such a strong post! Thank you for your honesty. People need to hear stories like yours in order to understand that being different doesn’t mean being bad. I don’t know why in our society it is so difficult to just live and let live. Not only people with different orientation but everybody who doesn’t fit the mould is suffering in one way or another. Race, social status and even something as simple and innocent as the music you love can turn a kid’s life at school into a nightmare. Then the kid leaves the school with the hope that in the real world the values are different but no, the bullies from school have turned into senseless narrow-minded adults who still judge only the surface and, which is worse, teach their children to do the same. This is sad and we must realize it.

    By the way, I don’t know about other countries, but where I come from LGBT people celebrate today.

    1. the bullies from school have turned into senseless narrow-minded adults who still judge only the surface and, which is worse, teach their children to do the same

      you are so right. People like that go through life without realising the amount of pain, physical or emotional, that they might be causing. Homophobia is mostly ignorance and fear of what people do not know.

      Thank you for your comment!!

  9. You have pretty much said everything I would like to say in this blog. I had to stop reading this post at first, as it brought back so many memories of the times I was bullied at school and later in life just for being gay. It is something that has made me stronger in my life, but only in some respects. To say that I am not affected by homophobia would be a lie, perhaps I will address my issues later in the month. I still haven’t told my friends and family of the mental and physical abuse I suffered whilst at university, but reading this blog has inspired me and hopefully one day I will. Well done for having the strength and courage to write about this.

    1. your reply brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for your kind words, and I am looking forward to reading your future post. It took me years to be able to reach the stage when I could share this with my friends, and break the ‘easy going, fun’ image that comes with being gay.
      I am sure the people that are close to you will appreciate hearing what you went through, and will bring them closer to you.
      thank you for your comment! 🙂

  10. so glad you pushed “publish”…a story that people need to hear, but more importantly, its healing…for you to reach out and tell others– for them and for you. I am a high school counselor in a tiny midwestern American town, where students will not come out until they are adults, because its not safe…not safe socially mostly. Sometimes they will tell me, but it is seldom public knowledge until they are adults and living in a much bigger city. Homophobia is fear, not fear of homosexuals, but fear of one’s self, I think…

    thank you. you are precious.

  11. This was a great post! Very courageous for you to post it. I would also like to jump on the bandwagon and repost it on my blog. I work with college students who identify as LGBT and know it would be helpful to many. Thanks for sharing!

  12. This struck a chord and well done for dealing with it as you have. I’ve been attacked – not really for the same reason or anywhere near as badly, but such unexpected, unpredictable violence has such a fundamentally disturbing effect on your sense of security that it stays with you long after it happened. It’s shocking that homophobic attacks still happen, and well worth bringing back to everyone’s attention. Thank you.

  13. I’m sorry you endured that, but you did, and when faced with the aftermath of trauma, the best course is to channel it to make us stronger…and it sounds like you have.

    Good post.

  14. My cousin didn’t come out until he was 45. He did it by marrying his 20yr plus boyfriend and then telling my Aunt and Uncle after. Shockingly my Aunt called and told me. At first sounding as if she had some terrifyingly dreary news. But when she heard how ecstatic I was for him she finally let herself feel happy for her son too. Ecstatic even. She realized that it was not about her, it was about my cousin and his husband and their happiness. I guess with age, ignorance and prejudice can sometimes turn to wisdom; thank God. Recently, I spoke with my cousin at the 80th birthday party he held at his house for my Aunt and Uncle (my cousin and his husband have the only house big enough for everyone in the family to attend; we joke that’s some good Karma due him). When we spoke that day I became very emotional. I told him I was so proud of him and that I wished he had told me long ago so that I could have been there for him, to support him. He responded that he didn’t know how the entire family would react, so he chose to hide it from everyone, even me. I told him that when I was younger, in private I asked my Mother and was almost slapped. She threatened me to never, ever ask such a question or say anything like that to anyone ever again. My Mother was not like that so I couldn’t understand her reaction. In speaking with my cousin I realized that he confided in my Mother, as everyone in our family did, years ago and she would not betray his trust. Not even to me. I was glad he told me this. She loved my cousin very much and was protecting him and his secret until he himself was ready to share it with the family. She took it to her grave; she passed away eleven years before he came out. One of the reasons my cousin said he hadn’t told everyone was because of people’s reactions, prejudices, stupid comments and because of the violence. A friend of his had been badly beaten by homophobes. Now thankfully that friend is married and just adopted a baby girl. But my cousin knew of other people that were not so lucky. Knowing my cousin, I would think anyone would be afraid to cross him. He’s never been one to take anyone’s BS, so to think he couldn’t live openly with the man he loves for 20yrs makes me very angry. It is nobody’s business what preference a person has. As long as no harm is brought to anyone every person has the right to live and enjoy life with the one they love; with the person of their choosing. Regardless of what other people prefer. Bullies are everywhere and where they are so goes ignorance. I think you are very courageous and very generous to share your story with others. That is what gets people talking; that is what brings change

  15. It’s nice to know that at least in other countries, efforts are being made to celebrate the LGBT community. From where I come from, being gay would automatically mean stereotypical verbal abuse from everyone. Physical abuse would come later on — not from other people, but from your own father. It’s sad to know that the ones who should be supporting and loving you are the ones who will do these things to you.

    I admire what you wrote. I think it takes courage to write something very personal. Thanks for this… it’s really inspiring! 🙂

  16. One of the local B.N.P. councillors for our area from a neighbouring village was arrested and tried following an attack upon homosexual persons during a peaceful rights march. He struck a man on the head with a plank of wood. Persons were voting for him in the last election for he promised to have their bins emptied weekly instead of fortnightly despite an awareness of what he’d done. This saddens me.
    Thank you for posting your whatnots here.

    Georgie x

  17. Attacks on gay people in this or any other century are a disgrace. Homophobic atttitudes should be consigned to the where they belong – the dark ages. Thanks for sharing your story.

  18. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I must admit having moved from a country thats politics are swayed incredibly by homophobic religious nutters (Australia) I naively gave a sigh of relief on arriving in the U.K thinking that homophobia had been snuffed out in my open-minded new “home”. Obviously the fight is not yet won and I shouldn’t have been so quick to jump to that conclusion. Reading this makes me want to give you a great big hug. Thank you for being so open about your experience, I can only imagine how hard it must be to open yourself back up to those memories.

  19. Thanks for sharing your story, I could really relate to the beginning of your story as I once too woke up in a hospital with concussion and couldn’t remember the whole day, but at least I had people who told me what happened (I fell of a horse). I can’t even imagine what it must be like not to know and then suddenly remember such a violent attack. I’m ashamed and disgusted that there’s still people who’d attack someone based on their sexual preference, race whatever… raising awareness of, like you have done it can only help.

  20. It so breaks my heart that this happened to you. Thank you for your courage to write about something so painful. No one should have to live in fear of such an attack.

    I am saddened and indignant that there are such vicious people who feel the need to destroy those who are different than they are, those they consider “inferior” as you said. But I am also saddened by someone’s previous comment that SEEMS to refer to someone like me – who loves & follows Jesus Christ – as being a “religious nutter.” We are called to love others, not to hatred.

    I’m not trying to start any kind of argument, heated discussion and certainly not a theological debate! I’m just trying to point out that these kinds of thought processes, generalizations & derogatory comments have the same root as those that are homophobic – they both seek to malign. Prejudice has many faces.

  21. I need to apologize to the person I mentioned who said “religious nutters.” I was trying to NOT be judgmental (that’s why I said “SEEMS to refer to someone like me”), but I’m afraid I was to you. I don’t know you or your intention, but even if I did, it’s not my place to judge you or anyone else. I was wrong.

    I also said that I didn’t want to get into a theological debate, and believe me, I still don’t. BUT I do want to say that people who are guilty of the kind of hate crimes that G experienced are despicable people. Yes, I admit that bad things have been done in the name of RELIGION (and that can include all kinds of religion) and maybe even in Jesus Christ’s name but that’s not what He wants. I hope that people realize that hate crimes and “religion” do not necessarily belong in the same sentence.

    Again, I’m sorry for any judgmental attitude on my part. I just hope that my point is understood about how we all need to examine our hearts to see if there is any judgment or prejudice hiding in there, disguised….that’s all. Bullying, intimidation, derogatory comments against ANYONE and yes, even disparaging THOUGHTS, are just so damaging.

  22. This is a moving, powerful post. I am so glad you are a survivor and willing to speak out–the world needs such honesty and courage. Really, what the world needs is to be enough better to *not* need any honesty or courage to live life as a human being of any age, creed, color, sexuality, size or what-have-you. But until then . . . thank you for standing up for what’s right. My husband and I are artists (he’s a musician and I’m visual/verbal), and we would frankly have a microscopic community (artistic *and* personal) if there were no LGBT persons involved. That’s just for starters. The world is so much richer for all of our diversity that it would be a disaster if anyone were really able to exclude *any* portion of our human network.
    xoxo,
    Kathryn

  23. I am so moved by your post. Thank you for sharing. I hope it’s okay to share it. It is so well written and intensely personal, I am hoping it reaches a few of the hearts and minds that would have otherwise remained closed. Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking the risk of hitting the ‘publish’ button.

  24. I found your blog through your likes on my own, and I must say I see myself spending quite some time here in the days to come (I have already added you to my blog roll). It is individuals like you that are my inspiration for the voice that I put forth.

    I could never imagine going through the horror of being assaulted for my sexuality. It took a long time for me to come out of the closet due to the household I grew up in, never would have imagined coming out as a teen, it was just something that was not done back then.

    I thank the fates that you were brought to my blog so that I could find yours. Cheers and happy blogging.

  25. What a piece. Thank you for contributing your words to this cause, as yours are especially powerful. Let us participate and watch as we move from an era of intolerance, through an era of activism, and into this still-young period of social justice.

  26. Its sad that you had to experience what you did, but I am sure that you are building off of how much stronger you are after facing a memory you surpressed for so long. And you are clearly stronger by being able to tell the world. Continue to live and speak your truth.

  27. So sorry to hear you had to go through that, and thank you for sharing. It’s so important we all speak up and take a stand against the hate and ignorance.

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