By Kevin Williams, Community Mental Health Worker at Stella’s Circle
Kevin Williams, Community Mental Health Worker at our Community Support Program, wrote and shared this story in a staff newsletter circulated on May 17, 2021 to recognize International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. With Kevin’s permission, we share this piece with our community during Pride Week, as we stand in strength and solidarity with the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.
On my forehead, about an inch above my left eye, is a faded scar. In the early hours of March 22, 1989, I was walking home on a well-lit street from Kingston Ontario’s only gay bar. Amid a barrage of homophobic slurs, I was attacked from behind and ended up receiving twenty-eight stiches to close the wound.
I told no one. At the time, I knew that the police would do nothing except fill out a report and file it away. I knew that my friends would offer momentary anger and pity, with the knowledge that this incident was “just one of those things.” I remember lying to the doctor at the Emergency and telling him that I fell. I also remember seeing that same doctor at the same club many times, as he smiled, nodded, and told me that I would be okay. He listened to my lie and only nodded.
Homophobia and transphobia were rampant in the years when I was “coming out.” Non-heterosexual people tended to gravitate to small, tightly knit communities and groups in their private lives and, more often than I would like to admit, attempt to “pass” in public. The AIDS epidemic of the late 1980s and 1990s only served to further stigmatize and drive people even further back into the closet.
I remember those days well. The days when if an attack was reported to police, the victim would be told they were asking for it. The days when anyone could lose their job, if their homophobic or transphobic employer found out too much personal information. The days when we were told our love was a sin and that we got AIDS because we were asking for it. All of this was very seldom spoken of in the LGBTQ+ community at the time. It was just an understood reality.
Fast forward to 2021, a mere thirty years later, I am sometimes astounded at the strides made in the journey toward equality. I am astounded that, as a young man, I was attacked in 1989, and got married to the man that I love in 2016. My heart swells to know that our differences are acknowledged and celebrated, rather than hidden and shamed.
We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. In all corners of the globe, violence, shame, and oppression flourish. Homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia exist across all countries and communities, including our own backyard. In strength and solidarity, with the love and support of those around us, we can continue to work toward a more inclusive, diverse, and celebrating society. What may seem like small steps to many could mean the world to someone who may feel alone in their struggles.
However, as I get older and my hairline recedes a little bit, I can sometimes see that faded scar. It’s a part of who I am. It reminds me of the struggles of those who came before me, those who came after me, and it reminds of those were not as lucky as I have been and are no longer with us.
By observing days like International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, and Pride-themed weeks and months, we are standing together to overcome hated, ignorance, and violence. We stand together as a people united by compassion, love, and the desire to do what is right. We also acknowledge the events of the past. Today, someone may acknowledge that little faded scar that is part of me, makes me who I am, gives me strength… thank you. I hope that the scar never completely fades away.