Doug Hamilton wasn’t alone in a dark alley when he was attacked on Capitol Hill last year.
Last July, he was walking with two female friends when a stranger, who had repeatedly asked the trio intrusive questions about their sexual orientations, punched him in the chest and underneath the chin.
When Hamilton, a 52-year-old gay man, was knocked to the ground at the corner of Minor and Pike, sustaining a concussion, it was still light outside.
The next day, while waiting for a light to change, he started having a seizure. He was standing just across the street from the Capitol Hill apartment building he’s called home for the past 13 years.
Hamilton didn’t speak out about the experience at the time, even though he was involved with LGBTQ advocacy group Equal Rights Washington. He didn't want other people or the press to know that he was a hate-crime victim.
“It was too personal,” he says.
It turns out he's not alone. There is strong anecdotal evidence that anti-LGBTQ violence is rising in Capitol Hill, Seattle’s historically gay neighborhood.
Aleksa Manila, a local drag queen and counselor, was at Neighbours Nightclub last New Year’s Eve when she heard a fire alarm go off. She and her boyfriend were among the last to leave that night, the dance floor wet from sprinklers. She assumed the alarm was accidental, caused by someone’s tipsiness.
It wasn't until her phone was flooded with media phone calls the next day that she realized the bizarre end to the evening’s jubilations was an attempted arson; a gallon tank of gas deliberately spilled on a carpeted staircase that jeopardized the lives of the more than 700 people celebrating in Capitol Hill’s historic gay nightclub.
In June, Dwone Anderson-Young and Ahmed Said, two young gay men, joined a growing list of LGBTQ victims when the pair were shot and killed in the Central District. They had spent the night dancing at RPlace, another popular Capitol Hill gay bar where they were regulars.
RPlace security guard Martine Saphiloff, a mother of four kids, remembers catching the boys trying to sneak in with fake IDs. “This still ain’t you,” she would scold, handing a fake back.
But when the two finally came of age, they never caused problems. “They were just here to dance,” Saphiloff said. “For them to end the way they ended; it was traumatic.”
Then there are the incidents that don’t make headlines. Members of the LGBTQ community, for example, say verbal harassment on the streets and in Capitol Hill bars has gotten worse too in the last year.
“I used to hear dyke and fag once every couple of months [in bars] — now I hear it nightly,” says Neighbours spokesperson, Shaun Knittel.
Local drag queen Jessica Paradisco says that, in the last year, it’s become common for his LGBTQ friends to be verbally harassed through car windows while walking on the Hill at night — even windows that belong to cab drivers. Paradisco says that cabbies have hit on, tried to unfasten their pants or masturbated while driving he and his friends home.
These days, he walks home on well-lit streets like Broadway — usually with other people — avoiding places that can be dangerous after dark, like Cal Anderson Park.
Across Seattle, the latest FBI data shows a strong increase in LGBTQ hate-crimes: Between 2011 and 2012, the number reported jumped from 6 to 19.
A recent Seattle Times piece used this data to claim that Seattle had the third-highest rate of anti-LGBTQ hate crimes among large U.S. cities in 2012 — even though the FBI actually discourages using their data alone to derive rankings and conclusions about national trends.
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