I’ve been the victim of a transphobic hate crime – I’m sadly not the only one

This worrying trend here in the UK should be a cause for concern for anyone (Picture: Móa Hjartardóttir)

It was a cool autumn night and I was out with some friends, as well as the guy I had been dating.

I had just recently come out as trans in 2009, and I was taking my first steps of being myself in public. I was nervous, but I also felt liberated. 

As the guy I was seeing leaned in for a kiss, a woman came storming up to us and proclaimed loudly: ‘Uh, you know you’re kissing a man, right? Just look at his Adam’s apple and his hands. Don’t let him trick you.’

At that moment, I felt like someone had punched me full force in the stomach, and I stumbled away from this person. My friends and my date told her to mind her own business and we all started walking off, only to have her shout offensive slurs at me.

Looking back, I am relieved that this didn’t escalate further, as it could have easily turned into a more serious hate incident.

Sadly, my story is only one of many facing LGBTQ+ people. In fact, it’s getting worse.

According to VICE World News, homophobic hate crimes in the UK have doubled over the last five years, while transphobic hate crimes have tripled. This ranges from verbal harassment to serious violent crimes – one of the most shocking ones being the murder of a Black trans woman called Naomi Hersi in 2018 in Hounslow, and the murder of a gay doctor named Gary Jenkins in Bute Park last year.

This worrying trend here in the UK should be a cause for concern for anyone.

While these figures might also be partly explained by increased confidence in reporting these issues, the ones reported are only the tip of the iceberg.

Black trans woman Naomi Hersi was murdered in 2018 (Picture: Central News)

Many people would never report hate incidents or crime to the police simply because they don’t believe the police will do anything about it, or take them seriously.

According to LGBTQ+ domestic abuse charity, Galop, only one in eight LGBTQ+ people had ‘reported the most recent incident that they had experienced to the police’.

I know this to be true both from working with charities that support people, and from the stories of queer people around me. 

LGBTQ+ people have also historically suffered stigma and discrimination from the police worldwide, so confidence that the police will support them is often low.

Even in cases where issues have been reported to the police, I’ve heard from friends that there has often been no conclusion and cases have been dropped, or not recognised as a hate crime.

This was also my experience. In 2018, I reported someone to the police for targeted harassment online.

The person in question had repeatedly targeted myself and my partner online, where they maliciously misgendered us, calling us slurs and repeatedly abused us. When we reported this, we were brought in to give a statement, but the case was later dropped without any further investigation.

A few years later, I reported the same person for sharing photos of me and other trans people online, where they encouraged others to mock our appearance, misgender us and abuse us. A police officer came to take my statement, but said that there was nothing they could do. 

While these instances might not be direct examples of serious violence, they are a part of a larger picture. If harassment and abuse of this kind are allowed to stand, it could escalate further and lead to more direct action – or at the very least encourage others.

LGBTQ+ hate crimes aren’t going to solve themselves or magically disappear

To me, it seems so obvious that the way trans issues are reported is partly to blame. The way trans issues are being treated as a political wedge issue in the UK isn’t helping either. 

And if people don’t know anyone trans personally and are only exposed to constant negative coverage, of course some people are going to start believing some of these messages and see them as a reason to target and attack LGBTQ+ people – whether that’s online or on the street. 

There is a similar rise in some countries around the world – as an example, there was a devastating shooting at an LGBTQ+ venue in Norway in June this year, which left two people dead and 21 injured. This happened in a city that’s one of the safest places to be queer, and is a harrowing reminder that hate-driven crimes can happen anywhere. 

If we don’t step in now, things will only get worse. LGBTQ+ hate crimes aren’t going to solve themselves or magically disappear. If we allow division and hatred to fester, it will lead to more discrimination, more stigma and more deaths. 

It is obvious that our government and other authorities are failing to protect its LGBTQ+ citizens, despite ambitious promises and rainbow logos on their social media accounts. 

Unfortunately, some government MPs have been busy criticising important legal advancements for transgender people, such as increased access to legal gender recognition and access to single sex spaces – as well as excluding them being protected against conversion therapy.

Tackling such large systematic issues requires serious commitment, resources and funding in the right avenues. It is about making sure people can safely report crimes, that they are taken seriously, and that there are consequences for those who commit them.

It is about our education system – where we have comprehensive LGBTQ+ training for staff, and lessons for students. It is about tackling these negative attitudes within the media, within institutions, within our healthcare and within our legal system.

Above all, it’s about time that the Government stopped using LGBTQ+ people as a political wedge issue, and instead did something to prove their alleged commitment to our rights and safety – before it’s far too late.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing James.Besanvalle@usnewsrank.com

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