Raymond Taavel killed on Gottingen Street

Gay activist was a committed Christian, and had faced violence before.

Raymond Taavel -  - (photo: samesexmarriage.ca)
Raymond Taavel
(photo: samesexmarriage.ca)

Developing story

Raymond Taavel, a long-time and respected fixture in Halifax's gay community, was killed last night outside Menz Bar on Gottingen Street.

As of this writing (noon on Tuesday), Halifax police have only issued one statement, saying that a 32-year-old man is in custody. A CBC news report, however, describes circumstances that suggest Taavel and another man were attacked by someone using homophobic slurs.

Taavel was a gay activist who wrote for Wayves magazine, a local LGBT publication, and worked at Buddhist magazine Shambhala Sun as the assistant circulation manager, says the Sun's Barry Boyce.

"I heard the news of a horrible gay bashing on Gottingen Street, and the first thing I thought is, 'what was Raymond doing about it?' And then a constable showed up at office this morning to tell the news," says Boyce, who is clearly traumatized by Taavel's death.

Boyce describes Taavel as a deeply reflective Christian, and the two often worked late together, discussing their respective religions. "He’d often talk about the contemplative aspects of Christianity and what real Christianity was all about," explains Boyce. "One of his interests was that the love aspect of Christianity had been given the back seat. He thought Christianity wasn’t about ideology or doctrine, but about your heart. He thought the Dali Lama was a good Christian."

Taaavel was "a fierce activist, but I was proud that he was not an in-your-face activist He had a turn-the cheek-attitude," says Boyce. "I never detected him as going on the aggressive defence.

"Raymond was the life of the party," continues Boyce. "He was the kind of guy you always planned to see. He cheered you up. He was a loose, gangly, handsome joyful guy.

"I'm going to miss him terribly."

In 2010, Taavel wrote about being punched one night, after leaving Menz Bar and while having a slice at Pizza Corner:

As I chowed down on my pizza slice another guy who seemed to be accompanying the one I was chatting with suddenly, caustically, asked me if I’m gay. I gave a matter-of-fact “yes,” shrugging my shoulders as if to say “... and your point is?” He retorted with, “Well you’re too gay for me”—or something to that effect—and before I knew it I was on the receiving end of a backhand to the head.

[...] I took some important things away from this experience; I cannot take my safety for granted.

[...] It’s tempting in this day and age of legislated liberties to think that a personal or collective vigilance is no longer required. It’s easy to lull ourselves into complacency, thinking there’s nothing more left to fight for, or nothing more to achieve. Fighting back comes in many forms: reaching out, building bridges, educating and, if need be, defending ourselves from physical harm.

There is a vigil tonight, 7pm at Menz Bar, to remember Taavel.

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