Recently it seems, the gay community has been gathering confidence across the world, as campaigns for equal rights become realised by the politicians and the pride marches are noted by the public. But then something comes along to destroy that confidence.
Usually things tend to come in three’s, or so goes the old adage, but at the time of writing there are only two major events I can report upon. The first, is the judgement against Thomas Pickford, 26, and Scott Walker, 33, for the murder of Jody Dobrowski. But this was no average killing. Like every murder, there was a pre-meditated and calculated decision on the part of the attackers to go out and murder a gay man on that fateful night in October last year. Judge Brian Barker sentenced the pair to a minimum of 28 years in prison.
In summing up Judge Barker went on to say, “It was Jody’s tragic misfortune to cross your path. You subjected him to mindless abuse and showed him no mercy…in those few seconds you took from him the most precious possessions – his life and future.”
But onlookers point out that this attack is by no means an isolated incident. There have been attacks on gay men all over Britain, and it is suggested that these figures could well be on the rise. Behaviour, which could be construed as ‘gay’ such as holding hands, has been described as ‘inadvisable’ by leading gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. He believes that the increased visibility puts a target upon them, from the point of view of a typically poorly-educated human being acting out possibly as a result of their own insecure sexuality or their religious background.
Though my experience of religion has been kept to a minimum through my own choice, I must admit I’ve often heard Leviticus sprouted at me by devout Christians, but I’d never personally considered them to dislike homosexuality enough to kill someone.
Police officers take a different view – they believe the attacks are just as likely to be carried out by organised gangs of homophobes, and certainly there is evidence to support this – as regulars at gay meccas such as Canal Street in Manchester and Old Compton Street in London will be able to testify.
Personally, I feel that the problem stems from a typically British repression of the subject. It is certainly not discussed in schools, and it seems not many schools are willing to punish homophobic bullies for their lack of acceptance. And acceptance is the word I purposely chose to use there. I feel it important to emphasise the difference between tolerance, and acceptance, as I often find the former to be used but not the second, and tolerance implies a problem that should be tolerated.
At least in this instance, however, the attackers were brought to justice. Many are not. Statistics suggest that the number of those brought to justice is less than the number of homophobic crimes that go either unsolved or unreported.
Across the pond, however, the story remains similar. In New York last week, an attack continued a spate of homophobic crimes in the city. Kevin Aviance was attacked in the East Village, outside a local gay bar called Phoenix. Mayor Bloomberg has already derided the attack as “a disgrace”. He has also continued his hard-line on violence by stating, “Anybody that thinks they can get away with a hate crime is sadly mistaken.”
This comes after a period of the US President, George Bush, calling for a direct and meaningful exclusion of same-sex marriage rights by changing their constitution. Is it any wonder the poorly-educated don’t know how to conduct themselves toward gay people?
For people like Kevin Aviance and Jody Dobrowski the only consolation is that at the moment, it seems the law is on their side. At least Jody’s killers’ judgement can offer us confidence in that.