A gay man was attacked by a group of men shouting homophobic abuse (Image: liverpoolecho.co.uk)

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A gay man was left bloodied after a "despicable" attack by a group of homophobic men who gave him a black eye and a busted lip.

Aodhán Benson, 24, from Belfast, was attacked outside Tesco on Bold Street in Liverpool by a group of men uttering homophobic slurs, according to the Liverpool Echo.

Police were called around 12.25am on Saturday morning and took him to hospital.

Mr Benson, said: "Honestly like, I'm so proud of my sexuality and so proud of being gay.

"But I honestly, if this is what this means then like, no, then I'll just not be gay if you just leave me alone.

"Because I'm only 24, so what happens if it happens when I'm 34, 44, 54. How many more times will it happen to me? Why are people so horrible? It's just sick."

Mr Benson, who studied for a teaching qualification with Spanish and French at Liverpool Hope University, said the men approached him during the early hours of Saturday, with one of them taking exception to being called "love".

Mr Benson said: "He went, 'Love, why would you say 'love'? Only f*****s would say love'.

"And I was like, 'Well I am a f*****'. And he went, 'You're a what?' I was like, 'I'm a f*****', because I'm not ashamed to say it."

Mr Benson was taken to hospital after the men left him bloody and beaten
(Image: liverpoolecho.co.uk)

Mr Benson said he then told the man to 'f*** off'.

He continued: "He went, 'Don't speak to me like that, you f***** c***, you gay f***** c***'. And then he punched me. Now, I have to fully put my hands up, I hit him back.

"Like I wasn't going to stand and let him hit me. But two of his friends then came and I was like, 'Well I can't hit all three of them'."

Struggling to hold back tears, Mr Benson said: "It was just really scary, just because like, when all three of them were hitting me, I was like 'Oh my god what if I die?'

Mr Benson also thought of two recent attacks on gay people

He said: "I know that sounds so dramatic, and I hate being so, I don't know, dramatising it, but the boy that died on Hanover Street as well. I was like, 'What if I actually die?'"

The attack comes after Duncan Browne, a 23-year-old from Kirkby, who was killed in an attack on Hanover Street in the early hours of Sunday, July 4th.

Mr Benson feared he might die n the attack after another man was recently killed
(Image: liverpoolecho.co.uk)

Mr Benson's friends intervened and he was able to run across the street. They took photos of the men and called the police, who tool Mr Benson to hospital.

He said he left hospital around 11am on Saturday with a busted lip, black eye, swollen nose and a cut above his eye.

Police say CCTV and witness enquiries are ongoing to identify the suspects.

The attack is the latest in a series of violent assaults in Liverpool City Centre, many of them suspected to be motivated by homophobia and transphobia. Hate crime reports rose 25% in Merseyside in the last year.

The attacks have sent fear and anger through Liverpool's LGBT+ community and prompted condemnation from politicians and a protest in Liverpool city centre on June 22nd. A number of arrests have been made in relation to recent attacks.

In statement, Detective Inspector Sean Kelly-Martland said: “It's hugely concerning that someone has been subjected to homophobic abuse and assault in our city centre.

"To be attacked in such a manner is despicable, and we’re determined to find those responsible and remove them from our streets.

"Due to the abhorrent verbal abuse the victims were subjected to, we’re treating this as a hate crime.

"Merseyside Police stands against hate crime in all its forms and will not tolerate people being targeted in this manner because of their sexual orientation or gender identity."

He asked for anyone who was in the area on Saturday morning to come forward with information.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police on Twitter @MerPolCC or Facebook ‘Merseyside Police Contact Centre’ with reference 21000479926.

People can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously, on 0800 555 111 or via their online form.