Nfld. & Labrador

'Paint will last longer than spit': Video of man spitting on rainbow crosswalk draws criticism

A video viewed tens of thousands of times shows a man spitting onto a rainbow crosswalk, while walking next to it.

Director Stephen Dunn says video viewed tens of thousands of times shows act of 'micro aggression'

A video that shows this man walking next to a rainbow crosswalk and spitting on it in Corner Brook has many thinking it was a form of aggression. (Facebook)

A video that shows a man walking next to and spitting onto a rainbow pride crosswalk has drawn some criticism from people who think it was a deliberate act of homophobia.

The dashcam video, viewed tens of thousands of times since it was posted on a personal Facebook account on July 15, shows two people walking across a street in Corner Brook.

He really doesn't matter — what matters is the people who love you.- Stephen Dunn

One person in the back crosses the street on the crosswalk, painted rainbow colours for pride, while a man walks on the pavement next to the crosswalk, spitting onto the rainbow colours.

"Of course there could be an argument that he was just spitting, but it looks pretty deliberate," says Stephen Dunn, who directed award-winning film Closet Monster, as well as the first Canadian Heritage Minute to feature a queer storyline.

Stephen Dunn's film Closet Monster won the award for Best Canadian Feature Film at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.

"It's clearly someone's homophobia acting out in this sort of micro aggression."

Dunn, who lives in Toronto but is visiting his hometown St. John's for Pride week, said given the recent local news around the LGBT community, it's an especially difficult video to see.

Man spitting on rainbow crosswalk

4 years ago
Duration 0:22
A man is seen spitting on a rainbow crosswalk in Corner Brook.

"I'm personally really upset about it … and it's not just because of this. It's what's happened in Springdale. I grew up in St. John's, I grew up in a time when there was a lot of violence toward queer people, and we've come … so far," said Dunn, who choked up when talking about what the video meant to him.

"There's so much progress and optimism and hope — [but] there's been so much media around homophobia and I think there is obviously this pendulum that keeps swinging back and forth between progress and taking a step backwards."

Paul Combden, co-chair of St. John's Pride, said it's hard to tell someone's intent from a short video clip.

"It's hard to make an observation on a very short video clip," Combden said.

Paul Combden, co-chair of St. John's Pride, says it's hard to tell intent from a short video clip. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

"I can't really pinpoint if this individual did it toward the LGBTQ+ [community] or  … maybe he just came out of city hall and he was upset about what happened and he spit on the ground — and it just happened to be the Pride crosswalk."

But if it was an intentionally disrespectful act, it would certainly be a dark spot, he added.

"If it is targeted against the community, it is very disheartening to see ... and it goes to show how much more work we have to do in our community and in our province," Combden said.

'Queer people are resilient'

Dunn, meanwhile, said Pride week is meaningful for him and his, since this will be the second one he spends with his uncle, who came out last year at the age of 60.

"He knew he was gay for 47 years and was just so afraid that he wouldn't be accepted," Dunn said, adding that incidents like this make it hard for people to feel like they'll be accepted for who they are.

But, Dunn said, that's all part of pride.

"Here's the thing: paint will last longer than spit. And I think that this guy who spit on the crosswalk who, I don't really care about him, I don't care about this act, I've taken much worse in my life," he said.

Stephen Dunn, right, and his uncle Paddy Healey at the 2017 St. John's Pride Parade. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

"Queer people are resilient and that is like part of your identity, becoming yourself in the face of jerks like him who deliberately try to make you aware that they don't accept your lifestyle."

Dunn said that incidents like the crosswalk spitting, and the debate in Springdale over a rainbow crosswalk, isn't what's important.

"They don't mean anything to us, we are so much stronger than them," Dunn said.

"I just want people like my uncle, people who are disenfranchised, who don't have the same privilege that I do, to know that the opinions of … people like him don't matter. He really doesn't matter — what matters is the people who love you."

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from the St. John's Morning Show