LETHBRIDGE: The Lethbridge man at the center of an incident in the city last week that police are treating as a potential hate crime has since opened up to Country 95 News.
Matthew Young, a polished, young, urban professional and Toronto-to-Alberta transplant, says he experienced something in the early morning hours of Sunday, December 11 that he never has before: ugly, raw violence directed at him from a stranger because of his sexual orientation.
The night began innocently enough. Young, who runs his own business through a popular blogging website, started the evening at the Studio 54 dance club in downtown Lethbridge with a group of friends. After they decided to go home, he got a text message from some other friends at Pulse night club, and he went to join them. When he couldn't find the people he knew right away, Young stepped outside for a cigarette.
What happened next happened quickly and is blurred by a concussion he says he suffered minutes later. It started when a stranger caught sight of the rainbow-coloured gay pride bracelet Young wore at his wrist. The man asked him "are you gay?"
"I've never had an issue in the city before. Or anywhere really. So I just answered honestly, yes I am," says Young. "The next thing I know I woke up in the hospital."
In addition to a concussion on the left side of his head, Young says he suffered scrapes and bruises. He fears it might have been worse if he hadn't fought back - and is glad he did.
"The basic message from it is if someone has an issue with you personally, stand up for yourself and don't take that," he says. "I always tell my friends to stand up for themselves and if I don't do that myself, what's the point in saying it."
He said he originally went public with the story the next day on his blog to raise community awareness. But he's since been pleasantly surprised by the amount of support he received in return - more than 500 supportive Facebook messages, some from strangers in other parts of the country, phone calls and pats on the back from friends.
"That speaks of Lethbridge as a city as well. Just because this one incident happened, I don't think badly of this city. It's just one person," he says. "This city is awesome."
Lethbridge Regional Police say their investigation into the matter continues. They're still looking for witnesses and going over evidence from the scene.