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Sunday, May 26, 2024

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TOPHER TALKS: An Important read on recent attacks on our community

This month, Topher catches up with Michael Smith, who, along with his boyfriend Nat, was attacked in Brixton after attending Black Pride earlier in the day.

First, I want to start by offering my love to you. I am a South London boy, born and bred, so to see this happen so locally makes it sting that little bit more. Thank you so much for agreeing to talk to me. How are you feeling now?

I am very overwhelmed with the support, love and positivity from my friends, family and the LGBTQ+ community. I feel so lucky to be part of an amazing group of people. It has been a whirlwind of emotions, and I have had good and bad moments. But I have been referred to Galop and I can’t wait to talk to them.

Can you explain what happened and where you had been?

Nat and I had a fantastic time at Black Pride. It was my first time going and I found the event so impactful, joyous and celebratory. Afterwards, we were going to see one of Nat’s friends and we had to get the bus from Brixton. Nat and I were chatting at the busy bus stop about what an amazing time we had had at Black Pride with each other, and how we were looking forward to going to Circa to see some drag acts and party the night away.

Then out of nowhere, this stranger hit Nat behind the ear. People at the bus stop were asking Nat if he was alright and I looked at the stranger and said “What the hell?!” That’s when he started punching me in the face. Luckily our bus arrived and Nat and I ran on. That’s when I saw the blood on my t-shirt and I could taste the blood in my mouth. My tongue then felt a massive split in my mouth. I went to the hospital, and the nurses saw me straight away to stitch my lip up. They were incredible.

Do you feel you can offer advice to any visibly queer people reading this who may be feeling anxious about travelling around South London?

Don’t be scared or anxious about going out. We are doing nothing wrong — we are fabulous! We shouldn’t have to change our actions for small-minded, bigoted people. But if something does happen, go to the hospital and get yourself checked out. Also, report it to the police. If it’s not an emergency, call 101. It’s so important it’s reported to the police!

Do you feel that the rhetoric in the press about queer people has paid into the public attitude towards us?

I think it has a lot — not just in the press but on social media as well. Giving people with hateful ideologies a platform to express their opinions is dangerous as it can influence others and make them feel it’s acceptable to voice and show their disgusting opinions. Also, the fact the government has said nothing or even acknowledged the stabbings at The Two Brewers is revolting and it shows the world how hateful they are. Hate speech is not free speech!

And tell us about your JustGiving. How much are you planning to raise and what for? And where can we find it?

I had to channel all my emotions into something and one thing my Grandpa used to say was “Don’t let the buggers get you down!” and that was what I was telling myself in the hospital. I’m also using that to empower me to turn something beautiful and amazing from this horrible event. That’s why I decided to fundraise for Stonewall. I had no expectations of how much I was going to raise, probably a couple of hundred pounds. But when I last checked, I’d raised £1,030 in four days which is absolutely incredible. I have no words to express to thank the generosity of everyone.

Negative stuff aside, tell us about you. Who is Michael and what makes him tick? What do you do for a living?

You know what, I’m a massive Real Housewives fan, my favourites being Beverly Hills, New York and Salt Lake City. Also, love Drag Race! One of my favourite moments was meeting Michelle Visage, such a beautiful soul! A song that gives me the ick is Sweet Caroline. That can get into the same bin as Sex On Fire, any song by The Killers, and Robbie Williams.

I’m a primary school teacher and I’ve been teaching for 15 years. I have however decided to take a bit of a break and do supply for a bit just to see what else I would like to do. But doing all of this has made me want to do more campaigning, activism and work for a charity.

How long have you been with Nat (Asabere)?

We’ve been together for a few months now, so still early days but it’s going well and strong. It all started with him messaging me happy birthday on Instagram. He really was my knight in shining armour the night of the attack.

And finally, what is the secret to being a loved-up queer couple in South London?

Just be open and honest with each other. Don’t be scared! Talk about everything from sex to how you have your cup of tea.

Give Topher a Follow @Tophertaylor

 

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