by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
It is hard to conceptualize that the man standing before me - confident, outgoing, and driven - was on the receiving end of a Gay bashing one year ago.
That's because Richard Tso refuses to be a victim. The Seattle resident is adamant about that. The 'incident,' as he refers to it, spurred his interest in working for a nonprofit dedicated to making sure that these incidents do not happen to anyone else.
In August of 2010, Richard was scheduled to speak at a conference in Baltimore, Maryland. As vice president of marketing for the technology company Spigit, he was doing well for himself. Before heading to dinner with a couple of potential clients from clothing and shoe company Zappos, he headed to his hotel room to drop off his laptop.
'As I approached the hotel lobby elevator, I noticed a man speaking loudly and causing a scene,' Richard told Seattle Gay News. 'As I passed the man I heard him mutter the word 'fag.' He appeared to be intoxicated, so I ignored him and headed into an available elevator.'
Once inside the elevator, Richard went up to his room on the 14th floor to drop off his computer and jacket.
'I was only in my room for approximately two minutes,' he said. 'As I left my room and approached the elevator, I heard the voice of a man who was holding the elevator door open and yelling at a person on the other end of the call box.'
Assuming the man was heading back downstairs, Richard entered the elevator. Inside, he realized that the man was the same person who had called him a slur on his way up to his room.
Richard immediately exited the elevator and pushed the call button. But since the man was holding the elevator door open, no others were coming.
That is when things went from bad to worse. 'He came toward me, obviously intoxicated, and said, 'Hey, faggot. Where are you going, faggot?' Richard told SGN.
The man then cornered Richard in the foyer and began hitting him in the face. 'I pleaded with him,' Richard said, 'asking him why he was doing this, and reminding him he didn't even know me.'
Richard's pleading only seemed to anger the man, who 'kept punching me and repeating 'faggot.'
A scuffle ensued in which Richard tried to kick the man. He began to scream for help while his attacker continued to hit him.
'I then grabbed the glasses the man was wearing and he told me he would let me go if I gave them back,' Richard said. 'I threw them down the hall.'
As the man let go of him to retrieve the glasses, Richard fled, screaming, 'Help me, please help me!'
'I screamed over and over and knocked on doors as I passed by,' he said. 'No one would help.'
His attacker began to chase him. Richard approached the stairwell and ran down to the 12th floor, where he saw a man employed by the hotel. 'I told him I was just attacked and he immediately called hotel security on his radio and we waited together next to the elevator,' said Richard. 'We could hear the suspect yelling down the stairwell.'
Ultimately, the assault left Richard with a swollen face and several bumps and bruises, and his attacker was arrested. Since then, the assailant has been charged with assault and a hate crime. During the ongoing court case, Richard found out that the man has a prior assault charge.
After the attack, Richard was a changed man. 'When something like this happens, you tend to become afraid and withdraw,' he said. 'I went through that phase.'
'But there comes a point when you have to take action.'
Richard did just that. He decided to take an active role in preventing this from happening to others. He left his home in California and moved to Seattle to promote the idea of tolerance around the country.
Richard is now the executive director for TAP America, a Seattle-based non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening America and its citizens. Richard says the goal of TAP - an acronym for 'Tolerance, Americanism, and Patriotism' - is to unify America through education, leadership, and social research.
'America was founded on the ideals of tolerance, patriotism, and embracing all individuals. As a country, the United States is comprised of people from countries around the world, with 37.7% immigrating from Central America, 25.4% from Asia, and 13.6% from Europe,' said Richard. 'In order to build a united and strong country, TAP America asks all Americans to practice at least one act of tolerance per week in order to learn more about each other.'
'We at TAP believe it is the differences between Americans that make our country so unique and powerful,' he said. 'Once we look past these differences we realize that we are more similar than we are different - we are all Americans.'
Richard says he is proud of the work that TAP America is doing. 'We are a lot broader than civil rights - we are really more about educating people on the bad side of humanity, getting them to understand that violence and hate are wrong.'
On a personal level, Richard has refused to let his attack define him or his life in a bad way. 'I'm learning how to protect myself through self-defense classes,' he said. 'I've also joined the Seattle Men's Chorus and have become much more active in the community as I move forward.'
For more information about TAP America, to volunteer or to make a donation, please visit www.tapamerica.org.
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