The gay mind recoils from evidence of the lethal extremes of loathing apparently loitering around every corner

The words are stones, falling page after page after page.

Incoming: Bucharest, Romania: Doru Marian Beldie is arrested and beaten with truncheons on the soles of his feet and palms of his hands until he signs a confession admitting his homosexuality. In prison he is repeatedly raped.

Istanbul, Turkey: Ali is dragged to the police station, tortured, sexually abused and raped for three days. A minor incident.

Coquerio Seco, Brazil: Renildo Jose Santos is kidnapped. His tortured, decapitated body is found discarded two days later. The abductors may have been plain-clothes policemen, part of a national-wide pattern of "cleaning up" sexual "perverts".

Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico: 12 gay men killed. Nine shot, one stabbed, two beaten into the next life. To date, no one prosecuted, though the murderers are probably known.

"Breaking the Silence: Human Rights Violations Based on Sexual Orientation" was published by Amnesty International last week. I had to persuade myself to read it. Force myself, actually, to plough through the unjust laws, denied civil rights, and horrors, state sanctioned and/or culturally endorsed, that are both unimaginable in their savagery yet ordinary in their sheer frequency.

Page 12, Extrajudicial executions and "disappearances": "There was a group of 15 of us working the streets ... from January to May, five of us have been killed ... picked up, shot and dumped." Page 20, Torture and Ill Treatment: "Marcel Brosca was ... pulled by the hair, the sides and back of his head were beaten against the wall until the blood poured." Page 28, Rape and sexual abuse: "Jos'e Enrique Gonzalez was driven to the ruins ... and reportedly forced to have oral sex." Page 29, Forced medical treatment to alter sexual orientation: "In the former Soviet Union, and in China ... the New York Times reported ... electric shocks and induced vomiting were employed to discourage erotic thought in homosexuals." Page 46, Death penalty: "Dig a hole, make a fire ... and throw him alive into the fire ..."

Throw him alive into the fire. There are realities that the gay mind instinctively recoils from. It staggers from evidence, particularly forensic evidence, of the lethal extremes of loathing apparently loitering around every corner, from proof that gives flesh and form to fear so deep as to be subterranean: the fear for your life.

The fear, like the hate, refuses to be seen off easily, though it threatens the delicate, and sometimes self-deceiving, checks and balances that are, over time, surreptitiously installed in every homosexual head. The equilibrium that, contrary to cliche, doesn't daily wallow in the "poor me" of its oppression, but most mornings automatically considers the day ahead and unconsciously convinces you to once more count gains won, to be upbeat, to stare, unblinking, on the bright side. Just so you can make yourself remain on the pavement, keep walking, not cross the road, not again, when three or four or five burly figures wind their way toward you, maybe looking for trouble. Maybe looking for you.

Looking for you: Medellin, Colombia. Between 1986 and 1990, 328 gay men are reported rounded up and murdered. In Bogota, police are said to arrest gay men and force them to run up and down a hill as gangs of officers open fire.

Dallas, America. Gay men seized from cruising areas are later found beaten, robbed and shot. Arms and legs and buttocks (to prolong the agony, understand) before the final bullet to the skull. Three men convicted of one such killing describe it as "a sport": "Hell, what we done is done all across Texas on a Saturday night."

The cases accumulate - an Iranian stoned to death, an American bludgeoned into a coma, an Irish man with broken glass ground into his eyes - and the impulse to ignore these facts as thoroughly as history has ignored the Nazi campaign of homosexual castration, forced sterilisation and marches to the gas chamber grows stronger, not weaker. I want not to have to look over my shoulder, to go to the corner shop without racing back and forth, to feel that who I am won't be the death of me, so I tell myself anything - that it happens there, it doesn't happen here, even as rising figures make me a liar. Between 1986 and 1990, more than 70 gay and bisexual men were murdered in Britain. Since then the murders of a further 60 gay men have gone unsolved, possibly due to police indifference. A third of gay men and women have been victims of hate crimes in the past five years: 9 per cent have been "systematically" beaten up, 16.5 per cent have been hit, punched or kicked, and 4.5 per cent assaulted with a weapon. One in three gay men will become a victim of violence.

Violence as organised as that carried out by George Rees, who stripped, bound and knifed his prey, gloating that they would bleed to death. As regular as Kevin Callagher's weekly outings, climaxing in the multiple stabbing of Ronald Eades. As communal as the teenage gang of four, masters of the en masse ambush, liable to stuff the victim's keys in his mouth and take turns jumping on his face and slashing his genitals, egged on by a thousand direct and diffuse forces that assured them what they were butchering wasn't fully human anyway. Murder is the ultimate act of discrimination.

And still I can't help it. I drop "Breaking the Silence" into the second drawer, left hand side, shoving other books on top. Out of sight, out of mind. I don't want to break the silence, I want to bury my head. So I paste on a sickly grin and make myself chuckle at the thought that that, of course, is what a lot of other people obviously want to do, too

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