Monday, 19 March 2012

Homophobic Encounters

I had no intention of blogging about this issue but have been asked to by a dear friend. I do not have any photos relating to this topic so this will be plain prose.

From when I first began to be honest with myself and started to open the 'closet door' I had begun to patronize certain gay bars. I don't like alcohol - especially beer - so that was not the attraction - it was the chance of meeting other men with similar interests.

In the Gay Community there are all sorts of meeting places - the most popular being the steam baths and the bars.

The former have never had any appeal for me so I rarely patronized them (except in Seattle, Washington before I had met the friend with the house up on Capitol Hill and used a bathhouse as a place to crash before driving back to Vancouver).

An amusing aside - most of the time the piped in music was courtesy of a local rock station but, one morning when I awoke, the station had been changed to classical music and the piece being piped throughout the building was "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies". Appropriate?

Leather bars were another matter. While I am not at all into alcohol, these bars were a great place to meet mature men who were into more than 'vanilla'. In Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver and Toronto those were the places where I preferred  to socialize. I enjoyed them all - but the greatest was the Toolbox on Eastern Avenue. One of the charms of the place was that it was away from 'The Village' and not often patronized by the effeminate younger guys.

In all cities I traveled widely on my own without feeling threatened.

In downtown Toronto there was a bar on Yonge Street that was a pleasant place to drop in at on week nights. It was while on my way home from there that I encountered two incidents of homophobia.

The first was around supper hour on a busy Saturday evening. This was before Maple Leaf Gardens was closed so a goodly number of the pedestrians were looking for places to eat before the ice hockey game. A number of us were waiting for the traffic lights to change  at the corner of Wellesley and Church Streets and, when we could cross, a younger male couple strode out into the crosswalk while holding hands. The man waiting next to me commented, "Look! Isn't that sick?" I sharply reminded him as to where he was - besides, the lads looked to be Eastern Europeans and, in Russia I have been told, it is common to see young men holding hands not because of sexual attraction but because they like each other as friends!

A couple of years later - and later in the evening - a friend and I were walking home from the bar. We were sauntering up Church Street when I noticed a handsome van coming down the street with the driver pulling into the curb as if he were going to park. Just after the side of the van passed I heard a "Pop" and felt a sting in the back of my right wrist. I had been shot by someone with a pellet gun.

My buddy heard the "pop" so he whirled to give the single finger salute and then realized that I had been injured. There was a bank of pay telephones nearby but I was too shaken to use them so we walked back to Wellesley and a coffee shop. It was not long before the police were there, my wound (not much more than a bruise) was looked at and we gave our reports. Naturally, that van and the two young men inside were never caught.

It seemed obvious, upon reflection, that the kid was aiming at my crotch but the driver pulled too far ahead. What saved me from more serious injury was that I was wearing a motorcycle jacket made from heavy leather.

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