A 25-year-old Australian man who identifies as queer was reportedly jumped by three men and brutally assaulted as he left a house party in Sydney’s Newtown neighborhood Saturday night, all because he was wearing a dress and makeup.
Isaac Keatinge told Buzzfeed News the attack happened as he was walking toward King Street around midnight.
Keatinge said he walked up to the men to “respond in kind” after hearing them direct anti-gay and anti-transgender slurs at him as he walked by.
“I wasn’t afraid of going up to them to talk and try to diffuse the situation,” said Keatinge, insisting he was “verbally assaulted” with comments about wearing a dress. “But the punches came as soon as I went up to them. It was so rapid.”
Keatinge managed to stumble back to the party for help, and received 15 stitches for a laceration to the head after a trip to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. He also suffered multiple bruises and a swollen eye.
He added: “I’ve been confronted by people so many times before. I said to friends, it’s not the first time, just the worst time. My brother and father told me that wearing dresses and makeup would ‘get me bashed’, I just didn’t think it would happen in Newtown.”
“This report is extremely concerning and absolutely unacceptable,” NSW Police Superintendent Simon Hardman said in a statement, adding that “NSW Police will follow every avenue of investigation possible” and thorouglhy investigate whether the attack was motivated by “bias based on [Keatinge’s] appearance at the time.”
State member for Newtown Jenny Leong assured Buzzfeed News that Newtown is considered a safe neighborhood, and has a high LGBT population compared to other parts of Sydney.
Noting a recent influx of new residents in the neighborhood, Leong said: “The real challenge we have is to make sure that in the increase of people coming to the area we don’t see a change in the culture, a change to the feeling of this being a safe community for people from diverse communities.”
A protest planned by Reclaim The Streets in response to the assault has been planned for next Saturday, April 23 in Victoria Park. Organizers hope it will “draw attention to the escalating violence and intimidation in the once vibrant suburb.”