Gay Smackdown: South Beach Ain't What it Used to Be

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Lately, the South Beach strip looks more like an enormous Lil Wayne concert than the shimmering gay playground it once was. Warehouse-size clubs that brimmed with shirtless boys have closed and hip-hop venues sprouted in their place. What was once pastel and glitter is now chrome and ice.You can't blame the new crowd; the scene just evolved. But evolution is messy.

Add a few cocktails and Collins Avenue can become the nightlife cultural equivalent of the Gaza Strip.

Gender Bender recently came across some disturbing cases of violence against gay men in South Beach. (Check out the story in the January 14 issue.) Most of the murders, tortures, and beatings -- which include a lounge singer, magazine publisher, and waiter -- took place in the predawn hours as clubs closed. Here's an example a recent attack:

A stylish 31-year-old named Peter Morales was strolling by David's Café at 4:45 a.m. when a chubby mechanic with long black curls began to harass him. He "touched his hair" and "called him slurs regarding his sexual orientation," according to the police report. When Peter objected, the 220-pound man punched him in the head until he fell, and then kicked him. The manager of David's Café saw the beating and called the cops, who reportedly saw the mechanic fleeing the scene. They arrested Diego Molina-Caceras and charged him with battery.

It's hard to prove crimes such as this one are more than just a simple battery. But, in this case, the State Attorney classified it as a hate crime and bumped it to a felony.

Miami Beach Spokesman Juan Sanchez explains: "A derogatory term does not necessarily constitute a hate crime... But if it smells like one and looks like one, we're gonna report it."

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