Two women travelling on the N31 night bus in Camden, north London, on 30 May were attacked and left injured in a homophobic and misogynist attack. Melania Geymonat and her partner Chris were harassed by a group of men who noticed they were a couple. The men demanded that they kiss for their entertainment, described sexual positions, and threw coins at them. When the couple did not go along with their demands the men beat them up, leaving Melania and Chris with facial injuries and covered in blood.
The sort of verbal abuse in this case will be far too familiar to queer women. In a press interview Melania said: “I’m tired of being [seen] as a sexual object...these situations are usual for gay friends who are beaten up just because [of their sexuality]. We have to endure verbal harassment and chauvinist, misogynistic and homophobic violence because when you stand up for yourself s**t like this happens.”
Every one of us has stories of similar harassment, many of which now look like close calls. I can recall countless times when I, or my partner and I, have been targeted with homophobic and misogynist abuse — men following us and making comments about going home with them, about what it would be like to have sex with lesbians, and getting angry when turned down. These are men who seems to think they are “complimenting us” — they like lesbians — or that obviously we would like nothing better than to share our sexuality with them.
This is the particularly toxic mix of homophobia and misogyny. The very existence of queer women is a challenge to the idea of women’s sexuality belonging to men. And it provokes a violent reaction.
Five teenagers between the ages of 15 and 18 have been arrested over the attacks. At the time when the teaching of LGBT+ inclusive relationship and sex education in schools is under threat, the age of the attackers is particularly worrying.
Just a few days after the attack in London, two actors who were due to be in a play about gay women in Southampton were pelted with stones as they kissed in the street on the way to the theatre — leading to the performance being cancelled. In a TV interviews since the attack Melania and Chris have bravely said that they will not change they way they act in public. They are right. We must not be forced back into the closet.