Buoyed up by his sense of his fledgling assertiveness, D was on the bus with a friend in a large multi-ethnic part of London when the two young black men sat next to D and his friend and were playing their music loudly on their MP3 player. D braved it and politely asked one of them if he could play his music a little less loud. One of the boys used his body language to animate the verse, punching the seat in front of him and stomping his foot and finally pointing his finger at D and his friend at the word ‘disease’. D felt scared, yet angry. ‘Well say something queer boy’, he was tormented. Another passenger joined in, a black woman who was concerned about the two boys and praised them for not believing in what they teach them at school these days–that paedophiles are equal with solid men. Rather lamely, D repeated his mantra about the loud music only to be accused of being racist. Both D and his friend stayed on the bus only as long as it took them to pluck up the courage to get off and received a few parting shots of name calling, but felt lucky to have escaped any physical violence. After recounting this, D begun to sob, I said, ‘They were insulting’. He looked at me shaking his head and said quietly: ‘They silenced me’.

‘Being insulted to the point of frightened silence makes you want to restore yourself- as white, as English, as an artist, an educator–but not as gay’, I said. ‘What’s wrong with wanting to show to the bunch of ignorant people and to show to the public what it’s like having to go through this?

Despite his scepticism, I continued, ‘I can understand that you want to make good the insults and not be silenced. It is as though you are trying to negotiate something, to win over the respect from the tormentors …and they just hate you. As if you believe you can convert others’ hate into acceptance, if only you keep trying.’

‘They do know something about you. Your gayness is recognised. And it is as if a part of you feels that needs justification. I think it’s that which is silencing you.’

Looking upset, he replied, ‘But if I can’t change what they think about me I can do nothing.’