Wilfred de Bruijn: The Comfort Of Strangers


Images via facebook

Wilfred de Bruijn was walking home through Paris with his male partner after a dinner date on Sunday night. He woke up in an ambulance after being savagely beaten in a homophobic attack and posted this photo to his Facebook account shortly afterwards. The story went viral and activists responded by staging an anti-homophobia demonstration on Rue Des Archives in Paris on Tuesday evening.

Would you have done it? Imagine that for a second. If you were beaten in the street for being different, would you post an image of your broken face on your timeline? Would it make you feel a little better about what happened to you if that image had inspired hundreds of people to protest in your name and express their support for you?

Maybe. Maybe not. But just think how lucky you are to have that choice.


Fear of difference has existed and will exist as long as human beings walk this earth. I don’t know how many men and women have been beaten up in the streets of Paris since Paris had streets, but I’m willing to bet it’s thousands. Maybe hundreds of thousands. Their stories were rarely heard, their injuries never seen, but I’m willing to bet that many of them carried the fear and shame of being a ‘victim’ with them long after the bruises faded, even though their only crime was to attempt to live their lives.

I’m really sad and angry that Wilfred got beaten up for walking arm in arm with his partner Olivier. I feel awful that we live in a society where we can fly to the moon, connect with anyone in the world and instantly access the answer to any question we can think of and yet some of our less evolved representatives feel that difference, be it racial, religious, gender or preference driven, should be punished with violence and hatred. They’re never going to go away; they’ve managed to colonise the internet fairly effectively and now even one’s bedroom can become a prison.

It’s scant comfort, but at least Wilfred knows that people care and are willing to protest for his right to live his life in any way he pleases. So many people before him didn’t.

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