A gay couple was attacked in Washington, D.C. on Sunday by a pair of teenagers who reportedly called them both “monkeypox fa***ts” along with other homophobic slurs
It comes following stern instructions from global health services to avoid misinformation spreading and homophobic rhetoric around the virus, warning of adding fuel to unnecessary stigma.
A gay couple was attacked in broad daylight on Sunday afternoon (August 7) while travelling through Northwest D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood.
The two teenage attackers involved in the altercation allegedly called the couple “monkeypox f*****s”, before assaulting them, resulting in a six-hour visit to the local emergency room and one victim needing stitches.
Robert, 25, and Antonio, 23, had both spent the afternoon at a public swimming pool and in a local gay bar, Kiki, per reports from Metro Weekly. Robert was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and Antonio a crop top with a rainbow Polaroid logo.
At around 5:40 p.m., as they were walking to a bus stop, they were stopped by a group of teenagers, two women and five males.
Reports say that based on what the couple were wearing, the male teenagers assumed their sexual orientation so began calling them “monkeypox f*****s” and directing other homophobic comments towards them.
As they were walking away, one of the teens approached the couple from behind, at which point Robert turned around and was punched in the forehead, causing him to fall to the ground. As he was struggling to get up the teen struck him again in the temple, braking his glasses in the process.
During that time, according to reports, the second teenager had approached Antonio, punching him in the face while his friend struggled to get up.
At this point, an onlooker standing on a balcony overlooking the street called police to report the attack and most of the teens fled, while two of the young women who had been with the group approached the beaten couple to apologize.
“I was kind of p**sed and said something along the lines of, ‘This is who you hang out with? That’s f**ked up,’” he told Metro Weekly.
“One of them said their dad was gay and it was messed up that they attacked us. But I was still pretty pissed at the whole incident, so I let them pass,” Robert said.
Police took the couple to the emergency room at Howard University Hospital to be checked over and Antonio received stitches to his upper lip.
Media coverage of monkeypox in both the UK and US has been condemned for carrying “homophobic and racist” undertones, with health officials warning that not only will that undermine relief efforts, but also cause unnecessary stigma leading people to think that it is a “gay virus”.
Unfortunately, pleas to avoid that type of inaccurate, counter-productive and dangerous method of political chess were ignored by some elected officials in the US and one controversial pressure group in the UK, subsequently misinformation about the virus has been rife, particularly in online spaces.
“I mainly feel shock that this could happen in D.C. in broad daylight, only three or four blocks from U Street, walking from a gay bar to public transit,” said Robert.
“I’ve actually had more experiences of homophobia the past couple of months than I have ever before, just this summer alone,” he continued. “A few months ago, a friend of mine and I were on the Metro coming home on the Red Line from a pool party. And some guy told us not to—he just said some homophobic things to us, saying that where he was from, they ‘kill gay people’ or something along those lines.”
“And then even as we were walking down 7th Street, just minutes before, someone shook his head at us and said, ‘That ain’t right,’ which I think was a reference to what Antonio was wearing, which was just a crop top. So yeah, it’s just kind of crazy that it seems like there’s been way more homophobia than I’ve experienced before, even growing up in Texas.”
“There is more overt homophobia here,” added Antonio, who has lived in D.C. since 2020. “There are more altercations on the street or verbal comments from random people versus at home.”
Earlier this month (August 4), the US government has declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency following a sharp surge in cases.
The decision to upgrade the virus’ status was made to help speed up the distribution of vaccines, treatments and federal resources, to try and curb the spread of the outbreak and to trigger extra assets, as the US health secretary urged ‘every American to take it seriously’.
Recap: Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection, but is sometimes passed on through very close contact, therefore transmission can occur during sex. Anyone can contract or pass on the virus, regardless of sexual orientation or gender. Find our more by listening to the audio links below.