A United Kingdom magistrates’ court ruled that an assault against celebrity drag star The Vivienne at a McDonald’s restaurant earlier this year was motivated by homophobia.
Alan Whitfield, 51, admitted to assaulting The Vivienne, whose given name is James Lee Williams, but denied that it was homophobic, saying he had engaged in back and forth “banter” with the drag star over his physical appearance.
Speaking during a trial at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court, Williams said he was subjected to a “barrage of abuse” from Whitfield after entering the McDonald’s on June 16, reports Sky News.
“He carried on, then after the fourth ‘look at the state of you,’ I said, ‘Look at the state of your face,’ to which he said, ‘I’ve got skin cancer,’ and then punched me straight in the face,” Williams testified.
He said he is used to receiving looks and stares for dressing in a flamboyant manner, but those interactions had never previously escalated to the point of violence.
“There were countless other people in the branch of McDonald’s that day, why didn’t he start on anyone else?” Williams said. “Why did he choose to publicly humiliate me and then hit me, if it wasn’t for my image or me being quite evidently gay?”
In a call to emergency responders played to the jury, Williams was heard telling the operator: “He obviously knew I was gay, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist.”
But Whitfield, who was working as a scaffolder at the time, told the court he was distracted by the drag performer’s dyed green hair, asking him: “What have you come as, an Oompa Loompa?” — a reference to the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
He claimed not to have known Williams was gay, or to have seen a handbag that Williams was carrying. He also said he hit Williams for pointing out marks on his face from skin cancer, saying: “I was very hurt, very, very angry.”
Williams admitted pointing out the marks on Whitfield’s face and responding to his revelation that he had skin cancer by saying: “Made up for you.” He apologized for the hurt his remarks may have caused.
Richard Derby, an attorney representing Whitfield, suggested that Williams had instigated the altercation by pointing at Whitfield’s face when he was mere inches away from him, according to the Liverpool Echo newspaper.
Williams replied: “I don’t know how you measure inches, darling, but I’d say two feet.”
Following deliberation, chairman of the bench Anthony Canning told Whitfield: “Having considered this incident from beginning to end, we believe beyond reasonable doubt that the hostility shown by yourself from the outset was motivated and down to the perceived sexuality of the complainant and this was homophobic in nature.”
As he left the court, Whitfield criticized the court’s finding, saying: “Joke. Bullshit. Where’s the hate crime for my cancer?”
Typically, the penalty for common assault in the United Kingdom is up to six months in prison, although additional time or other penalties can be imposed in the case of a bias-motivated crime.
Whitfield is next scheduled to appear in court for sentencing on January 3, 2024.
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!