Last year, as part of the Tour of the British Isles, organised by the choir I am a member of, we went to London, Wavendon (near Milton Keynes), Dublin, Manchester, Brighton and Belfast. You can look at the pics here. Everybody had told me I would love Dublin and I was quite prepared to do so, but in the end I only found it very provincial and too cute and boring. Belfast was the surprised however. A place with such vibe, very much on the fence between its past and its future. A real sense of anticipation. I have been in the choir for nearly three years now and Belfast was probably the most special gig I had the luck to take part in. It wasn't the most glamourous venue or the biggest crowd by far but something special happened that night. We were there in support of the first Gay Pride for the city. Our audience had to pass a group of 20 odd bigots (Christians Against Sodomy I think they called themselves, which does say a lot about where their minds are), who had decided to demonstrate outside the venue where we were performing. After the show, we all went to a party organised in our honour in one of the local gay pubs (the Crows' Nest, I think). Everyone let their hair down and we all really had a great time. What was so special about performing there, was that in addition to feeling that we were making even more of a difference than usual, we had to realise how easy we had it being gay men in London and how easy it was to forget about that.
Last Saturday night, several people got mugged on the South Bank; all of them were gay and the police still believe at the time I am writing this that the attacks were motivated by homophobia. One of the victims, David Morley later died of his (40!) wounds. The cruel irony is that five years ago he had survived the bomb attack at the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho where he was working at the time. Another reminder that things are not as rosy as they may seem. This one quite literally much closer from home: it happened about ten minutes walk from where I live, in a part of London where I regularly find myself alone at night, walking home. Tonight I took part in the vigil organised in Soho to remember Mr Morley. There, with the LGMC and a several hundred people, we tried once again to make a difference through our singing; we tried to make sense of what had happened and of our grief and anger.
As of tonight a total of 7 people have been arrested in relation to this; apparently all of them teenagers. Commentators point out that reported homophobic crimes have very much been on the rise in the past few months citing as a reason for this the increased confidence in the way the police will deal with the victims inciting people to reports attacks more easily rather than an actual increase in the number of attacks. There is probably a good amount of truth in this; after all these people have the figures and studies to support their arguments. However I would like to suggest another possible reason, which I can only support by a few observations I have made in the past few months. I think that it is actually possibly the case that the number of attacks is on the rise, simply because gay people are feeling more confident about affirming who they are these days. Since, say, the beginning of this year, I have notice more and more frequently gay couple holding hands in areas quite remote from the relatively safe haven that is Soho. Is it not possible that the increased visibility of gay people, not supported by education is perceived as a taunt by homophobes, some of whom can not resist it? We also learn that at least two of the persons arrested for Saturday's attack were black. Is it not possible to draw a link with the current campaign led by Outrage! and Peter Tatchell against the so-called "murder music" of a very limited number of jamaican dancehall singers? Bigots getting angered by the good results of the campaign?
Whatever the reasons, and even in London, the struggle is not finished. We have come a long way; we seem to have found most of the silver lining; let's not forget about the cloud just yet!