Ian Baynham vigil in Trafalgar Square
They were there to remember the assault on 62 year old Ian Baynham who died of brain damage on 13 October. He was a gay man who stood up to people shouting homophobic abuse at him. Gordon Brown has sent a letter of support whilst Boris Johnson has signalled his support.
Lobbying is one thing. Looking to those with influence is important. But there’s another angle we shouldn’t lose sight of.
I have a friend whose tales of similar abuse and his boldness in tackling it head on in public spaces leave me breathless with pride. Like the Baynham friends and family described in the speech last night, my friend is not frightened about dealing with such abuse head on. There have been numerous occasions where the coda to his reports have always been a chorus of “Be careful, won’t you? It’s right you do what you do. But do be careful.”
It isn’t war on the streets. At least, I don’t think so. Instead, Baynham’s murder and the solidarity shown in the many thousands who turned up at Trafalgar Square remind us that such homophobia does still exist and we should all strive to eradicate it. Such action requires a loud voice from a united community.
I didn’t attend the vigil last night. I look at the pictures and read the tweets from it I end up feeling as though I’ve let the side down. Maybe that’s my inner-critic. The overriding aim of the vigil was to remember Ian Baynham, the Soho nail-bomb and James Parks. If I’m thinking about it now, should I have made the effort and gone last night?
Possibly. You might argue that. But something strikes me as even more important as I watch the moving speech delivered with Ian Baynham’s sister Jenny standing in the background. Vigils are one thing. Memories of vigils are something else. But what’s most important now is that the overwhelming statement made by that vigil and all who attended continues. The best place for that to continue is on the internet.
So, do this.
Your sexuality is of no consequence. Everyone should do this. Reserve a small part of your mind and file this event and the one which precipitated it in a folder marked “hate crime”. It doesn’t demand a great deal of thought. Nor does it require debate, proposals of how we might tackle it or a great long list of people you need to lobby to eradicate it. Just remember that this event happened and that thousands of people converged on Trafalgar Square (the majority of whom won’t have known Baynham) and remember that as sad as this tale is, the speech still raised a smile about someone you didn’t know.
That alone should be sufficient to motivate you into saying something the moment someone hurls abuse, or indeed leaping to someone’s aid if you see another individual being physically attacked in the street. You’re not telling me it was totally silent in Trafalgar Square that night. There would have been plenty of other people around. We all share a responsibility.
There’s a fine line between freedom of speech and all out homophobic abuse – some people haven’t found that line yet. But whilst we’re looking for where exactly the line can be drawn, we should continue to keep such issues uppermost in our mind, vowing to tackle any examples of abuse at a local level.
Be bold. Be safe. But for goodness sake, don’t let it slip.
Members of the London Gay Men’s Chorus sing “Something Inside So Strong” at the vigil