The picture, posted on Facebook, is hard to look at. It shows a young man with two black eyes, a broken front tooth, and blood smeared all over his face and shirt. The caption: “This is the face of homophobia”. Shortly after being assaulted in a Paris street, Wilfred de Bruijn shared his story.
According to a 2011 survey, in France, nearly one homosexual in two has been the victim of a homophobic attack, either physical or verbal, and nearly a quarter have been attacked physically at least once.

“We wondered whether the photo might be too shocking or exhibitionistic. But we told ourselves that, after all, all it showed was the truth”

Wilfred de Bruijn is from the Netherlands. He has been living in Paris since 2003, where he works as a librarian.
On Sunday, around 3:30 a.m., my friend Olivier and I were leaving a party in the 19th arondissement. We were walking arm in arm down rue des Ardennes, when we were suddenly attacked. We didn’t see them coming. I don’t remember anything — I woke up in an ambulance, soaked in blood.
Olivier, however, did not lose consciousness. He told me he heard someone yelling something like: “Look at these fags!” and that he was hit right in the face. His eyes were covered in blood so he could not see his attackers well, but he thinks there were three or four of them. He could also see me lying on the pavement while my attackers kicked me, hard, in the face.
As a result, my lip was torn, a front tooth broken, and I suffered seven skull fractures, especially on the right side of my face, around the eyes and nose. I vomited a lot of blood. I suppose I was lucky: I don’t have any brain or eye damage.
“I am overwhelmed by the reactions that my photo has provoked”
When we left the hospital, I asked Olivier to take a picture of me. Later, in the afternoon, I got the idea of uploading it to Facebook. We talked about it a lot - we wondered whether it was too shocking or exhibitionistic. But we told ourselves that, after all, all it showed was the truth. Our attack is unfortunately far from being an isolated case.
I am overwhelmed by the reactions that my photo has provoked. The mayor of the 19th arrondissement called me, and the police came to my apartment to pick us up and drive us to the station to file a complaint, which we did. I have also received very touching messages from around the world, from Brazil to South Africa…
The police are looking for someone who saw the attack and who in fact called the police, in the hopes that they might be able to identify the attackers. They also told us they would analyse surveillance camera footage from the area.
“Saturday night, for once, we let our guard down”
I had already been verbally attacked in the street, but never physically. Of course, like all my other gay friends, I’m careful — we avoid holding hands in the subway, and we kiss each other on the cheeks, not on the lips. But on Saturday evening, Olivier and I were in the middle of an interesting conversation, we were in a good mood, and for once, we let our guard down.
I don’t know, and I will probably never know, if this attack was linked to the tense atmosphere right now in France due to the movement to allow marriage for everyone. But I wouldn’t be surprised. I must admit I am shocked to see how much the situation has degenerated since last summer [Editor’s note: the last incident to date was on Saturday, when anti-gay-marriage activists plastered posters on the walls of a building where right-to-marriage advocates work. And, on Friday, extreme right activists intimidated Erwann Binet, the Social Party MP in charge of organising debates on the government’s proposed same-sex marriage law. Following this, he announced that the debates were cancelled due to security concerns]. We hear horrible things about gay people all the time now. Maybe I was being naïve before, but it now seems to me like homophobia is profoundly rooted in France, even though the French talk about equality all the time. It’s profoundly paradoxical.