- Elle Noir
Last month's attack suffered by Chris Cochrane, a transgendered woman who performs as Elle Noir, has people wondering about the safety of members in the Halifax LGBTQ community.
Cochrane was shot in the arm by a man who claimed to be a police officer. Several shots were fired through her apartment door while her roommate called 911.
The shooting was not classified as a hate crime, and some in the LGBTQ community have criticized police response to it. Cochrane declined to be interviewed.
Kevin Kindred, spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project, says that many people who are victims of crimes, in the community, decide not to report to Halifax Regional Police in fear of being re-victimized.
"I actually find that Halifax is a pretty open and welcoming place for members for of LGBT community, but we know that all cities face problems with homophobia and problems with violence," he says. "I encourage people to be as 'out' as they are comfortable being and I don't like the idea of having to be reserved out of fear of how society would react. However, people are conscious of the risks of homophobic and transphobic violence and sometimes conduct themselves accordingly."
Last March, Dylan LaVigne and his partner Andrew were attacked on the way to a bar while walking hand-in-hand. Five men asked them for rolling papers and decided to pounce when LaVigne yelled back "No" after multiple demands. One man "yells 'Fucking faggots!' and punches Andrew square in the jaw and knocks him over," he says.
LaVigne was also struck by one of the men and was kicked in the ribs once hitting the ground. His partner called 911, something that doesn't always happen, according to constable Debbie Carleton, the liaison officer with the LGBTQ community.
"The majority of cases where the LGBTQ community is targeted, we find that they either don't come forward to report the crime, or when they do come forward, it's very seldom that they will say that it's from their sexual orientation," she says.
Carleton says that Halifax Regional Police don't know if the community needs more support and advises people to come forward and help the police department determine what kind of relief is needed for LGBTQ groups. "As of this date, it's an underreported community and until we receive more calls, we can't give them the help that they need," she says.
LaVigne, on the other hand, says the attack has changed the way he and his friends act in public.
"If we tried [holding hands] on Spring Garden Road, we'd be called faggots at least five times before we reached the Public Gardens," he says. "Believe me, I've done it. It's not pretty."
Carleton urges victims of crime against their sexuality to contact her at 490-5016.