With the highest concentration of same-sex households in the country, Fort Lauderdale was the last place Bo Callaway thought he’d fall victim to a hate crime. And especially not on the morning the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in all 50 states.
But this past Friday morning, the 36-year-old opened the door to his extended-stay apartment near the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Dania Beach and found his scooter turned over. The Supreme Court ruling had just been announced, but Callaway hypothesizes that the scooter was vandalized sometime before — either Thursday evening or early Friday morning. The panels were bashed in. He looked closer and noticed the two rainbow flags dangling off each side mirror were burned and ripped in half on the ground.
The perpetrators left an ominous note on the seat for Callaway and his partner of two and a half years, James Sheppard: “boom bye bye die on your scooter baty boys.” Callaway didn't realized the words were lyrics to a Buju Banton song that called for violence against gay men. He had to Google it. He also learned that “baty boys” is derogatory Jamaican slang for gay men.
“I thought the scooter had fallen over, then I realized someone had beaten it to hell, attacked it, right outside our door,” Callaway says. “I’m afraid to even go outside my front door.”
Callaway was born and raised in southern Arkansas, where he acquired a thick skin after all the hurtful things people said about him. The way he tells it, everyone knew he was gay even before he did. “Growing up in Arkansas, the closet is deep and dark,” he says. “I’m not bothered by funny looks or being pointed at. I’m not worried about my haters, and I’m not easy to intimidate.”
But now, he’s intimidated. Callaway has been hit by a bout of bad luck. Last month, the company he worked for folded suddenly. Then, he quickly sold off his belongings and moved to Fort Lauderdale with his partner after their neighbors, an older gay couple, raved about the gay scene. “We only heard good things,” Callaway says. “I’m kind of shocked that this happened. We’re right by Wilton Manors.”
Their car, however, didn’t survive the drive from Dallas to Fort Lauderdale. It broke down on I-75 near Gainesville. Callaway and his partner bought the scooter because it was all they could afford. Now it’s held together with duct tape. Callaway says the headlights still don’t work, and they can’t drive at night.
It’s unclear who the assailants are. Their extended-stay apartment looks out onto a rental-car parking lot. Callaway’s partner noticed that sometimes when the pair rides off on the scooter, the car alarms suspiciously sound off. The couple also noticed weird looks from people in the neighborhood but shrugged it off because they’re minutes from Wilton Manors, where a gay couple riding a scooter with rainbow flags doesn't turn heads.
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After mulling it over, Callaway decided not to file a report. He thinks the people who vandalized his scooter can see their front door, and he’s afraid that calling police will make matters worse. The incident has put them on edge, making the couple self-conscious at a time when the rest of the country is waving pride flags and putting rainbow filters on their Facebook profile photos in celebration.
In the immediate aftermath, they posted about their struggle on GoFundMe. So far, 18 people have donated to their page. They've raised $610. They hope to use the money to either replace or repair the scooter. "Other than this, everything has been great, loving the beach, love having a gayborhood," Callaways says. "It's almost hard to feel terrorized with all the support we've gotten."