A 14-year-old student at Defiance Middle School in Defiance, Ohio has opened up about a brutal attack he suffered for carrying a pride flag at school.
Video of the incident has gone viral on Snapchat and Facebook, which prompted Tristen Torrez, an openly gay student, to go public with his story.
“I was wearing it to state a message, and state just because one person is who they are, proud of who they are, doesn’t mean others shouldn’t be proud of who they are,” Tristen told local station WOTL. “This was my official way of saying I was gay and not trying to hide it.”
The video in question shows Torrez sitting on the bleachers with the pride flag draped around his shoulders. Another student approaches from behind, grabs the flag off his back and slams him down against the bleachers. The student then poured water on Torrez and choked him.
“He hit me with the flag that I was wearing, after ripping it off my neck,” Torrez recalled.
Torrez further stated that he did not know his attacker well. He’s also not sure why the student chose to attack him.
“I’ve heard that it was a dare. Someone told me it was because I said a racial slur, which was completely false,” Torrez told WOTL, “some people said it was because I’m gay and just to do it anyway.”
Tristen’s mother Brianne, for her part, expressed her outrage.
“I wake up to my son coming home and telling me he was roughened up today,” Brianne Torrez told reporters. “He’s so used to the bullying it was kind of nothing to him, but to me, it was heartbreaking. Things like this are going to make students or people in general scared to come out.”
School officials have assured the community they know about the attack on Tristen Torrez, and will deal with his attacker. “We are aware of this situation and it was dealt with swiftly with school administration and local law enforcement,” Superintendent Bob Morton said in a statement. “Situations like this are taken seriously. We appreciate you bringing it to our attention.”
The attack on Tristen Torrez comes on the eve of pride month, and on the heels of several other incidents of homophobic bullying in the US. Earlier this month, a school in Missouri came under fire for pressuring teachers to identify gay students for potential expulsion. In Texas, students reported homophobic bullying by a teacher who scrawled homophobic graffiti on the sidewalk outside the school.