Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Spain: Organizations decry homophobic attacks against gay men caught having sex in public bathrooms
Above: Isaac Rodríguez explains what happened after he was caught in a Pio Prince Mall bathroom stall with another man (ADN Television).
Remember Senator Larry Craig's bathroom incident? You probably do as it became almost as big a news story as Britney Spears' meltdown last year (actually, my friend Michael Rogers broke the story over at his BlogActive blog).
If memory serves well, some of the reaction back then - including from gay media - expressed disgust, disdain and utter shock at the fact that some men use public restrooms to cruise other men - as well as the usual lurid coverage that accompanies stories like these.
The whole bru-ha-ha led to amusing commentary from Rex Wockner and a handy video guide of signals gay men use to cruise other guys by Rod Townsend (the Felching Flytrap is particularly effective - or so I've been told).
Which brings us to Spain: It may not be a story about a homophobic politician being caught in his own hypocrisy, but I was struck by an article published yesterday in Madrid's ADN ("Sex in public bathrooms, homophobic aggressions") and the tone of the coverage.
Basically, representatives of LGBT rights organizations tell the newspaper that security guards at some public establishments such as shopping malls and train stations are being overtly aggressive and have verbally and physically assaulted men found having sex with other men in public bathrooms. They say that these attacks are homophobic and that security guards who are overzealous in taking justice in their own hands should be brought to court.
"A month and a half ago I witnessed how a man attacked another at the Atocha train station because he was offended by a look," said Miguel Ángel González, President of the LGTB Collective of Madrid (COGAM), "he began to hit him until the security guards showed up, they quickly took the victim away, while the nothing happened to the attacker" [Funny, I remember walking into that exact bathroom during a visit to Spain and being shocked by how cruisy it was].
He says the victim never reported the incident and explains that a lot of the men that cruise the bathrooms are in the closet and afraid to bring charges against the attackers.
Manuel Ródenas, an attorney specializing on LGBT rights, tells ADN that there is a legal vacuum when it comes to these cases since there are no laws that address instances in which the aggressor walks away free.
"[Having sex in public bathrooms] is not a crime as long as it can't be categorized as exhibitionism;" says Ródenas, "The victims do it with discretion and do not want anyone to find out, but the security guards often open the stall doors, breaking their intimacy and forcing the proof."
Now, if you have read articles about public restroom sting operations in the United States usually you see a number of men being arrested or charged by police with their names and addresses sometimes published the next day in the local newspaper. I can't remember any instance in cases like these in which a man has gone on record or on camera to defend his actions.
Well, check the video above (larger version here).
Isaac Rodríguez, tells ADN about being assaulted by a security guard at the Prince Pio Mall back in February after being caught in a bathroom stall with another man.
"I was in a stall with a guy, a security guard came in, looked below the stall doors, saw that there were more than two legs and gave a strong kick to the door and pulled us out. He began to insult and threaten us. He said he was a Nazi and that he'd be our worst nightmare."
"The security guard grabbed my head and pushed it against the mirror, but the aggression did not leave a mark or an injury, so I wasn't able to present proof."
In the video he says that the attack lasted for 20 to 30 minutes and that it was rather unpleasant. He also shows exactly which bathroom stall he was using which for some reason I find really funny but, hey, I have a weird sense of humor. He also says that straight couples sometimes use public spaces for sex as well but are never taken under custody or attacked.
Rodríguez has taken the security guard to court.