On 8th June 2014, shortly before 5am, Benn Moore was almost blinded when he and a friend had concentrated ammonia thrown in their faces outside a gay nightclub. The attack made headline news in the local London media and caused a ripple of shock amongst gay people, shock that such an attack could happen not only in London, but in the heart of one of its gay villages: Vauxhall.
However, there was more to the story. Neither Benn nor his friend were out as gay, and the latter hadn’t wanted to report the crime for fear that doing so would out him. For Benn, the incident meant being forced to publicly reconcile his hidden sexuality with his straight identity. A year later he agreed to tell his story to Attitude. Today he says that, despite the horror of the attack, it was the best thing that ever happened to him.
Throughout his time at university in Leeds, Benn buried his true feelings, and carried on sleeping with girls until he returned to London. Back in the capital he began exploring the gay scene, without telling his straight friends. It would be outside Lightbox, a club under the railway arches in Vauxhall, where Benn was approached by a man holding a water bottle.
“It was literally two seconds between me turning around and it happening. The last thing I saw was him raising a bottle – I remember clearly it was an Evian bottle – and squeezing this liquid into my face. And the pain began.
“My face was burning, my eyes were killing me. We could smell how strong the bleach was. And then I heard my mate screaming that he’d got it in his mouth. It had dissolved the top layer of his tongue. My first instinct was to take my shirt off and wrap it around his face. I was shouting at him to spit it out onto my shirt.
“I remember there was a weird sense of calm. I thought it was acid and I was thinking ‘Oh God, you’re fucked. You’re gonna be scarred’. My lips were bleeding and I could see specks of blood. My first thought was that my face was coming off. I said to my friend ‘How bad is it?’ and he said ‘You’re really red and your eyes are fucked, but your face is fine’. A huge wave of relief washed over me upon hearing that.”
After throwing the bleach in Benn’s face, his attacker walked away, nonchalant to what he had just done.
In the ambulance the paramedics dripped saline solution into Benn’s eyes. Doctors in hospital checked the pH level of his eyeballs every half hour with a piece of cardboard. His vision had deteriorated to a blur. He was told in Moorfields Eye Hospital he was in danger of losing the sight in his left eye.
“But,” he says, leaning forward. “Why I contacted the magazine is because it had a massive effect on me coming to terms with my sexuality. You take what you get out of a situation. I had two weeks where I spoke to reporters and even then I still didn’t say I was gay. I said I was out with my gay friends. And all the while I was thinking why I was saying this.”
You can read Benn's full story in the current issue of Attitude, out now in shops. Download the digital version of the mag at Pocketmags.com/Attitude or order the print version from newsstand.co.uk/Attitude.
Words by PATRICK CASH.