Greg Miedzwiecki (far left) and Lee Cameron Trussler (second right) were the victims of a homophobic assault. (Facebook)
A gay couple has been left too terrified to leave the house after youths attacked them in Southampton, England – all they did was hold hands.
Greg Miedzwiecki, 30, and his boyfriend Lee Trussler, 28, were left bloodied when three teenagers threw insults and punches at them outside The Edge, a popular LGBTQ+ nightclub.
As they waited for a taxi on London Road in the early hours of 2 May, the teens hurled homophobic abuse at them from across the street.
“We were at the taxi point holding hands and cuddling because it was really cold,” Trussler told PinkNews.
“Then [the boys] crossed the road, came right in front of us and started calling us queers, ‘f****ts’, f***ing, c**ts, and all those kinds of things,” Miedzwiecki said, who began filming them on his mobile phone.
Miedzwiecki called on the boys to stop – “it’s the 21st century,” he recalled telling them. They didn’t listen. “One of them punched me in the face,” he said.
Gay man feared his boyfriend had been ‘beaten to the floor and left alone’
Trussler stepped in to protect Miedzwiecki during the senseless assault that took place at around 3am. “They slapped me in the face and pushed me down. They had me on the floor kicking my face,” he said, adding that he “blacked out” between punches.
“I woke up to my friend telling me to wake up,” he said, “I was spitting blood and I’d cut my tongue and lip open. I was crying.”
But then he realised Miedzwiecki was nowhere to be found.
“I was in hysterics. I was terrified they had beaten him to the floor and he was alone,” Trussler said.
“[The teens] had started chasing me,” Miedzwiecki said. “I just ran away and I hid in someone’s front garden.”
Hailing a nearby police car, officers drove the gay couple to Southampton General Hospital after the attack. By 9am, neither had been seen, forcing them to go to Trussler’s mother who is a nurse for treatment.
Miedzwiecki and Trussler have been left grappling with the anxiety and anger brought on by the episode. Basic things they once did without worry – walking the dog or being out at night – now put them “on edge”.
“We haven’t left the house much since the incident,” Miedzwiecki said. “We found out one of the [attackers] actually lives near us.”
“If a group of lads walk down the street, we cross the road straight away,” Trussler added.
The police have offered them little comfort. Three weeks since the attack, and the gay couple will only just provide statements to Hampshire Constabulary on Thursday (19 May) – they’re wary they may have forgotten important details now.
Compounding the frustration, the couple claim they’ve identified their assaulters with help from Facebook users, having uploaded footage from the attack online.
“Yet nothing’s actually been done,” Miedzwiecki said, “homophobic attacks still happen. We can’t believe it.”
Hampshire Constabulary said in a statement to PinkNews that an investigator has been assigned to the case. They are “thoroughly investigating” the incident.
“We completely understand that this might feel like a long time,” a spokesperson said, “however, we feel we are committed to following up all lines of enquires.”
If victims are ever concerned about being repeatedly targeted we would always urge them to get in contact so that we can support, reassure and offer safeguarding,” they added.
As anti-LGBTQ+ violence rises, Britain is anything but ‘tolerant’, warns charity
The attack is the latest episode in a disturbing spree of violence against LGBTQ+ people in Britain. Reports of LGBTQ+ hate crimes have risen by 210 per cent between 2014 and 2021, according to police data.
Galop, an LGBTQ+ anti-abuse charity, cautioned that police figures are incomplete and the true tally is likely even higher. Nine in 10 LGBTQ+ victims do not report hate crimes to the authorities, government figures show.
“Being attacked for who you are can be highly damaging,” a spokesperson for Galop said. “The scars that are left can be physical as well as psychological.”
As much as the community has improved legal rights and is more represented than ever before in the media, Galop said this hasn’t quite trickled down to everyday life for queer folk.
“There’s a bit of a misconception that this means people are now tolerant of, or even embracing of, the LGBTQ+ community in this country,” Galop said.
The charity warned that while police forces have made efforts to better serve and protect LGBTQ+ people, this still isn’t a guarantee. “The response can vary – some LGBTQ+ victims get a really great response,” they said, “but some don’t.”
Only 14 per cent of anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes are resolved by the police, the investigative journalism unit Liberty Investigates found.
Hatred is nothing new to Miedzwiecki and Trussler. “We’ve had people shouting things at us in the past while we held hands,” Trussler said.
He’s always shrugged off the slurs and the glares from passersby. It’s to be expected, Trussler said. But when the teens targeted them, something changed.
“I just thought, ‘you know what, I’m not having anyone speak to me like that ever again’,” Trussler said. “It’s just not acceptable.”