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Beat Stigma

The gay male community still retains the historic memory of the need for beats, and many hold onto this tradition as one that remains important.

Beats provide a means for men to come together with other men to socialise and explore their sexual identity in a discrete and somewhat anonymous environment – especially in rural and regional areas where there may be a lack of social outlets or sex-on-premises venues.

Beats also provide an important avenue for peer support and education, and have helped many men with the sometimes fraught process of coming out.

As a result of increasing violence and hate-crimes towards gay men on Oxford St, many have abandoned their once traditional watering holes and haunts and taken refuge at beats.

Many gay and non-gay identifying men also feel intimidated and confronted by venturing into sex-on-premises venues, with some fearing they may be ‘caught out’.

The ‘debate’ within the GLBTI community is generally focused on the sexual activity at beats, and ignores the social element to beat culture.

Discussion within the community is generally stifled by non-beat users who are ’embarrassed to be gay’, and ‘born-again non-beat users’ who publicly speak out against beat users whilst denying they have ever used a beat. This immaturity and hypocrisy only alienates the beat community.

They are generally quick to judge and vilify beat users, and their comments ignore the importance of beats to many men who do not have the same freedoms to express their sexuality in a more ‘socially acceptable’ way, and side-steps the outrageous fact that police routinely harass and intimidate men at beats.

Since the ‘outing’ of a popular cruising site in 2006, which saw beat locations being published in the media across Australia, beat users have experienced a dramatic increase in police presence and harassment, and the forced closure of many beats.

Police have a long history of patrolling beats. Unfortunately, most beat users are fearful of the police, and many also believe the community and its organisations have turned its back on them. As a result, many feel they are unable to report their experiences with police harassment and hate crimes.

It appears that community organisations who announce they are protecting the community have become complacent and ignored the issue of police harassment.This neglect only serves to condone and perpetuate police harassment and hate-crimes.

We have been monitoring police activities, which have moved beyond routine patrols to police actively ‘hunting’ men at parks and other beats.

We continue to receive reports from beat users around NSW – on a daily basis – of police harassment and intimidation, and use of barbaric tactics which may be unlawful.

We attempted to address this increase in police harassment within the community and its organisations, but found that traditional avenues were closed to us.

The effect of increased police patrols and harassment of men at beats has its consequences.

Police tactics have included searching men for safe sex equipment as evidence of intent to engage in sexual activity at a public place, and we are deeply concerned that beat users may stop carrying condoms and possibly engage in risky behaviour as a result. This is unconscionable and undermines the safe sex message – clearly an embarrassment for the community. Yet, the community organisations remains silent.

Police intervention at beats also causes fear amongst men and reduces their ability to socialise and engage with each other, making them more vulnerable and alienated as a result. We are concerned that mental health issues are being ignored, and believe that this could potentially contribute to an increase in depression and suicide – especially in rural and regional areas.

We believe that NSW Police, local councils and certain members of the GLBTI community and its organisations have chosen the wrong approach to the beat issue.

Unfortunately, they are intent on closing the beats down at any cost, even if it means harassing and intimidating men at night, chasing them around the park, searching them for condoms, and diverting their resources away from addressing more serious crime.

In the process, they have offended, hurt, alienated and enraged members of the community – and still the GLBTI community and its organisations remain silent.

We support NSW Police and local councils and their presence at beats, and would greatly appreciate non-intrusive patrols to ensure the safety and protection of the men who frequent them, and a greater emphasis on working with the beat community to ensure beat users are kept safe from hate-crimes.

We want to see police responding to instances of hate-crime with compassion and sensitivity, and not be dismissive, rude or judgmental.

We are appalled by the increasing level of homophobia in our society.

The current climate and inaction to address homophobic violence has only served to condone and perpetuate harassment and hate-crimes, especially around Oxford Street and other gay haunts.

We do not want an increase in homophobic violence at beats, and emphasise the need for police and beat users to work together to end hate-crime.

We believe that police and council resources could be better utilised to ensure beat users are protected from homophobic harassment and violence, and support regular non-intrusive patrols of beats.

We believe police should be targeting bashers and gangs of youths with knives – not beat users, and sending a clear message that homophobia and any act of hatred towards homosexuals will not be tolerated, and that they will be subject to the full force of the justice system.

We believe police should work towards repairing confidence and building trust so that beat users will report homophobia and hate-crimes, instead of fearing police and suffering in silence.

Unfortunately, some believe they are making beat users safe by removing them.Whatever their agenda may be, they are not working with the beat community and instead prefer to alienate beat users and have them chased around a park at night or harassed and treated like animals.

We are concerned that this push by police and certain members of the community will lead to riskier sexual behaviour, and force beat users to find other locations that could potentially put them in harms way and lead to an increase in homophobia and hate-crimes. This is not acceptable.

Police claim they are ‘protecting’ beat users – by harassing and intimidating them, and shutting beats down. Unfortunately, this will not work and will put more lives at risk.