A gay man was left “shocked and incredibly angry” when he and his boyfriend were spat at and called “dirty homos” for the simple act of holding hands in public.
The heartbreaking homophobic incident occurred on Tuesday, 11 May shortly after Josh Barnett, 24, met his boyfriend Nathan, 21, outside the Centre Court Shopping Centre in Wimbledon, London.
Shortly afterwards, while walking along the street hand in hand, Barnett noticed somebody was walking “incredibly close” behind them. He thought the man’s behaviour seemed strange, but he didn’t think too much of it – until he heard “spit hit the floor”.
“We turned around to be faced with a man who, after spitting at us, proceeded to call us ‘dirty homos’,” Barnett told PinkNews. “I then confronted the man, as I was understandably both shocked and incredibly angry, and filmed him as he swore at us, to try and get footage I could give to the police.”
The man fled the scene as soon as Barnett started filming him, but the incident left both Barnett and his boyfriend shaken. They had never experienced homophobic harassment on the streets before, and neither expected to be targeted for being gay while walking hand-in-hand in broad daylight.
“I was absolutely furious at what had happened. I just could not believe it. I have been fortunate not to have suffered any anti-social behaviour like this towards me before, so it came as a real shock,” he said.
Gay couple ‘overwhelmed’ by support from LGBT+ community over homophobic incident
Later that day, Barnett – still upset and angry at the treatment he and his boyfriend had endured – posted his recording of the incident on Twitter. Since sharing the footage, he has been flooded with reams of supportive messages from queer people – many of whom said they have experienced similar incidents.
“The support from the LGBTQ+ community has been overwhelming,” Barnett said. “There came a point where I had to stop trying to reply to every kind comment of support on Twitter as it gained so much attention.
“It really showed both Nathan and I just how much love and care there is out there within our community, and certainly made us feel like we weren’t alone in what had happened, which is unfortunately still a sad reality of being LGBTQ+.”
After sharing the video on Twitter, the Metropolitan Police reached out and urged Barnett to file an official complaint about the incident.
“I went to Wimbledon Police Station the following day, where I was treated with complete care and consideration for what had happened,” Barnett said.
“An officer took an official statement from me, and over the following days, I was kept up to date with what they were doing via both email and phone calls. I sent them the video I had of the man, which they have now circulated on their system as an open case, in the hope that somebody might recognise him.
“He hasn’t yet been tracked down, however, the case is ongoing,” Barnett explained.
While he believes the only way to stamp out LGBT+ hate is to call it out, Barnett urged gay people to be cautious in the way they respond to incidents like these. He felt safe confronting and filming the man because they were on “a busy high street in the middle of the day surrounded by people and CCTV, and only a stone’s throw away from the police station”.
“I wanted to stand up to him and film him as calling out and exposing this sort of behaviour is the only way people like him learn they cannot do that to someone, and it also shows others that it is still happening,” Barnett said.
“The more people are aware, the more allies we gain, the greater support we have to fight this behaviour that has never, does not, and will never, have a place in our society.”
PinkNews has contacted the Metropolitan Police for comment.