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Homo-hatred in suburban ChCh

Thu 13 Jan 2011 In: True Stories View at Wayback View at NDHA

Dave and Kym A local woman claiming money for work she did as a volunteer sparked the backlash of threats, attacks and homophobic abuse which have left a gay Christchurch couple closing their business and teetering on an emotional breaking point. Dave Zelton and his partner Kym run a food delivery service, which they relocated to the suburb of Hoon Hay after the September 4 'quake restricted access to their inner-city site. They decided to set up a food bar at the front and sell from the premises as well. Zelton wanted to tell the full story exclusively to Daily News, as many people and media outlets are questioning how the dispute started. The couple opened the bakery section of the business a week before Christmas. In the meantime Kym had broken his foot and was unable to do much work-wise. Zelton says a friend of Kym's offered to come in and help in the shop as a volunteer, so they could get the shop up and running. He says they appreciated the help and gave her grocery items and baked goods in return, as thanks for her support, something Zelton said she was quite happy with. He says this lasted for a number of weeks, until she suddenly started demanding money. The couple was surprised at the sudden demand for money and told her that she had come on as a volunteer and they were not going to give her money, but she should come and talk to them about the situation later. She did not come and speak to them again. The next day the front window of their store was smashed – something they say the woman's son was later arrested over. "So that's how it all started and it just hasn't stopped," Zelton says. "It's just been total abuse. We had customers in the shop while they were calling out 'you faggots', 'they've got HIV' and 'they shouldn't be handling the food', in front of customers. Even the neighbour, who had kids under five-years-old, they were shouting out that abuse on front of those kids," Zelton says. "It even got to the stage that she yelled out 'he raped a three-year-old boy'. It got way out of hand. We actually had to hide in the shop. We had a lady from the community, she came and saw and said 'look, you guys work in the back with the food and I'll sit in the front and I'll serve the customers for you'. She was nice, she was lovely, she was helping us – because the people who were abusing us, if they didn't see us at the front of the shop they wouldn't do it." Other abuse levelled at the men has been more threatening, such as ""all faggots need to be burnt and destroyed". Along with the abuse and broken windows at the store, their car and home have also been damaged. The couple are walking away from the store because they have had enough. As he spoke to Daily News, Zelton was directing a removal company to the bakery to remove the cake fridge, while avoiding returning to the premises himself. "We even got abused at our own home yesterday at ten past ten," he says. He says the family causing the trouble is well-known locally and has gang links. They live around the corner from the bakery. When the couple told police they believe they are the victims of hate crimes, Zelton says police said they could not do anything until someone was hurt. "We've called them out a number of times. Basically they said last night, each time we call 111 with any threat, or abuse, or whatever, they'll document it." Zelton says the Community Constable who was dealing with the issue told the pair they should perhaps just pay the woman, leaving the couple to question "isn't that extortion?" They complained at the Central Police Station and were told definitely not to pay her. "They're not happy. Even the Sergeant was not happy," Zelton says. The family has been served with a trespass notice and the gay couple has engaged a lawyer. "It's cost us. And it's actually destroyed us inside. We had to close. We had to close. We had no choice. And now we've closed we're thinking ahead to how we're going to pay the leftover bills. And that's the hardest thing at the moment." Zelton says his partner Kym is having a breakdown – and he feels like he is not far behind. "I'm getting to that stage already at the moment. I'm just trying to hold it together." The men are grateful for the support they have had from drag diva Miss Mole and Christchurch Gay Business Association member Suzy Lawson. Lawson visited them yesterday and Zelton says she was a great support. Zelton says Lawson has advised them to deal with one thing at a time and he is already trying to focus on something positive: "Today I went online and I booked tickets to go to the Big Gay Out. I just decided 'nah, let's go away, let's go up to Auckland and go up to that event and just get away'." Overall he says he wants the story out there because the situation is something people need to know about. He says in this day and age it shouldn't matter what sexuality people are, they should just be able to get on with their lives and businesses. A number of comments about the story have been along the lines of 'it would only happen in Christchurch', but it's actually the city's gay scene that has left Zelton a little disillusioned: "Christchurch has gone downhill. It's really gone downhill. A lot of people are too reserved. There's no gay scenes here anymore. That's why a lot of people shift up north or go overseas, or whatever. There's nothing here in Christchurch anymore. It's dead. The only two events we go to a year are Pride Week and the Oscars, but now there's no Oscars, that's all completely finished. Those were the only two events we would go to." The couple has today been contacted by Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker and local MP Brendon Burns has been in touch. [Editor's note: will gladly pass on any messages from the GLBT community to Dave Zelton and his partner Kym. does not have contact details for the family at the centre of the allegations but is open to interviewing a family member or representative  should they contact us through the link below.]     Jacqui Stanford - 13th January 2011

Credit: Jacqui Stanford

First published: Thursday, 13th January 2011 - 12:33pm

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