Friday, February 25, 2011

Another Alleged Gaybashing? Just How Gay-Friendly Is The City of Victoria?

[Victoria, British Columbia] When Brandon Bourne woke up in the hospital, the last thing he remembered was being called a fag and getting punched in the face only hours earlier. Bourne, 27, was suffering from a grade-three concussion, sprained neck and partial amnesia. He had been drinking that night, but Bourne, a Navy officer stationed in Victoria, could pull together a few facts. His friends had left Paparazzi Nightclub — a popular Victoria gay bar — in the early hours of Jan. 22, and Bourne went to hail a taxi alone. It was then, he says, he heard a stranger call him a fag; he turned, was punched in the head and fell to the cement. Moments later, as told in the police report, two officers on bicycles rode up to the scene where they found Bourne unconscious on the ground with two men standing over him. The two men co-operated with police, but stated that Bourne had come up to one of them, asked why he’d been called a fag, and threw the first punch. The only witness, a friend of Bourne’s assaulter, corroborated the story that the other man only punched back in self-defence. Police called an ambulance for Bourne, who was slipping in and out of consciousness at the scene, and listed the incident as an assault, with the subtext of bar fight. And perhaps the case could be closed as simple as that, if it weren’t for the fact that Bourne is gay. Add to that this is the second attack in six months that has occurred outside the same gay bar, and it begins to paint a different story about Victoria’s queer-friendly climate.

“The police seem to have just swept this under the rug and written this off as a bar fight,” Bourne says. “They’re saying I threw the first punch, but I’ve never thrown a punch in my life. It’s so completely out of character, and the fact that they aren’t even addressing this as a hate crime … is completely absurd to me.” Sgt. Grant Hamilton, media spokesperson for the Victoria Police Department, says the case is not being considered a hate crime because police have “no just cause” to view it as such. Bourne, a Victoria native who was previously stationed in Vancouver, says the incident has rocked his sense of security in his home community — a community he sees lacking in LGBT resources and advocacy. “I really feel like Victoria is a city where everyone says they’re gay friendly, but they aren’t very gay friendly in practice,” Bourne says.

Read more at Monday Mag