Is NYC Becoming More Homophobic? Two Stories Of Recent Gay-Bashings Might Indicate So

Of course, two gay bashings don’t equal a trend of homophobia in the city, but these incidents certainly are startling when you consider they occurred in gay-friendly neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

First up is Brooklyn art-photographer Iannis Delatolas, who was gay-bashed inside a gay-friendly bar in Gowanus. Second, we have Thomas Dolan, who witnessed a gay bashing on a very gay-bar-heavy stretch of West 52nd Street (home to hot-spots Therapy and Industry).

In Delatolas’ case, he took a photograph of himself in an ACT UP shirt standing in the street with a baseball bat. In Dolan’s, he has written an eloquent essay entreating cosmopolitan gays not to accept complacency simply because the LGBT-friendly urban center shelters us.

Delatolas tells the Village Voice‘s Michael Musto:

“On the night of Friday the 17th of February, I went to Mission Dolores, a gay friendly bar in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn… I got in line to order a beer, and a white man in his mid twenties cut in front of me as I was about to order.

“I told him to wait his turn and he mouthed off some ‘f**k you, you f**king queer’. I had some loud words with him, and he took his beer and left. I was shaken, I go there all the time, I never thought this would happen there…

“[Later] the security guy comes to back me up. He saw the original confrontation. The frat boy says he is going to bash my head in. The security guy tells him to shut up and that maybe they should leave the bar.

“While I am having it out with the frat boy, a friend of his from that table, someone I had not even looked at or spoken to, jumps on me from my left and punches my head. I fall to the ground covering my head, while holding the leash. This happened very fast.

“He was not in my field of vision. He was able to get in 5 to 10 punches on my head before the bouncer got him off of me. I get up in a daze. I ask for a witness as I am dialing 911. The courtyard is packed with about 30 mostly white hipsters. No one comes forward.

“The attackers and their girlfriends flee the bar before the cops get there. The bouncer, a black man in his twenties, is my only witness. The security cameras, a total of 4, are not recording any of this. The police came, took a report. There is nothing that can be done since no one knows who they are.”

Next up is Thomas Dolan, who witnessed a gay-bashing occurring in Hell’s Kitchen. He sends us an essay imploring the young gay men of New York City not to embrace complacency just because we’ve escaped the homophobia of our upbringings and found a stable place to co-habitate.

Around 2am in the early morning of January 16th (MLK Day, no less), a friend and I stumbled through Hell’s Kitchen, hopping toward whichever bar had the biggest crowd.  As we crossed onto 52nd Street, perhaps the gayest block in the gayborhood, I saw a man push another in what I assumed was some bar brawl. Being more of a lover than a fighter, I rolled my eyes and sauntered to the other side of the street. I soon heard the predictable crack of bone connecting with flesh, but was surprised that the attacker kept swinging even after the other fell to the curb. Instead of anger, though, the victim’s response was one of bewilderment: “What are you doing?! I don’t even know you!”  This only incited the attacker, and he began stalking up and down the street, punching random men from among the gaggles heading home.

As the attacker’s friends began a too-familiar chorus of slurs, my mind leapfrogged from confusion to recognition – never disbelief. Though I hadn’t seen something like this in Hell’s Kitchen, the specter of hate crime is never too far out of mind for most gay men. However unexpected, the reality of what was happening became immediately clear.

I cowered behind an SUV and called the police, but the assault ended as quickly as it had begun. A silver car flew down the block in reverse, before picking up the attacker and disappearing into the lights of Times Square.

As the half dozen witnesses and victims fumbled introductions and entered into a strange brotherhood, I finished my call to 911. I asked that they send an ambulance, gave what a witness remembered of the license plate of the get-away car, exchanged contact information with the other witnesses and waited.

I shivered in a mix of cold and adrenaline, not knowing quite what to think but feeling awful.  Fundamentally, I knew I had been right not to intervene and get into a fight myself, but I felt emasculated to have done nothing. I also reassured myself that I had done the right thing in calling the police, but after officers arrived and doodled some notes, I felt like a fool for so blindly believing in a system that barely took my concerns (and community) seriously.

Once I finished relating my story, I headed into the bar, both a practical decision because of the cold and an attempt not to “let the terrorists win.”  When I got inside, everything was as if nothing had happened. A part of me wanted to shout from the top of the bar that something terrible had just happened and that we weren’t doing anything, but an apparently stronger part of me wanted to fade into the background of just another night at the gay bar.

I thought of other moments when I felt both a call to action and the far easier (and more selfish) call to join the party. I remember the guilty pleasure I took in marching, shouting and invariably flirting in the streets after Proposition 8 passed. I thought of my trip to see Normal Heart, when I felt inspired by Larry Kramer handing out a flier in the rain, but ultimately capped off the evening with a surfeit of brown liquor and banter. These experiences left me, metaphorically and more literally, unsure of where to go from there, but I somehow always chose the simpler option of escapism.

I realized that I have tried to avoid these moments—the loss of marriage equality in California, a play about the holocaust of AIDS, a gay-bashing close to home—because they are reminders that my existence as a gay man remains precarious, even in 2012. I cringed at the time and energy I would spend dealing with the assault not because of the value of my time, but because to treat this attack seriously would mean acknowledging that this sort of ugliness still exists and that things aren’t as great as I want to think.

As a generation, we have witnessed an unprecedented deluge of LGBTQ images and rights, but we must remember that these victories have been accompanied by increasing conservative retrenchment and heartbreaking stories of bullying and violence.  We (presumably) stand on the cusp of an unprecedented era of equality and acceptance, but much though I hate to admit it, we’re not there yet.

I didn’t suddenly become Larry Kramer, but the proximity of this assault reminded me that I need to strike a better balance between guilt, escapism and actually doing something. I have sought my next drink, next party, next paramour, because I hoped they might validate what I know deep down remains a precarious existence.  There’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, but there is a problem when escapism becomes so pervasive as to preclude any action.

By all means, we should take advantage of the comfort in which we lead our lives (why else do I scrimp for this overpriced corner of Tenth Avenue?) but we should also acknowledge that our complacency is premature. For many, this kind of assault is a common, rather than extraordinary occurrence. We all know that.  However, we do ourselves a disservice by burying our heads in the sand or simply meditating on change from a comfortable distance.  I’m proud to have had the courage to come out and embrace who I am, knowing that that entails certain risks, but rather than give me carte blanche to retreat into hedonism, my being out should require me to do whatever I can to ensure that my sort of life is possible for all LGBTQ persons, should they choose it.

I’m grateful to report that this assault is now being investigated as a hate crime, however unlikely it may be that the attacker is ever brought to justice.  Beyond sympathy and public flagellation, I hope that my writing is in some small way a step toward ensuring that there isn’t a next time.

We hope so too, Thomas.

Photo via Iannis Delatolas

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  • CBRad

    Is Delatolus even from NYC ?

  • MEJ

    This wouldn’t happen in Florida.

  • jerr

    NYC is becoming very homophobic. It’s already very racist. Look at how the NYPD target minorities even when they aren’t doing anything wrong.

    And isn’t NYC supposed to be a “liberal” democrat haven?? I don’t think so.

    Come to think of it, this whole country has gone insane.

  • jerry r

    NYC is becoming very homophobic. It’s already very racist. Look at how the NYPD target minorities even when they aren’t doing anything wrong.
    And isn’t NYC supposed to be a “liberal” democrat haven?? I don’t think so.
    Come to think of it, this whole country has gone insane.

  • Jimmy Velvet

    You’re right. In Florida, they’d just shoot them.

  • Francis

    No, NYC isn’t becoming more homophobic, the opposite is true, really, and hate crimes in the city have been down the past year. 2 incidents in 3+ months doesn’t nor shouldn’t tarnish the reputation of the entire city. I know some will question if the first incident is an actual hate crime or a bar incident; the reality is, even if the intent wasn’t specifically gay-related, the slur used by the douchebag is still anti-gay in nature. So at the very least, this is a person who is homophobic and sees homosexuality as a means to degrade and talk down to someone.

    Now, what these incidents are, is an indication that there are still a lot of douchebags REGARDLESS of where one lives in this country. New York, WEHO, San Fran, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale. There are still douchebags, usually young uneducated hyper-masculine types who have nothing going for them, have criminal-records and see gay people as easy targets. People in these more gay-friendly areas can NOT get complacent and think they can’t run into the wrong crowd and something bad not happening to them. We still have to stand up, for ourselves and others, because homophobia is still very much alive. And if you’re out and about after 1 AM, ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings. Street trash is street trash regardless of the city it resides and these people are often not friendly, and are violent. Especially if you’re living in a city like New York, or LA. Always be prepared to defend yourself and others.


    @MEJ: “This wouldn’t happen in Florida”
    do you mean florida’s gun laws, or are you having THOSE fantasies (again) where your’e eating cheesecake late at night with your post-menapausal gal pals?

    happy birthday MEJ!
    sorry, but your’e still waaay too young to qualify as a golden girl!

  • jason

    New York City has a strong thread of homophobia running through it, which is particularly reflected in homophobic attitudes towards male homosexuality. There’s only a couple of streets where you can be yourself, and even then only in a guarded way.

    I would say that liberals are responsible for a lot of homophobia because liberals don’t like it when gay or bi men stray from their designated enclaves and into the mainstream. We’re like the animals at the zoo who must stick to their designated enclosure. Once we start straying from it, we are chased back into it.

    I’ve always said that the aim of liberalism is to make bisexuality acceptable for women but not for men. What this effectively does is to limit male-male sexuality to specific zones from which we are not allowed to stray. Female-female sexuality, on the other hand, is allowed to go anywhere.

    It’s how liberals operate. Think about this when you vote in November. Oh, and New York City sucks.

  • timucua

    Does anyone understand what the hell is jason trying to write down?.

  • Blah, bla..huh?

    The right has completely divided the culture along lines of privilege. If you hope to learn something about the very clear instructions that living their “philosophy” creates, fosters, ferments, and enforces among heterosexuals, a clear reading of the subtext at sites like Queerty is instructive.
    It’s instructive, but of course it leaves out the whole story. Heterosexuality has been made into a culture that undermines human dignity for the sake of parasitism. Heteros get the payoff, non-heteros get to be the guinea pigs. Everyone straight knows this, but they can’t articulate it. You must learn to voice it, or we’re all going over the cliff. Life is cheap with 7.5 million breeders cheapening everything they encounter with their base lies about existence. Learn to resist, for your very agency as a human being is at stake.

  • Timmeeeyyy!!!

    Two crimes in a city of over 8 million is hardly a trend. To determine whether NYC is indeed becoming more homophobic (as your headline implies) you would need to do some basic research regarding reported hate crimes in the city. Unfortunately, that’s too much to ask of most Queerty writers, who would rather create a sensational headline for the sake of click-throughs, even if it is misleading or patently false. After all, two crimes could actually indicate a drop in violence against LGBT citizens. Unfortunately, we’ll never know by reading Queerty.

    @Blah, bla..huh? and @jason:
    What the hell are you talking about?

  • CBRad

    @disco lives: The silly gays who move here think it IS Disney World- for them. It’s NYC guys, it’s rough here! Get it ? (But at least an alleged gay bashing gives them a chance to pose like a ham with a bat).

  • John

    simple they put us in the hospital we put them in the ground. Start standing up and bashing back

  • Frederick

    My father was born and raised in Manhattan, so I have a lot of family members there and consequently have spent quite a bit of time visiting them there. I would have to agree with post No.6, Jason; in my opinion, NYC does have a strong thread of homophobia running through it and always has. In other words, it’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there…I’d choose San Francisco any day over NYC, as a gay-friendly place to live.

  • Blah, bla..huh?

    @Timmeeeyyy!!!: You’ll know when you start to think instead of reacting all the time on your mental stage nobody watches. Good luck until then.

  • Charles Jackson

    I was a closet gay teenager for the most part because I grew up in suburban East Cobb County where if a boy would be picked on if he were to be obvious. My brothers were all straight and my dad was an ex boxer red-neck that preferred to think that I was just not interested in girls. I had nothing but straight friends and gravitated to good looking guys to hang with. There were only two kinds of kids in that area which were freaks or jocks. My friends and I had a huge network of other kids to hang with and there always seemed to be house parties to hit and places to gather in big numbers. The jocks from one enemy high school called Sprayberry High that was located near to ours would raid these parties and places and beat kids up pretty violently. My cute straight guy friends were not fighters by any terms. They didn’t play football or wrestle or lift weights to get huge muscles and didn’t know how to defend themselves. I wasn’t a jock either but I guess I had a streak in me that was handed down from my father and one thing he always emphasised was that a man should always stand up for himself so I did and I did so damn good at it that I became notorious among the teens in that side of Cobb County and even other areas. Later I studied martial arts and I have never lost a street fight even in mass attack. My advice to other gay males is to take up some kind of art of self defence and to build a mindset to be willing to use it.

  • jason

    Face it – New York City is an extremely homophobic place. Gay men are segregated. They are not welcome into mainstream venues. This is a fact. Stop denying facts.

    New York City is a case study in where liberalism takes you – ie to a world of phony acceptance based on segregation. Liberals always act in this way. They segregate you and then pretend that they’ve accepted you.

  • jimmy

    what about radio DJ Elvis Duran…he’s all gay and promoting NYC as a gay disney

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