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Student gets worldwide support after he was attacked for being gay

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Cole Ledford, a third-year in business real estate, has gained global attention for a Nov. 7 tweet that he wrote after being struck by an individual who witnessed Ledford kissing his boyfriend.  Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editor

Cole Ledford, a third-year in business real estate, has gained global attention for a Nov. 6 tweet that he wrote after being struck by an individual who witnessed Ledford kissing his boyfriend.
Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editor

“Hi babe — I just got punched in the face. A guy ran up to me, called me a fag and punched me.”

Jerad Williams recalled that his boyfriend’s phone call shocked him.

A photo of the incident, though, would go on to shock the Internet.

About 20 minutes before the Thursday evening call, Williams — a first-year in zoology — had just parted ways with his boyfriend of one month, Cole Ledford, a third-year in business real estate.

Returning from a friend’s house, Williams and Ledford traveled down the university stretch of High Street at about 11 p.m. in the rain, planning to eventually split and go back to their respective homes, one on campus and the other off. The two held hands during the walk.

Along the way, a group of men Williams said were in their 20s called the couple “fags.” Williams said this was the first time he had experienced prejudice for his sexuality.

The two decided to separate about five minutes after the incident, arguing in jest and kissing each other goodbye before parting.

“(Williams) crossed the crosswalk, and the next thing I knew, someone yelled a gay expletive at me and then punched me,” Ledford recalled.

The assaulter — whom Ledford also described as a man in his 20s — kept walking, leaving Ledford on the ground. There were few people on the street because of the rain, he said, but no bystanders stuck around to help him.

Ledford said he could not remember the 10 to 15 seconds after the punch, but remembered thinking that he needed to “go home and solve the situation from there.” 

Once home, he called Williams to let him know what happened and planned to report the assault to the police the next day. 

Ledford then took a picture of himself — a portrait of his swollen left eye and cheek in the beginning stages of bruising. He wrote a caption in the notes of his iPhone, reading: 

“I’m sorry that you called me fag. I’m sorry you hit me for no reason. I’m sorry whatever insecurities you have don’t allow you to accept others for who they are. I’m sorry I threaten you. I’m NOT sorry I’m gay. I’m proud to be this way. I’m proud to be confident enough to love who I love and to love me. I’m proud to have friends and family that love me regardless of me. Honestly, I’m not sorry.”

“I didn’t want to have to go about my next day explaining (the assault) to friends,” Ledford said of the photo’s original purpose. “I thought if I posted it (on Twitter), all of Ohio State was here, I could raise a little bit of awareness and I wouldn’t have to explain myself.”

Though it was intended for his friends, the tweet from Ledford’s account, @ColeLedford11 — which included his photo and the screenshot of the caption he typed —  was retweeted more than 32,000 times and favorited more than 64,000 times on Twitter as of Sunday evening. 

Multiple international news sources picked up Ledford’s story as well, including the Telegraph and the London Evening Standard in the U.K., and he said he is set to give interviews to media outlets in Singapore, Taiwan, South Africa and Scotland, among others. “Pitch Perfect” actor Skylar Astin also gave him a shoutout via Twitter.

Ledford said the “wonderful support” changed his outlook of the assault, and because of that, he did not file a police report of the incident. 

“It was something that I was really upset about, but it turned into something so positive that it helped me,” he said. “And now I’m seeing that it helps others. 

“A young boy in Texas just emailed me and my boyfriend telling us that because of our story, he came out to his parents. So the good that came from this is more than enough.”

This is not the first time Ledford has been in the public eye. In 2012, he was featured in multiple episodes of TLC’s “Extreme Couponing,” which follows shoppers as they use coupons to spend a minimal amount of money.

Ledford explained the difference between the attention he garnered from the TLC show and the tweet about his assault in terms of Twitter followers.

“This is unlike anything compared to (‘Extreme Couponing’),” Ledford said. “I gained 2,000 Twitter followers in less than 24 hours off of (the tweet about the incident). I only had 5,000 in the three years of doing TLC, so this has been unbelievable.”

One of the more stunning aspects of Ledford’s assault, Williams said, was that it happened in Columbus. He said he considers the city very LGBT-friendly and strong in the area of LGBT activism. 

However, Columbus has seen its share of hate crimes against gay men in the past. During a week in June 2013, a string of crimes against gays in and around the city was reported, including an assault near East 5th and Indianola avenues, a beating and robbery in Old Towne East and a beating at East Moler and South 4th streets. 

“After (Ledford’s assault), I kind of cautiously thought about holding his hand and the repercussions of it because of the event,” Williams said. “Going forward, I decided that I will never censor myself and my affection for him in terms of other people’s opinions. No matter what people think, I’m going to do what makes me comfortable.”

Despite some negative feedback from the tweet — which Ledford described as hatred similar to that of his assaulter — Ledford shared Williams’ sentiment. 

“(Kissing) is going to continue to happen,” Ledford said. “I’m not worried about it.”

16 comments

  1. File one, please, Cole. Otherwise the University will never start to recognize that these kinds of bias/hate crimes happen in and around campus and need to be addressed. A University PD alert ought to have gone out to warn others.

    The June 2013 incidents mentioned above were reported to campus officials and a alert was requested to be sent out by student leaders, but they refused because those incidents happened just outside University boundaries.
    Vern Baisden wouldn’t even pick up the phone and discuss it in that case.
    But, if this attack did happen on campus, then it is a Clery Act reportable offense, and OSU PD ought to be involved and must report it.

    I appreciate that Cole feels better now and that he’s done some good here, which he most certainly has and I commend him, but we need to protect our people on campus better, and shining a light on incidents like this needs to take place at the University administrative level, not just on social media.

  2. SODOMY: MEDICALLY DANGEROUS BEHAVIOR?
    Why not have a public dialogue on the medical safety of Sodomy, gay and straight, and ask these two simple medical questions?

    That is, Doesn’t the medical community recommend that you, “Wash your hands after you go to the bathroom.”?

    Yet, now there are some in the medical community that now say it’s OK to “Sleep with the waste that gets flushed down in the toilet?” and that it’s possible to live a perfectly normal life.

    Additionally, the same can be said that there are some in the medical community that now say it’s OK to “Lick the toilet bowl” and that it’s also possible to live a perfectly normal life.

  3. Should gays really be worried about Hate Crimes and Homophobia? Or should GLBT and Gays be worried about Gay-On-Gay crimes which are exponentially more in number?

    Why shouldn’t I be a bigot to those who take part in a medically dangerous life style?

    That is, shouldn’t those that KNOWINGLY infect their partner with HIV belong in jail?
    For example, how can the tiny GLBT community with a 1% to 3% population demographic consistently have the highest HIV rates and total numbers since AIDS was discovered 30 years ago? Shouldn’t all the safe sex and condom talk for the last 30 years have made a difference in the GLBT HIV infection rate by now?

    But if a Gay person, KNOWINGLY infects other Gays, wouldn’t that be a Gay-On-Gay crime? And wouldn’t that be a FELONY? Perhaps 1st or 2nd Degree Murder if they die of AIDS? And considering gays have the highest HIV infection rates, wouldn’t that make all these Hate Crimes against GLBT almost insignificant when compared to the number of Gay-On-Gay crimes of knowingly infecting their partners?

  4. For some reason there appears to be a group of people in the world who seem to have a great deal of free time in which they choose to post their homophobic opinions across the internet. Let’s all thank “AhContraire” for his excellent demonstration of how to write a terrible thesis statement and then proceed to support it with even worse evidence.

    In all seriousness, it’s really encouraging to see everyone support Cole. Best wishes to him and his boyfriend. Despite how they have both turned this into a positive for the world, I hope neither of them (or anyone else) has to go through anything like this even again.

  5. I’m with “Police Report.” I urge Cory to report this and make sure it is documented. It may not seem like it’s that important, but all stats consist of individual reports which eventually add up to something measurable. While it’s usually your choice whether or not to report violence, doing so is a further attempt to formally record the experience instead of merely getting likes on twitter. I realize both actions can be useful, but only one is “official.”
    I also urge anyone reading this to take advantage of the self-defense courses here at OSU. In Cory’s case, a warning sign (the “gay expletive”) occurred which may have been enough to put up a default cover and avoid some damage. (Google “defining the default position lee morrison” for a good explanation and history of this concept.) I know the actual damage in this case seems to have been minor, but although it’s rare, death and serious injury have resulted from “just one punch.” This usually occurs due to the punch plus another impact with a hard object (ie. the sidewalk). Head injuries can be life altering. People who go around punching others for whatever “reason” need to be arrested and prosecuted, not ignored and allowed to go free.

    Finally, this is not just a GLBT issue. It is a societal violence issue. Everyone needs to be concerned about it and we all need to work together to stop it.

    Karl

  6. Errata!

    “Cole,” not “Cory.”

    Sorry.

    Karl

  7. Stacey Steigerwald

    Wow, lots of trolls in the world. Too bad they can’t post their name when they share their bigoted, false, hate filled spite across the internet. Kudos, Cole. Best of luck for a speedy recovery.

  8. It’s now after 5pm and my comments from before noon are still “awaiting moderation.”

    Nothing I said was as venomous as “AhContraire.”

    Some other posts of mine are also “awaiting moderation.”

    Stacey’s post above was quickly approved, yet my words are “iffy?” It used to be when I submitted comments I could see my postings immediately afterwards.

    Not now.

    Karl

  9. He should file a report!

  10. You know why he didn’t file a police report? Because the truth that this didn’t happen the way he said it did would come out and that this is a stunt for PR. High Street has tons of cameras everywhere. If the story happened the way he said it did, then there would be proof.

    His story has changed from punched while kissing his boyfriend to now punched after his boyfriend left.

    He’s using this to gain attention. Look at his twitter. Can you really trust someone who says on their twitter bio “Media Inquiries contact: ——-“?

  11. I’m sending support for all of those who face this cowardly bullying. For those who choose to post their hate, “AhContraire” — go away. The world is changing. Change with it, or be left behind with the ignorant. I’m hoping for a quick physical recovery for Cole. And I hope the support from everyone, including this 60 year old women, will help with the psychological healing.

  12. Is it hate to doubt the veracity of this story when it has changed and plagued by the fact he refuses to file a police report? He states this happened on high street. OSU has cameras everwhere and the bars do too. More than likely this was caught on camera so he’d easily get justice but by refusing to file a police report shows that the holes in his story will be found.

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