The last decade has seen the advancement of LGBT+ rights in the UK.
Following the introduction of same-sex marriage in England and Wales in 2013, Westminster now has the “gayest” parliament on record, with 45 openly LGBT+ MP’s being elected in 2017. Where once gay role models were a rarity, openly LGBT+ role models including Sam Smith, Tom Daley and Nicola Adams now represent the community in mainstream popular culture.
But the fact remains that life remains challenging for many LGBT+ people in the UK. Statistics collated by LGBT+ charity Stonewall reveal that homophobic abuse takes place in all spheres of public life, from bars and restaurants to public services and the housing market.
One in five LGBT+ people has experienced a hate crime in the last 12 months. This number rose by 80 per cent from 2013 to 2017. The study also reveals that 80 per cent of anti-LGBT+ hate crimes go unreported.
Paul Twocock, Stonewall’s director of campaigns, policy and research, said:
Lesbian, gay, bi and trans people still face shocking levels of abuse in Britain today. Our 2017 research found that one in five LGBT+ people had experienced a hate crime or incident in the last year, this includes two in five trans people.
But what should you do if you’ve been the victim of a hate crime?
Stonewall believe that anyone who is able to should report incidents of hate crime. Working to make more LGBT+ people feel comfortable enough to do so is a central part of the charity’s work.
It’s really important that hate crimes are reported, no incident is too small. You can do this by dialling 101 to contact your local police force, or by reporting the crime anonymously through the police website True Vision, in an emergency always dial 999.
Scott Cuthbertson, Programme Manager at Scottish LGBT+ organisation the Equality Network, agrees that reporting hate crime is essential.
Reporting a hate crime can not only benefit you as the victim, but potentially prevents others being a victim in future by catching culprits and helping to map where LGBTI people can face increased incidences.
According to Equality Network’s Scottish LGBT+ Hate Crime Report, 71 per cent of LGBT+ people who experience a hate crime did not report it to the police and only 23 per cent said they knew how to report a hate crime.
If you’ve been a victim of a hate crime, even if you’re not sure if it was a hate crime, we encourage you to report it to the police. If you don’t feel comfortable, for whatever reason, reporting directly to the police you can use a third party reporting centre where a trained staff can help you to report.
As is so often the case, hate crimes have a devastating impact on the most marginalised sections of communities. LGBT+ asylum seekers are no exception. In 2016, Stonewall and the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group released a report detailing shocking cases of abuse faced by LGBT+ asylum seekers.
Trans women and gay male asylum seekers are particularly vulnerable to violent and verbal abuse, with immigration status playing a large role in the under reporting of these crimes.
Nina Nasim, LGBT+ asylum seeker support worker, UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group, said:
UKLGIG has seen many LGBTQI+ people who have experienced hate crime because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or ethnicity.
Many people seeking asylum are afraid to report hate crimes to the police or other authorities. We have seen cases where trans people have reported crimes to the police but they haven’t been treated with respect. Instead, they have been treated as suspects because of their immigration status
Trans and gender diverse charity Mermaids provide vital support to trans youth, many of whom have been impacted by hate crime.
During a recent residential weekend that was run by the charity, Mermaids asked the young people present if they had been subjected to a hate crime. They all raised their hands. The team then asked them to share on post-it notes what happened and how that affected them. According to CEO Susie Green, this was heart-breaking.
There was a wide range of attacks, many physical, some online, but they all made those young people feel scared, alone and worthless.
Last year Mermaids received four separate funeral collections from young people who took their own lives. My own daughter made many attempts on her own life, and each one followed an attack of some kind. This must stop.
Hate crime can have a corrosive effect on the mental health of victims. This is can be seen in the BAME community, where LGBT+ BAME people can experience double marginalisation from within and outside communities. Managing multiple minority identities often means dealing with a type of compound discrimination, creating an environment where the risk of experiencing a hate crime becomes much higher.
Alexander Leon of Kaleidoscope Trust, an LGBT+ charity working to uphold the human rights of LGBT+ people across the world, cites hate crime as a part of everyday life for many in the BAME community.
When you sit on the intersection of being BAME and LGBT+, experiencing hate crime can be a simple fact of life. Perhaps shockingly, these crimes are often perpetrated by people within one's own ethnic community, leading to a unique type of discrimination in which different parts of your identity come into conflict.
Hate crime against LGBT+ people, particularly those who are people of colour, is a significant problem within the UK, but for LGBT people in countries that don’t formally recognise and protect their sexual orientation or gender identity, life can be much harder.
As an LGBT+ person of colour, Alexander admits that he sometimes chooses not to report hate crimes that he experiences. But for LGBT+ people in many other countries in the world, including Uganda, Malaysia and Jamaica, this isn't even an option.
Through my work with Kaleidoscope Trust the Commonwealth Equality Network, I've learnt about the struggles of LGBT+ people faced with a justice system which actively criminalises same sex intimacy or refuses to formally recognise transgender people.
For LGBT+ people in many of these countries, few if any mechanisms exist to hold the perpetrators of homophobic, transphobic or biphobic hate crimes to account.
Nick Antjoule is head of crime services at Galop, the LGBT+ anti-violence charity. He believes that, in the face of adversity such as hate crime, solidarity is the LGBT+ community’s most powerful weapon.
Our 35 years of supporting LGBT+ people facing hate crime shows that it cuts deeper and its wounds take longer to heal than other forms of crime.
We can challenge it though by speaking up together and joining the thousands of people who report homophobia, transphobia and biphobia each year.
If you have been affected by this article, you can contact the following organisations for support: