Recently, I received a missive that was drafted in such a way that I thought it was a press release. At the top it said: "PLEASE READ! I WAS RECENTLY A VICTIM OF A HATE CRIME." At the end it was signed "Concerned Citizen." It was the story of one man's brush with hate. And it stopped me cold.
Here's how it started:"I am a gay male and I live in Vancouver, Wash. This week, three men harassed and attacked me for being gay." The note went on to tell how three young punk males in the checkout line of the Orchards Fred Meyer store called the writer a "Fucking Faggot!" and "dicksucker" and then followed him out to his car, where they proceeded to kick him and spit in his face. It got so bad that he had to run back into the store. Even though employees witnessed the incident, no one offered him any help.
Wanting to know more, I called the "citizen," who is actually Ki Necochea, a 25-year-old technical writer for a large corporation.
Ki was born in New Orleans; a short while ago he bought a house in Vancouver. He has lived in large cities, but says he's never before been pinpointed for his sexuality. "You think you'll know how to react to these situations," he says. "I just froze. I didn't realize how redneckish Vancouver is."
I guess the ad really means it when it says, "Things are different in Vancouver." I would never expect this to happen at the Hollywood Freddy's. That place is full of dudes checking out each other's fruit baskets.
Fred Meyer spokesman Rob Boley says the company has investigated Ki's allegations. The store director, who had initially been contacted by Ki's partner the day after the incident, followed up with Ki later that week. He wanted to find out more about what had happened. According to Boley, Ki told the store director he had not approached any employees for help during the attack. "At that time the director encouraged him that if he was bothered again in the future to please ask for help," Boley says. Despite the dispute, and for the record, Boley says the company's policy is this: "We do not tolerate acts of violence in our stores. If an employee saw something, we would not want them to intervene. We would want them to call a person in charge or manager, immediately. That person would then decide the best response: whether to resolve the incident peacefully or call store security or the police."
Let's hope all companies practice what they preach. It's easy to sit back on my homo-horse and think the world is becoming more gay-friendly. And it is--if you watch Showtime and NBC. But, in the "real world," things can be as rough as ever--as Ki has to come to realize. "I thought I was pretty knowledgeable," he says. "What I've come to find out is that I'm not. I had no idea the tremendous amount of ignorance that still exists."
Sometimes it does seem better to live under a rock--or at least dress like a lumberjack every time you step outside the city limits.
QUEER ABOUT TOWN
Poison Waters' Church of the Poison Mind continues this Sunday afternoon at the Silverado. A free buffet and beer bust, it's also an opportunity to worship at the altar of some hot nekkid men.