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London bus driver 'hurled homophobic abuse at gay man' after seeing him kiss another man

Connor Cunningham-Bladon, 28, moved to London a year and a half ago and says it was partly for the freedom to express himself.

2022-01-28

Words: Alastair James; pictures: Provided

A gay man says he was "shocked" after being briefly trapped on a Transport for London bus and having homophobic abuse shouted at him. 

Connor Cunningham-Bladon, 28, who's originally from Kent and moved to London just over a year ago says he was travelling on a bus between Vauxhall bus station and Marylebone after a night out at the nightclub, Fire, with friends on Sunday 16 January when the incident occurred.

He says he was kissing a friend of his as the Number 2 bus to Marylebone pulled up at around 08:40am after which he said goodbye to his friend and got on the bus.

"'Go f*** yourself!'"

Connor says it was just after 9:00am when the bus reached Marylebone and he went to get off the bus, now being the only passenger on board. However, the driver didn't open the doors and he realised the driver, a woman, was shouting at him.

Speaking to Attitude about the incident, Connor says that she was saying thing like: "I saw you, I saw you kissing another man! It was you kissing another man at the bus station! Don't you think you will be confusing children?!"

"I was very shocked and I basically said to her, 'Well, I wasn't expecting a homophobic bus driver!'," he tells us. He goes on to say it was at this point the doors were opened.

"Then as I stepped out I said 'Go f*** yourself!'"

Connor says that he's lived in London for a year and a half and that "One of the reasons I moved here was for the liberty and to be able to do things like go out and have that freedom without worrying and looking over my shoulder."

He contacted his parents after getting off the bus and says they advised him to go to the police, which he then did. 

"The police contacted within the hour and an officer came around on the next evening (Monday 17 January) but they said it didn't mean the threshold of what would be classed as a crime," Connor explains he was told it was because of the words the driver used. 

"They asked me what outcome I wanted and I said I wanted her to be told that what she did was wrong and for her not to do it again. I want to stop this from happening to others."

Police also advised Connor to contact Transport for London who they said could find out who the driver was.

After contacting TfL, Connor received an apology from them but was told that after TfL had spoken to Arriva, who managed the bus route, the driver in question had denied the story but had been advised that if another incident like this happened more formal action would be taken.

He then tells Attitude that TfL got back in touch two days ago (Wednesday 26 January) to say that Arriva's investigation is "still ongoing," which he has taken as good news.

"They said to me, Arriva is now looking at CCTV and they're hoping to look at it in more detail and get back to me in 5 days." 

Connor says the whole incident was shocking but that he's lucky he can respond in the moment with 'Go f*** yourself!' and know he has support from friends and family. 

"But I know there are a lot more vulnerable people in the LGBTQ community who could be [more] affected by these words," he goes on to say. "People could feel so emotional and not know how to react. For me, it was a bad thing but I can do something good out of it." 

"There are more pros in me reporting in the way I am, you know? So people can discuss this and think about it. People need to understand what's not ok to say."

In response, Siwan Hayward, the Director of Compliance, Policing Operations, and Security at TfL says: "Everyone is welcome on our transport network, and we stand together against homophobia and hatred in all its forms.

"All passengers have the right to travel without fear of abuse and making public transport be safe and feel safe is an absolute priority for TfL.

"The bus operator’s investigation into this serious allegation remains ongoing and we have apologised to Mr. Cunningham Bladon for a previous communication that wrongly implied the operator’s investigation was closed."

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