safe spaces

Hospitality + Horrors: Just How Safe Are the 2010 Olympics for the Gays?

Reading about how popular the gay hangout Whistler Pride House is, you might think the 2010 Winter Olympics is a beacon for gay-friendly sporting. But then obviously you didn’t hear about the gay Vancouver man claiming he was harassed and assaulted during the Opening Ceremonies, and how Olympics officials refused to help.

First, Pride House: Hey girl, cheap drinks for all you and your beautiful friends! Organized by Whistler resident Dean Nelson, Pride House came about after he realized the Olympics would conflict with the city’s Gay Ski Week, which he heads up. (And after almost being killed at Budapest’s gay pride parade, Nelson says he wanted a safe space for gay athletes, coaches, and fans.) And the venue has been well received by locals and the media, if attendance counts and worldwide reportage are any indication.

But none of that gay-friendliness kept Tyler Sheppard safe, he says. At the Feb. 8 Opening Ceremonies rehearsal (the same day Pride House hosted an opening reception), Sheppard says a woman claiming he and friends were sitting in her seats decided to go on a verbal rampage, calling his group “fucking faggots” and kicking him in the back. Attending with a friend from Chile, Sheppard says the woman grabbed the friend’s bag, threw it, and screamed, “I’m not crazy, you fucking immigrant. Go back to your country.” Justifiably so, Sheppard called the woman a bitch.

After reporting the incident to the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympics (and Vancouver Police), Sheppard says he has yet to hear back. And that if police were really interested in identifying the suspect, they could find out the name of the ticket holder sitting behind him, where the woman was actually seated.

For now, we’re just pleased (bad word choice?) reports of anti-gay violence are limited to one terrible woman. Unless, ugh, there are others?