Two hate crimes against gays in less than a week
Two fans approached Gustav Salinas and wanted to have their photo taken with the flamboyant 23-year-old reality TV star in central Copenhagen last Friday.
But suddenly they smashed a bottle into the back of Salina's head and taunted him as an "ugly homo" before they ran away.
"The experience will make me think twice before I have my picture taken again. I would never hesitate before, but I'm going to now," Salinas told Ekstra Bladet after the assault.
Salinas said that he has been harassed numerous times because he is openly gay but this weekend's incident marked the first time that the threats escalated into violence.
"Are you a boy or a girl?"
The hate crime happened less than a week after a drag queen, referred to as 'Nikolaj' in the media, was attacked and beaten outside of Tivoli Gardens when he was walking home from the Copenhagen Mix LGBT film festival with a friend.
"Are you a boy or a girl?," a young English speaking man asked Nikolaj, before he smashed a bottle against his head.
Balancing on 16cm high heels, Nikolaj tripped over and fell to the ground, when suddenly four other foreigners appeared and began kicking him. Luckily a taxi driver pulled up and scared off the group and two passers-by helped tend to his wounds until the police arrived.
In both Nikolaj and Salina's cases, the attacks are classified as hate crimes because the perpetrators were clearly motivated by the sexual orientation of their victims. The police are investigating surveillance footage from the streets where both attacks took place. One of Salina’s suspected attackers is currently in police custody.
Rise in number of sexually-motivated hate crimes
According to the domestic intelligence agency, PET, the official number of reported sexually-motivated hate crimes rose from 23 in 2011 to 33 in 2012. But the Justice Ministry believes the actual number to be much higher. According to a national survey in 2012, 4,038 people claimed to have been victims of sexually-motivated attacks.
But Kenneth Engberg of the national LGBT association said that the statistics only show that people have become more aware of the issue, and that the actual number of incidents are falling.
"We will hopefully see a decline in the number of hate crimes in Denmark in the future," he told Politiken newspaper. "Although both official and unofficial numbers point in the other direction, I think that is because we are discussing hate crimes more now than we did before and that makes the cases much more visible."
Since the hate crime law was introduced in 2005, hate crime convictions have been rare in Denmark.
On Thursday, a man who was convicted for attacking a trans-woman with a hammer in Copenhagen will be sentenced following a month of psychological evaluation. The hate crime law allowed the judge in the case to set a much stiffer sentence than if the assailant had only been found guilty of grievous bodily harm.
Not only does Denmark have fewer hate crimes than Sweden and Norway but the attacks in the neighbour countries are far more brutal.
"Hate crimes in Sweden are more extreme. They use knives and other weapons and nearly kill their victims," Engberg said. "In Denmark they only hit us with fists, after all."
Trying to stay positive
Nikolaj said that he hopes his story will make people realise that hate crimes are still occurring. Despite the terrifying experience, Nikolaj said he won't let narrow-minded people win.
"I still want to be able to walk the streets in drag. These assholes won't bring me down," he told Politiken newspaper. "I just think it is sad that there are some people out there who can't respect that we're all different."
Salinas also said that he is going to leave the case to the police and move on, despite the hateful comments he has received following the attack.
"People wrote things to me like 'you finally got what you deserved'," he told Ekstra Bladet tabloid. "It is tough, but I am trying to stay positive. The experience won't make me change who I am."