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June 29, 07
V 35 Issue 26

 
 
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Tour De Life by Beau Burriola
The decision
by Beau Burriola - SGN Contributing Writer

I walked along Pine Street for the zillionth time, holding my boyfriend's hand. Julien and I are affectionate people and we don't pay much mind to folks walking by, but today a man coming the other way up the sidewalk gave us a hard, cold stare. As he got closer, I thought about what could happen. I thought about how I might respond. But before I got to test any of it, the man passed by without a word.

On the evening of June 27, 2004, Micah Painter was walking home from a club when the attackers spotted him from the pick-up truck they were riding in. The attackers began yelling insults at Painter because they thought he was gay. One man broke the end of a vodka bottle and began attacking Painter with the sharp end. The others exited the truck and joined in by kicking and punching the victim. A witness overheard one of the attackers use a derogatory word for gays during the attack and tell Painter to "die."

When walking downtown, in the shady area of Pike/Pine between 1st and 3rd Ave, Julien and I are no less affectionate. Typically, we only get the odd stare from a tourist, but most people pay us no mind. Today, though, one man in a group of three walking by pointed at us and said something to another guy in his group. That one looked at us, too, and then the third. They all stopped in the middle of the sidewalk as we were about to pass. I thought about what could happen. I thought about how I might respond. But before I had to test any of it, they passed by without saying a word.

25-year-old Jason Mancillas was viciously attacked during the early morning hours of Sunday, June 10, 2007, while walking home from a Capitol Hill Gay bar. His partner watched in horror as a group of as many as six men brutally punched and kicked him. Just before they jumped him, the lead assailant said "I'm sick of these fucking faggots!

As we walked to China Gate restaurant in the International District, Julien and I tried to pay no attention to the two men leaning against the wall ahead of us smoking, even as one turned our way and his jaw dropped. Two men hand-in-hand isn't common, surely, but worth gaping at? The second man looked angry as he put out his cigarette and the first didn't stop staring as we approached. I thought about what could happen. I thought about how I might respond. Before I had to test any of it, we passed without hearing a word.

Violence against Seattle's gay community isn't new. Every gay person knows the risk we take every day, just for being who we are. Any sideways glance, every cold stare, or each over-reaction by an insecure straight man can spark into something suddenly violent. While gay folks can't control whether a bigoted gang of insecure straight men decides to jump us, the important decision about how we respond is ours to make.

We can continue to be who we are fearlessly and refuse to give in. We can decide to take a self defense class. We can learn Kung Fu or Tae Kwan Do. We can prepare ourselves for a confrontation, so that if it does, we are ready. We can accept that sometimes we might have to take a stand, fight, and speak up for ourselves, and that this is part of why the "fight for equality" is sometimes really just defending yourself against idiots.

Or we can give in and decide that it's all just too scary. We can shrink back from showing any affection with our partners in public so we don't offend anyone. We can live in fear on our own streets and forfeit some of our personal freedom.

Our courage to be open strengthens us and our community; our fear diminishes us and our community. Each choice carries risks and consequences for us all, but the decision is ours to make. Beau Burriola is a local writer perfecting his axe kick. E-mail him at beaubrent@gmail.com.
visit Beau at www.beaubrent.com

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