“IS IT SAFE TO BE GAY IN THE U.K.?”
Homophobia in Britain
Filmmaker Mark Henderson’s documentary shows us that homophobia is still very much alive in the United Kingdom. We see that homophobic hate crime are daily occurrences and on the rise in Britain through the conversations with victims who share their stories about being attacked. These crimes are both physical and verbal.
Even though it has been fifty years since the partial decriminalization of homosexuality, the graphic reality of homophobic attacks is exposed here and it is shocking. The moving testimonies given here show that it is not always safe to be gay in Britain.
Long-term partners James and Dain who open up about the pressure put on their relationship after they were assaulted in supposedly gay friendly Brighton; a brutal attack that left both of them with multiple injuries and Dain with a broken eye socket and wondering if he would ever be able to see again. Their story is far from unique and we see this as Jenny loving talks about her brother, Ian Baynham, who died of injuries sustained in a frenzied homophobic attack in the centre of London, having been kicked to death on the ground.
We hear Connor’s horrific tale of being habitually bullied at school, with the words “you’re gay – you should be dead” constantly being thrown at him. He thought that things would get better after he moved into his own flat, but he was attacked by another resident with a hammer with such force that it was still embedded in his head when the ambulance crew arrived. He was in a coma for four weeks while surgeons fought to save his life. They had to remove a quarter of his skull to relieve the pressure on his brain. Connor not only survived, but has since found love in the arms of boyfriend Dom. Yet once again he was not alone, as victim after victim recall painful memories of being kicked in the face until unconscious, of being repeatedly stamped on the head and so on just for being who they are. These victims and so many others cry out for justice to be served.
Alex and Becky have been groped, punched and slammed into a street light, on what was meant to have been a quiet night out. Justice was not served, with one defendant having fled to South Africa to avoid sentencing, leaving the couple struggling to move on from both the assault and the court case itself. And even though the man responsible for the vicious attack on Connor was duly sentenced to nineteen years for attempted murder, Connor is left unable to run or use his right hand, having to take medication every single day, with epilepsy and severe migraine now with him for the rest of his life. Jenny meanwhile is starting the restorative justice program in the hope of gaining peace of mind, whilst James and Dain’s relationship has notably changed and sadly not for the better, with their views of being out in public now at odds with each other.
We might think that we are living in enlightened times but we see here that it is not always safe to be openly gay and that homophobia hasn’t gone away. This documentary also questions the motives behind homophobia and it shows what is often overlooked; the repercussions of such unprovoked attacks on the victims, their families and friends; many mourning the loss of loved one and the void that is left behind. A film like this makes us angry as it should and we need to be outraged at the sickening reality that is still with us and that can get worse.