Betrayal in the Home – The day that I was attacked was a lesson for me and also a challenge. I could scarcely believe what I was witnessing. Suddenly, these bunch of guys had jumped me. I had been walking with my older brother after class. I figured that we were outnumbered and would probably get a beating of our lives. What I did not consider was that my own brother would run away and leave me hanging. In the event, I was truly well-beaten, a victim of homophobic violence. They punched and kicked me in between spitting all sorts of vile things. One even had the audacity to say that people like me enjoyed being dominated and beaten by real men.
I had to go to hospital and pressed charges. The boys were convicted of a hate crime but only given probation (to my extreme annoyance). That is the least of my worries anyway. I now know how to protect myself and have a good circle of friends that keep me safe from the homophobes. The scar that is taking much longer to heal is the betrayal by my own brother. I expected lots more of him in such a situation. We had been close since we were only 11 months apart. Physically, we were very similar but our personalities were very different. Whereas my brother was serious and sometimes grim, I was the hub of society. Our mum used to joke that I could talk and socialize for my brother easily, since he preferred to stay in the background.
I told him when I was 9 that I did not think I was normal. Instead of fancying the girls at school, I was getting more interested in the boys. Typically, Jeff did not indicate any particular emotion at this earth-shattering revelation. I could not tell whether he was shocked, happy, sad or surprised. His reaction was as if I had told him that it was a normal day today. Over time I had gotten used to Jeff’s curious ways. He would not be flapped by anything.
Nevertheless, it would be a fatal error to imagine that his passivity was weakness. You see, Jeff does not have a gap between his bones in the arm. We found that out during a routine check following an accident. That kinda explained his amazing strength. I had long given up any arm-wrestling with him. I would be down before a second had even passed. Over time I had come to rely on him although Jeff had never fought with anyone. However, it was comforting to me to know that I was walking with someone that could do some real damage if provoked. That is how I was able to go through the pack of bullies that shouted homophobic violence at me, virtually every school day. I had this back up and knew that they could do nothing physical to me.
The Bullies Decide to Go Physical
I do not know what inspired them to go for broke on this occasion. They usually shouted abuse about the sissy boy Paddy (I was Patrick on my forms but they preferred Paddy). Indeed, it was not uncommon to find the words “gay paddy” scrawled across my locker. I could not be bothered to report the incidents to the teachers since I would inevitably be portrayed as a snitch. We all knew that “snitches get stitches” in our school. Your best bet was to stay out of people’s business…with the important exception of gay Paddy. I was open season for any wannabe bully who wanted to showcase his skill for spewing hate.
As it turned out, my confidence in Jeff was misplaced. When push came to shove, he just disappeared. When I got home my mum was out of her mind with shock and worry. We rushed to the dispensary. Jeff was silent along the way but did help to carry me on the stretcher. My mum was in the van and Jeff followed with dad and Suzie. I did not tell anyone that Jeff had actually left me in the middle of the battle. This became our secret even after the court case was completed. Jeff apologized and explained that he had bene caught by surprise. He said that he was ashamed of himself for leaving me there.
Although I accepted the apology, the dice had been cast. We would never be quite the same. I no longer implicitly trusted that Jeff would use his enormous strength to come to my rescue. It was a lesson in independence. Over time I have come to understand some of the reasons that might have driven Jeff’s actions. First of all, we had never been attacked before so it was unlikely that he ever anticipated that it would reach this point. The suddenness of the attack added to the sense of being besieged. His was unfortunately the flight response instead of the fight response that I had anticipated and expected.
I was no weakling and tried to fight back but that becomes tricky when you are dealing with seven angry teenagers in the prime of their life. However, I was certain the Jeff would have made a difference. His arm strength was legendary and he was very accurate in the punches that he landed. Even at school he was known as someone that you do not mess with. The fact that he run away from the aggressors did lose him some street cred. The incident left me caught between equally unappealing possibilities. My brother was either a coward or he did not love me enough to defend me from the violent homophobes.
My Mum Interrogates Me
Like she is almost always does, my mum knew when I was holding something back. She indicated to me that she had noticed some distance and an atmosphere between Jeff and I. She wondered whether it was something to do with the violent incident I had faced. I lied and said that it had nothing to do with it. My mum has always told me that I was a quarter of the three most precious things in her life (her three children and her husband).
Even when it became clear that I was gay, I got nothing but love and acceptance from my family. My father was somewhat perplexed at how to deal with a son who was into other boys but I never got a hint that he was in any way less proud or protective of me. My family was not only accepting but positively loving to a member who was gay. How then could my brother betray me like that? Jeff tells me that if something like that was to happen again, he would stand and fight to the bitter end. I am no longer too sure about that. He came across as being a fine weather brother and that is not something that I find appealing on any level.
Tackling Homophobic Violence
As a result of the trauma I went through; I started a campaign in our school to keep the bullies at bay. I was surprised at the cooperation of straight guys and girls in the school. We formed an alliance against homophobic violence. The boys that had attacked me were dismissed from the school. I hear that they actually dropped out and three of them are still making the rounds in the criminal justice system.
On a personal level, I think that we have a duty to protect everyone (regardless of whether they are LGBTIQ or not) from violence. Nobody should have the right to accost someone on their way home and proceed to beat the living day lights out of them. I wish the courts had imposed a long prison sentence on those guys who have attacked me. They could have killed me if one of them had reached a vital organ. I have read stories about LGBTIQ people being killed in this way. The idea that they can sweet talk their way into probation seems like an outrage and a double punishment for me the victim. It is almost as if the court does not believe that I was really hurt or that I was really innocent.
It is comforting to say that the people who mete out homophobic violence are secretly gay but that gives me no solace. They can hide in their closets as much as they like but I do not expect that they will have carte blanche to attack me for my sexual identity. I live in an urban genteel area where we do not experience violent crime. Now, we had these spoilt kids beating me up and being treated with lots of understanding. I would not wish anyone to go through what happened to me and I am glad that some of those boys are off the streets for some time. Vindictive? Perhaps…but I have every right to want the worst for my attackers. I did not provoke them in any way and did not deserve their aggression.