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Kevin Aviance
speaks

Kevin Aviance
speaks

Aviance

A brutal and homophobic beating may have left the drag diva with his jaw wired shut, but he refuses to be silenced.

Less than a week after Kevin Aviance had his jaw broken in what New York City police are classifying as a hate crime, the singer was in a New York court room facing four of his attackers. "This is a very stressful day for him," Aviance's publicist Len Evans said. "Today Kevin is telling his side of the story. Well, telling it as best he can."

The story Aviance was telling June 15 detailed how, on a walk home the previous Friday night from East Village bar the Phoenix, he was assaulted at approximately 12:30 a.m. by a group of young men. The singer said the youths began following him, throwing objects at him, and yelling gay slurs. Aviance's attempts at eluding them by hailing a cab failed, at which point they circled him, dragged him to a darkened part of the street, and then beat him.

"They were yelling, 'Die, faggot,' and 'We're going to kill you, faggot,'" Evans quotes Aviance as saying. In addition to the antigay slurs, they were also taunting Aviance repeatedly by saying, "You're not diesel," as they beat him.

Aviance suffered a broken jaw and numerous bruises to his face, head, and body. There were several witnesses to the attack, yet none came to the singer's aid. Only after reports began appearing on local television news did those who saw the beating come forth to provide information; that information led to the arrest of four individuals on Monday.

Apparently, bystanders weren't the only ones reluctant to come to Aviance's aid. "Kevin called me from the hospital on Saturday morning and said, 'They're not believing me; they're not treating this as they should,'" Evans said, explaining that the initial reaction from the police and the hospital staff was that the attack on Aviance was not motivated by antigay sentiments. "It was only when a television reporter called the 13th Precinct's station that the police took this more seriously."

While New York State has had a hate-crimes law since 1999 that prosecutes bias crimes committed against gays and lesbians, many such attacks go unreported. Gay male victims often face the assumption that the beatings were the result of domestic violence or a drug-related incident. This was the case with Aviance who, Evans says, sat in the Beth Israel emergency room for eight hours before receiving attention.

Any doubts authorities might have had diminished when word of the attack was publicized, and friends and relatives of the accused began trying to reach Aviance in the hospital. "They were trying to reconcile, apologizing to Kevin, telling him this wouldn't happen again," Evans said. "And then when they realized he was going to press charges, they tried to turn it back on him, saying that he singled them out and made passes at them." Police became concerned because several of the accused attackers were said to have ties to gangs. Evans says the resulting chaos of the phone calls--plus a knife threat to a reporter covering the story, allegedly made by a gang member--forced the hospital to move Aviance to private quarters. Since his release he has been under police protection.

"Kevin said he never thought this would happen to him," Evans explained on behalf of his client, adding that even when he was dressed outrageously for a performance he never felt threatened. "Never in a million years was he scared. He has left clubs in full drag and had nothing but positive energy from the people who approached him on the streets."

The fact that Aviance was attacked while "dressed down," as Evans says, is ironic to the singer, whose doctors have advised him to cancel any plans to perform at gay pride events this month. The injuries Aviance sustained in the beating have required that his jaw be wired shut for a two-week period, making singing impossible. "Here's someone who celebrates his individuality in every aspect of his life, and now he can't do any of that at a time when he would be encouraging others to do the same," Evans says.

Aviance's last single, "Alive," became a dance club hit in 2002. His electrifying stage persona, a mix of David Bowie and Grace Jones, has earned him such music industry fans as Janet Jackson and Missy Elliot, both of whom Evans says have come to see Aviance perform. His CD Box of Chocolates is considered a club cult favorite.

Aviance, who was beginning to work on new material and who had been at a photo shoot for HX magazine the evening of the attack, is meeting his future with a new determination. "This happened for a reason," Aviance says through his publicist.

"Kevin feels this was God's will so that he could now educate not only the mainstream public [about hate crimes], but also our community, and teach us how to be safe," Evans says. "Kevin is finding a way in all of this to give back."

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