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U.K. Gay Choir's Wicked Response to Antigay Attack

U.K. Gay Choir's Wicked Response to Antigay Attack

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In response to a brutal attack that began on a Manchester public transit line, a local gay chorus is using the Wicked songbook to beat back homophobia.

A note of good news emerged from a rash of violent attacks on gay men in the United Kingdom as the Manchester Lesbian and Gay Chorus announced it will take over the public transit line where two young men were recently attacked after singing a song from the musical Wicked,reports the Manchester Evening News.

"All of Manchester has been horrified by this vicious attack," the chorus's musical director, Loz Kaye, told the newspaper. "For us in the chorus it was all the more sad that it was the act of singing that sparked it."

Last Monday, 19-year-old Jake Heaton and his friend, Jean Claude "Jo" Manseau, 25, say they were singing a song from the musical Wicked while riding a regional tram from Bury to Manchester, when another rider began lambasting them with homophobic slurs. When they got off the tram, they say the attack turned physically violent. The offending passenger was joined by about 15 other men who were already at their destination, according to the victims.

The attacks were so brutal that Manseau and Heaton took a taxi to a local hospital after waiting 90 minutes for an ambulance that never arrived.

"They split my forehead, my lip, broke my nose," Manseau told the newspaper shortly after the attack. "My eyes are black and swollen. My ribs are painful, I can't move much. My face is going to be scarred for life. That has upset me."

With its planned onboard sing-along, the troupe of troubadours hope to reclaim the tram and offer the victims a renewed sense of safety.

"This is Manchester's LGBT community's way to reclaim the city," the chorus's cochair, Kath Fox, told the Evening News. "As it says in the lyrics of the musical Wicked, 'You can't pull me down.' ... Nobody is going to pull us down."

The group is planning its tram sing-along for 8 p.m. on Monday, November 17. Anyone aboard transit buses traveling between St. Peter's Square and Piccadilly Station who wants to sing along will be handed sheet music. Supporters can also join the festivities via social media using the hashtag #SafeToSing. Around 8:45 p.m., the tram portion of the program will end at the exact site where the attack occurred. From there, a "celebration of song" will continue at a local pub.

The Manchester Lesbian and Gay Chorus was founded 14 years ago, according to the Evening News, and has 80 members. The local transit authority has authorized the event, the paper notes. Organizers said they see the event not only as a retaking of the city they love for its inclusiveness of LGBT people, but also as a reboot of sorts.

"We want to reintroduce [the two victims] into the city where they felt safe enough to sing before," said Fox, the chorus cochair.

The Manchester attack follows several other recent assaults on gay men in the U.K., including one that led to one man's blinding, another that ended with a young student's skull being shattered with a hammer, and yet another in which a university student's teeth were pounded into his gums by a gang of thugs.

Manchester police are still investigating the most recent attack.

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