Rising anti-gay attacks destabilize UK defenders
In the early hours of Friday, June 11, three men were assaulted and subjected to homophobic violence near a pub in Liverpool, England, by a group of teenagers, one of whom carried a knife, police said.
“Due to the heinous verbal abuse to which the victims have been subjected, we are treating this as a hate crime,” Detective Inspector Chris Hawitt said in a statement. declaration at the time, calling the attack “despicable” and stating that Merseyside police would “not tolerate people being targeted in this way because of their sexual orientation or gender identity”.
A few weeks after the incident, Merseyside Police released a report claiming that “the increase in incidents involving LGBT + victims has, unfortunately, reflected an increase in crime experienced with the relaxation of lockdown restrictions.”
In response, the local LGBTQ community organized a protest rally. People who work in nearby bars and several organizations helped set it up, according to the Liverpool-based LGBTQ organization LCR Pride Foundation.
“Hate crimes are always a shock,” said Andi Herring, CEO and co-founder of the foundation. “For me, this is the determination that these people will not gain, and we will continue to do what we said and tackle it.”
The Liverpool assault is one in a series of hate crimes against gay men that took place over the summer in the UK.
West Midlands Police arrested three men last month after a same-sex couple was attacked in the gay village of Birmingham, England. Police said two men, both in their 30s, were attacked on August 15 with bottles after suffering homophobic abuse. One remained unconscious and the other suffered “nasty cuts” according to a police report.
Crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity have increased almost every year since at least 2015, according to government data from England, Wales and Scotland. In England and Wales, hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation Pink 19% and anti-transgender crimes by 16% from March 2019 to March 2020. In Scotland, the number of hate crimes linked to sexual orientation Pink 5% from April 1, 2020 to March 31.
The British government, in a declaration last year, attributed the rise to better crime recording by law enforcement and better identification of what is considered a hate crime. Police are also reporting spikes in hate crimes after major political or terrorist events.
While some UK LGBTQ activists have agreed that gays are more comfortable reporting hate crimes to police than they have been in the past, they said the isolation of the pandemic and the increase hate speech and political violence energize people with anti-gay feelings.
“If there are people in power who are fanatics… that legitimizes people to be hateful in their daily lives,” said Rebecca Crowther, policy coordinator at the Equality Network in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Crowther said that in addition to the mental health toll the pandemic-related lockdown has caused people, she has witnessed an increase in hate crimes in Scotland, adding that mistrust between the community and the police exists always.
After an attack involving two men in Edinburgh in July, three men were arrested and charged in connection with the alleged assaults and homophobic crime, according to to the Scottish Police.
“It became the ‘Twilight Zone’ here,” Crowther said.
Herring said he also attributes the increase in hate crimes to more survivors understanding what hate crime is and growing confidence that they will get the support they need. after their reporting.
The UK government has made several important decisions regarding LGBTQ rights over the past year. Britain has allowed sexually active gay and bisexual men to donate blood as part of a historic change from existing policy last December. Inclusive LGBTQ sex education became compulsory in all high schools in England in September 2020.
That same month, the UK government scrapped plans to allow transgender people to identify themselves and announced that a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria was required for the legal transition. The the government also declared he planned to open three gender clinics in 2020.
Eighty-five percent of Britons polled said they would support if their child, sibling or close relative became lesbian, gay or bisexual, and 71 percent said they would feel the same about a family member who becomes transgender or non-binary, according to to an August YouGov survey. Seven percent of people in Britain identify as LGBTQ, according to the survey.
Crowther said visibility and alliance affects a community’s friendliness to LGBTQ people. When Edinburgh’s bars and public spaces closed due to the pandemic, residents saw fewer LGBTQ markers like rainbow flags, according to Crowther.
“It sends a message to the general public that you are a welcoming space and that you will not tolerate hatred,” Crowther said of LGBTQ equality symbols.
As countries reopen, Herring said the fight against anti-gay sentiments should take place year round. He said everyone has a responsibility to report hate crimes they witness.
“I can see that everything is going in the right direction,” Herring said of ongoing education efforts and the sites in Liverpool that want to become official safe spaces for the LGBTQ community. “It’s not just a reaction to a crime; this is an overview.