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Gays still safe in Wellington

Phillip Cottrell

While the circumstances are tragic and horrible, GLBT people in Wellington should not feel unsafe following the attack and death of a gay man on Saturday.

Gay man Phillip Cottrell, 43, was tragically and savagely attacked early on Saturday morning. On Sunday his life support was turned off.

Some members of the GLBT community, perhaps understandably so, immediately interpreted the hideous event as evidence that Wellington is not safe for GLBT people. This is simply not the case.

One GLBT group is hosting a special meeting to pay tribute to the victim of Saturday’s attack, and to “discuss queer safety in Wellington”. While a tribute is a moving gesture, I hope that the group remains realistic about the situation and doesn’t attempt to whip the community into a terrified fervor.

Wellington Police have moved quickly to dispel any notion that we’re unsafe, releasing a specific media statement to that effect. Detective Senior Sergeant Scott Miller says the attack was unprovoked, random, and vicious. But it was nothing to do with Phillip’s sexuality. “We do not believe Mr Cottrell’s sexual orientation was a factor in his death.”

Phillip Cottrell’s attack was a heinous, disgusting tragedy. Phillip was gay. But the two don’t appear to be related.

Go out, be yourself, and don’t for a minute think about changing who you are or how you act. Wellington is as safe for GLBT people as it was before Saturday’s attack.


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  1. sad world we live in says:

    No we are not safe, the two times I was remotely affectionate with my partner resulted in people calling out f##gots, guys trying to pick fights with us and stares from everyone else.

    We have been chased, pushed,punched, yelled at, the list goes on and on.

    I would love to think we are safe but the reality is far different.

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    • Aaron and Andy says:

      It sounds like you have a tough time, and that sucks. Where do you walk?

      I walk through Central Wellington all the time with my partner, often holding hands. We never get abused or have things yelled at us. I don’t know where you are, but it sounds like a totally different story.

  2. Rock Rodgers says:

    My friend and I were walking home along Lambton Quay a couple of weekends ago, Saturday morning 3AM.

    Some passers by yelled out “you’re gonna get shit on your dick, faggots”.

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  3. I agree with the above commenters; Wellington isn’t safe. It’s not as bad as other places (not that that should ever be the terribly low bar we set), but it isn’t safe. I’ve only had it directed at me a few times years ago, but walking with queer male friends in town on Saturday nights invariably gets the straight groups of boys yelling out “fag” etc.

    I’m somewhat leery about the police immediately discounting this. Not because I think it was an anti-GLBT attack because in this case I suspect it was mostly random. But the fact that queer people threaten men who are uncomfortable with their sexuality does make them more likely targets. Whether they’re queer or not, slight men and more butch women are often targets, and that’s not a coincidence.

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  4. I personally have never experience any violence or verbal abuse because of being gay in Wellington or anywhere else in New Zealand.
    I do feel that I’m rather lucky and also a minority on this fact. When out or about I never hide my sexuality and personally rather proud of who I am, then again in saying this
    I don’t come across as the stereotype that most of the ignorant members of the public perceive as “all gay men”.But, I still would have expected to experience some negativity towards my sexuality.
    Since moving to Wellington close to two years ago, I feel safe and very comfortable in being out and myself in this city.

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  5. Bolshevik Bill says:

    Queer Avengers invite anyone who wishes to gather at 7 pm on Thursday night on the first floor of Anvil House 138 Wakefield Street in response to the tragic event last weekend.

    Andy, you say: ‘One GLBT group is hosting a special meeting to pay tribute to the victim of Saturday’s attack, and to “discuss queer safety in Wellington”. While a tribute is a moving gesture, I hope that the group remains realistic about the situation and doesn’t attempt to whip the community into a terrified fervor.’

    All would join with you in hoping that this group does not lose its senses.There seems to have been no indication that this was proposed.

    Wellington in comparison with other cities is moderately safe, but that gaybashings occur too often, and we need things to get better.

    But for now, there are a lot of us who are shocked and grieving in different ways. Gathering and talking might be a good idea for some.

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  6. Mr Anonymous says:

    Wellington is not so safe. I really would like to feel safe not just in Wellington Central but in other Regions.

    I think a big disadvantage to bullying of any sort, is being alone.
    Phillip was alone as he walked, which definately made it easier for abusers to target him.

    I know this from experience. As I have been walking alone around town (down Lambton Quay, Kent Terrace, among other places). I have been verbally and physically abused at all times of the day.

    It’s worse at night when people drink, so I suggest taking others with you.

    Also, speaking again from experience, if you get abused at by a mob of people, give the biggest/loudest one a dislocted nose/right hook and the rest with leave you alone. You’re welcome :>

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  7. I agree. We are definitely not safe. It’s been 5 years now, but I am still wary of public affection with a partner when there are no ‘normal adults’ around – on new year’s eve 5 years ago my partner and I were walking home and while we were on our street, a group of skinhead teens from out of town attacked us. My partner managed to get away and run home but I was hospitalised for three days after.

    Especially around the holiday season or on a weekend, it pays to be very careful. Although more cultured Wellingtonians don’t have an issue, the same cannot be said for young people from out of town who come in to party and cause mischief. They are not as aware of how life in a city works and far less accepting of diversity.

    Hearing about Phil makes me so sad – he was a kind and friendly man and this is a tragedy.

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    • Cower then says:

      Oh well stay at home and lock all your doors and windows then. Never go out. Buy your groceries through the internet. Install a spy hole in your door. The world is out to get you!

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  8. Hey I’m a girl but love hangin out with gays makes me feel like I can be myself and a little sad aaron and andy r gay u both are cute

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