Reflections on gay-bashing — real or alleged

Brian Hodder
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Every now and then a story comes along which causes me to slow down and examine my own reaction to the content and to question whether there is any validity to how I am feeling.

Every now and then a story comes along which causes me to slow down and examine my own reaction to the content and to question whether there is any validity to how I am feeling.

Such was the case last month when the story broke in the media concerning the alleged brutal homophobic attack against a local gay man, Pattrick Blackburn. As was reported, he was attacked by a group of men who followed him, shouting homophobic slurs before beating him to the point of unconsciousness. He was found by the side of the road by a friend, who drove him downtown to locate a policeman who, in turn, called an ambulance to bring him to the hospital for treatment.

When I first saw this story reported on a local television station, my immediate reaction was one of shock and horror. My heart went out to this man and I felt truly sorry for the violence he had experienced and felt the immediate urge to wonder what I could do to help him, despite the fact that he was a total stranger to me.

I also felt a tingle of fear, wondering just how safe this city that I love truly is and wondered if others within the community had need to fear for their safety when they walk the streets.

Like others, both gay and straight, my immediate reaction was based on an emotional response to a shocking incident.

When I read the article on the front page of this paper the next day and learned of further details about the incident, I began to experience an ugly uncomfortable suspicion deep in my stomach. I learned that this incident came to light because of a YouTube video that Blackburn had posted and that, according to police, he had not made a complaint to them so they could not investigate.

The friend who picked him up in the Rawlins Cross area had the time to take photos of his injuries and to drive him downtown to locate a policeman, but did not drive him immediately to the hospital.

I also learned that Blackburn, who makes his living partly as a makeup artist, had set up the means for people to send him money as he said he was robbed during the attack and that some local groups and some in other parts of Canada were already organizing events to raise money for him.

Blackburn himself refused all requests for interviews from all media sources and, in the next few days as questions mounted, his YouTube video and the online account for sending funds were taken down from the Internet and the story faded into the background.

While I have my suspicions about this story, I was not there so I will not judge Blackburn, as so many others have who assume he made the story up.

I have spoken to several gay men over the years who have been victims of gay bashing in this city, and most of them have not reported the crime to police for varying reasons, foremost being fearful or because they were not out about their sexual orientation with family or at work.

It is therefore understandable that Blackburn chose to avoid media scrutiny, and the emotional impact of such an attack if it occurred would surely cause someone to withdraw for a while and try to come to terms with what happened.

On the other hand, he chose to make this story public by putting a YouTube video online and was willing to accept monetary donations from people, so it is to be expected that people in the public will want and need to verify the facts of the story and expect him to account for any inconsistencies in what he has claimed.

Beyond the monetary issues, there is the level of fear created among the local gay community about their own safety in this city, and the potential damage to the credibility of the next gay man here who experiences the same violence.

Until Blackburn chooses to speak publicly to the media and answer questions about the inconsistencies in his story, we may never know the truth of the matter.

If we can learn from this incident, it will be to not immediately accept everything that someone posts on YouTube and to wait before we rush to judge. We need to react to life with both our emotions and our reason in equal measure.

We should also not assume that the public will not judge our entire community on the basis of one event concerning one individual.

Having had time to reflect on the incident for a while now, I choose to take something positive from this story. Whether it happened or not, the reaction of people from all facets of our society was one of horror that such a thing could occur and support for the alleged victim of such a violent attack. This, in itself, shows the level of acceptance that the gay community now has in Canadian and Newfoundland society, and should any other gay man experience an event like this in the future, he can be assured that he will be supported and validated by the police and by society in general.

Brian Hodder is a past-chairman of Newfoundland Gays and Lesbians for Equality.

Organizations: Newfoundland society, Newfoundland Gays

Geographic location: Canada

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  • Expose this guy already
    September 14, 2013 - 21:12

    Well maybe people should visit his new facebook page (P.J. Blackburn) so they can see all the pictures of this guy taken mere days after the attack without a mark on him. Dont forget to ask him what he did with the money while you're there.

  • Social Conservative
    September 14, 2013 - 09:34

    I finally agree with Hodder on something. I too am hesitant to accept this guy's word. Then, I am disgusted at many in the LGBT community for jumping on this iffy bandwaggon to further their cause and fundraise.