This Man Had the Perfect Response After Being Brutally Assaulted for Defying Gender Norms

May 16th 2016

Almie Rose

Isaac Keatinge was walking home from a party in Newton, Sydney Australia, when he was attacked. That's horrible in and of itself, but even worse is the reason for why Keatinge was attacked.

He was wearing a dress.

Keatinge, 25, told BuzzFeed in April that he was walking when he was cornered by three men: "They verbally assaulted me, comments about wearing a dress. I responded in kind. I wasn’t afraid of going up to them to talk and try to diffuse the situation. But the punches came as soon as I went up to them. It was so rapid."

The incident left Keatinge with 15 stitches in his head, bruising, and an eye swollen shut.

When ATTN: asked Keatinge if, knowing what he knew today, he would still try to "diffuse the situation," he said, "I would certainly have called an Uber rather then walk to the bus stop, could I change the past. However, I would not change my appearance, for this would be allowing the gender terrorists to win."

Rather than shy away from who he is, Keatinge is responding in a powerful way.

He teamed up with photographer Bradley Tennant and Heaps Gay (a site geared towards the queer community in Australia) for a photo shoot, wearing a flower crown, a dress, and a defiant expression.


A photo posted by Bradley Tennant (@bradtennant) on

Keatinge, who grew up in Newton, a small suburb of Sydney, gave us some advice he has for those who want to dress how they feel, but are afraid to do so:

"I would urge people to dress the way they feel. Gender norms are heavily enforced, although never discussed. If one's appearance gives cause for dialog, then all the better.

This is such a large question. We could talk about the practical restrictions of gender dressing, the lack of pockets in clothing designated for those with the ability to carry children, for example, or those who make the decisions about who should wear what and publish these in magazines and etc.

At the end of the day though, it's up to oneself to decide what to wear, and imagine how they might be perceived. Garments, this idea of fashion, are part of the wider social dialog, like a more subtle body language. Some people don't have a lot to say, and you can see that by their clothes.

However, I have something to contribute, and my threads show off both my opinions and my social knowledge before ever I open my mouth. Gender binaries are no longer a useful way for us to organize ourselves as a species, and every piece of clothing we put on is drag. I hope people can have fun with their clothes, using them connect more with their own bodies as well as with other people."

Unfortunately, Isaac is one of many queer individuals who have come under some form of attack for how they dress.

ATTN: has previously reported on several of those victims, including Brittany Nicole Wallace, who was physically assaulted by a man because he thought she "looked like a dike;" Angus McCormack, who was asked to leave a school alumni event for his "inappropriate" outfit;" and Aniya Wolf, who was escorted out of her own prom because she was wearing a tux instead of a dress.


There was even a story of a self-appointed "bathroom cop" who followed a woman into a women's restroom, telling her it was because, "you dress like a man."

Reluctance to embrace gender fluidity still persists.

ATTN: reported on the ever-changing notion of gender in 2015, in a piece that featured an interview with Nicole Avallone, interim deputy director of programs and policy at the LGBT Community Center in New York, who told us:

"Every single person experiences and expresses their gender in a way that is unique and their own. In this expansive idea of gender identity and gender expression, gender can no longer be just two things, male or female.

In our society, expressing your gender in a certain way―say, wearing pants and wearing your hair short ― is often associated with a certain line, being either closer to that box of 'male' or that box of 'female.' But if we're seeing gender as a continuum, each person might place their location along this continuum slightly differently."

Keatinge sees a brighter future for gender fluid people.

Keatinge told ATTN: that he wants to acknowledge "those who came before [me], in much tougher times, like the late Prince and [David] Bowie" for paving the way. He told Heaps Gay, "the rules of gender are so heavily enforced, and I think certain groups of people have an institutionalised [sic] idea of reinforcing those norms. It’s almost like there’s a vested interest in the pecking order. But the future is so bright!"

[H/T The Daily Dot]

UPDATE: 5/17/2016 8:14 a.m. PST: This story was updated to include quotes from an exclusive ATTN: interview with Keatinge.