Michael Anderson (Pic: Same Love Toti)
The young gay man attacked on the beach in Amanzimtoti, south of Durban, by three violent homophobes has returned to the scene of the hate crime for the first time.
Early in February, just days before his 21st birthday, teacher Michael Anderson went to meet a friend on the town’s main beach. He was verbally harassed by three men in the parking lot for wearing a Durban Pride t-shirt.
The men then followed him to the beach where they proceeded to beat, kick and choke him while shouting anti-gay slurs. He was saved by a fisherman who heard his screams.
While his attackers have yet to be identified, on Saturday, Anderson was joined by around 20 people from the community and the local LGBTQ organisation Same Love Toti to ‘take back’ the beach.
The group gathered on the beach waving rainbow flags and taking a stand against hate and intolerance towards the LGBTQ community.
MambaOnline asked Anderson what it was like returning to the traumatic location of the hate crime. “It was scary at first,” he admitted, “but by the end of it I was extremely happy that I had done it. It might still be difficult for me to go there alone but the biggest hurdle is done now.”
Kim Lithgow, from Same Love Toti, which organised the event, applauded Anderson for being “brave enough to re-visit the place of his attack.” She explained that the gathering was part of the group’s #InMyTown campaign, inspired by Anderson’s assault.
“Michael was attacked for being perceived to be gay; his attackers did not know him and they judged him by their own ideas of what ‘gay’ looked like,” she said. “Instead of simply respecting that we live in a diverse society, they resorted to violence, and this is unacceptable in our town.”
Lithgow urged everyone in Amanzimtoti to speak out against hate and violence by taking a selfie and using the hashtag #InMyTown”, along with affirming phrases such as: “We are loving”; “We are inclusive”; “We are diverse”; “We respect others”; and, “We are all human.”
She added: “Same Love Toti believes that Amanzimtoti should be remembered for being the caring town that we all know and love.”
Anderson said that since his story had gone public he’d been offered “overwhelming” support.
“I received a whole lot of messages from people who I’ve never met sympathising with me and saying that they’re proud of what I did and how they can’t believe it happened. So I most certainly do feel more so that I’m aware of how active the community is and how there are people from all around South Africa and not just Durban who have my back and support me in the way that I’m handling this.”
Anderson thanked Same Love Toti in particular for their assistance. “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to really pay them back for the way they’ve offered to help,” he said.