Anti-Gay Hate Crimes in Liverpool, A Glimmer of Hope and A Serious Question

Monday, as you all probably know, was the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Here in Liverpool, the day comes on the heels of a pair of horrifying anti-gay attacks in the gay quarter of the city centre.

Two drag performers have been attacked in the span of about a month: drag queen and DJ Lady Shaun was ‘knocked unconscious and suffered a broken jaw,’ according to PinkNews, and police chased, but were unable to catch, a suspect. Three weeks before, Calvin Fox, a choreographer and performer, was attacked by two suspects and left with cuts and bruises on his face.

“After last year’s Liverpool Pride, an amazing event that had no trouble reported, we thought Liverpool had woken up and accepted the term ‘gay’,” Fox told the Liverpool Echo.

Despite the recent history of high-profile brutal anti-gay attacks in Liverpool, the one measly bit of good news in all this is that the Merseyside Police have expressed their support for the LGBTQ population and expressed their commitment to fighting hate crimes of all types during the observance of IDAHO. “Hate crimes and offences against people will be investigated and will be dealt with by the courts and punished,” Tracey O’Hara, Detective Constable of Merseyside Police told PinkPaper: “Hate crimes and offences against people will be investigated and will be dealt with by the courts and punished. We’re Merseyside Police and we won’t accept transphobia, we won’t accept homophobia or discrimination of any kind, and for us it’s what we do as part of our core business.”At an event held at police headquarters yesterday, 40 senior officers raised a rainbow flag, which will be flown atop the building throughout the week.

Obviously, there’s still a pretty big gap between a prepared statement and a rainbow flag above a government building and the effort which goes into preventing said horrible attacks from happening, but an expression of support and expressing a commitment to the safety of a threatened population does give us some hope, especially considering that there are plenty of other places where the cops still raid gay bars instead of protecting the clientele. And, because all gestures of solidarity should include action behind them, if you have any information about the attacks or need to report another incident to the authorities, the contact for reporting a hate crime to the Merseyside Police is here.

But what I found especially interesting is the comment thread under the PinkNews item I linked to earlier in this piece, in which — and granted, a good-size chunk of this was probably for the sake of reaction, but it’s still worth mentioning because I think there’s a real point in all this — people used the attack as a forum to reinforce ‘thick, violent Scouser’ stereotypes and bring up horrific local tragedies like the Hillsborough disaster as a benchmark for how the people of Liverpool treat one another. As naïve as it sounds, I didn’t want to believe people in a city I’ve come to love were capable of such disgusting behavior, and it was upsetting to see other people draw that association between the city and its general populace and the actions of the people committing them.

And I know defending a city I haven’t lived in for very long (or spent much time in clearly-defined LGBTQ spaces, save for one really boss progressive bookstore), so I am well aware that I can’t, nor do I claim to, speak for everyone, nor do I deny that homophobia, biphobia and transphobia exist, sometimes in the worst way, everywhere, including the places we love. But the reaction got me thinking about Scousers, about Southerners in the U.S., about stereotypes, about us.

And I wanted to open it up to the group — is this a normal thing, having #feelings about loving a place but having serious cognitive dissonance when certain ugly aspects of human behavior rear their heads? What do you do when the actions of a few reinforce the worst stereotypes about a place or a people you love?

Lindsay Eanet (@lindsayeanet) is a Chicago-based writer, editor and performer. Her writing has appeared in McSweeney’s, Paste, Howler, Chicago Magazine and others. She is the host & producer of I’ll Be There for You, a biweekly podcast about pop culture and coping. But enough about her, let’s talk about you.

Lindsay has written 27 articles for us.

47 Comments

  1. I’m half scouse and pretty butch, and whenever I trek north (a few times a year) I don’t get anything worse than I do anywhere else. I get more hassle in pubs etc for being a southener. I’ve never heard of people using Hillsborough as an example of scouse violence, people generally blame the police. But back to your question I think the cognitive dissonance is normal, especially when you don’t see acts of violence against a minority group with your own eyes and if you live/work in a different part of town.

  2. I am a scouser (native of liverpool), and I go to the University of Cambridge.
    i go out a lot in liverpool, and the town centre gets pretty packed and loud on a night out, but i’ve never once seen a fist fight. The only times i’ve seen fights have ironicaly been 3 times in Cambridge, a city that’s supposed to have such a higher brow of individuals.

    • why are you directing this at me?

      ohhh it was me and the other 700,000 residents of liverpool who beat you up right? whoops!

      so glad the US has a totally unblemished record in the fight against homophobia.

      • I wasn’t directing it at you. I really wish you would have used a little more thought before typing that out.

        This article was written about anti-gay crime in Liverpool and I had a personal encounter. That’s all I’m saying here.

        • I would have interpreted it that way if you hadn’t repeated ‘woops’ like I said.
          it seemed like you were trying to say what i said wasn’t true because you’d had an unfortunate experience that can sadly happen anywhere in the world.

          • I wish you hadn’t made such harsh statements based merely on assumption and the use of a word.

      • Not to stir things up, but do you realise that what you said here could fall under Nationalism? I’m not sure how that’s any better than homophobia or racism, if I’m honest.

        • When an American is abroad in a generally tolerant society and they get beaten up, it’s most likely because they are American. Which is nationalism on the assaulters part, but it’s not nationalistic to double check the facts.

          • This person does not appear to be ‘checking facts’. She was quite clearly using this comment to insult by using the ‘/a total arsehole’ continuation.

      • You are ganging up on her, and blaming the victim. The premise here is that there may be a lot of violence in liverpool, or that the perception thereof can cause cognitive dissonance for people from there. The fact that Yogi and Nicola have been quick to question Krysta’s story, rather than being sympathetic to her as an assault victim, and have implied that she was “a total arsehole” is a perfect illustration of the angst that such a reputation can cause. Also, why would it have been more acceptable for them to beat her based on being an American? That’s still hatred/xenophobia.

        There is violence in any city.

        Violence is wrong.

        Even if you have done something inflammatory, it does not mean you deserve to be hit.

        • @Katharine – This. Yes. Absolutely, on all counts.

          @Krystle – What an awful experience. I’m really sorry to hear that that happened to you and your girlfriend. Thank you for sharing your story and don’t worry about standing up for yourself on here. And for the record, I don’t think it came off it as generalizing.

          And not to chastise anyone here specifically because it seems the parties involved have resolved themselves (thanks folks), but for real, victim blaming is never acceptable, on AS or anywhere else, and even if that wasn’t the intention, the Internet can be a real jerk sometimes and because things sometimes sound different on the Internet then how we meant them, please, please be conscious of how what you’re saying comes off. Thanks.

      • Yes.

        I didn’t realize my comment was going to cause such a fuss. Maybe I should have worded it differently or emphasized that I wasn’t attempting to draw any conclusions about Liverpool or any relationship to the US. I actually really enjoyed Liverpool.

        • Ah.
          I’m really sorry then. I though when you said ‘woops’ you were replying to me and saying ‘well you might not have seen violence but you’re wrong’. Sorry people in Liverpool were such shits but I’ve honestly never seen violence, homophobic or otherwise here and it’s annoying when the press tries to paint the entire city as violent thugs.

        • Krystle, no worries! It looks like this has been resolved but I just wanted to point out that there’s wasn’t anything wrong with what you said.

          Also if someone comments and it isn’t a reply (meaning the comment isn’t indented below yours and they don’t mention you directly), it would probs be best to assume that person wasn’t referring to you.

    • You’re right, but Heysel is a complicated and ugly matter too (there was plenty of provocation on both sides), and from my experience people here still get hounded far more about Heysel than about Hillsborough (e.g. the Man United ‘We won three without killing anybody’ chant). It’s just the people in the comment thread that I read brought up Hillsborough as an alleged example of Scousers being violent. Not saying I agree necessarily, by any means.

  3. I go to uni in Glasgow, which is the stabbing-capital of the UK, but I’ve never encountered anything violent here beyond a few neds being rowdy on their way home.

    I think it depends a lot on where you live and what areas you frequent, but even then there will be times when bigoted people let you down and show the ugly side of human behaviour in an area you thought safe – during the royal wedding there was a riot in the park near the uni, right next to where we live, and apparently shit went down.

    Also bottles. Flying at policemen, who then needed stitches.

    So for me, yes I know that Glasgow can get pretty ugly even if you live in the cushy part (as I do) but man I love this place like burning.

    • My roommate wanted to study abroad in Glasgow, and her father was concerned about the ‘murder capital’ reputation, so I looked up some figures, and in 2002, the murder rate was higher in Flint, MI than in Glasgow. (Not to mention the similarly sized US capital, Washington, DC.) So there’s some context?

      Also, rioting happens here, too. I live in Boston, and when the Sox won the world series, people tipped over cars and got extremely unruly. So while I have issues with drunken Sox fans, and have actually been assaulted in my home city, I am no less a sports fan, nor do I have less Bostonian pride because of it. However, I am more careful to avoid the Boston Fan stereotype than if I were, say, a Colorado Rockies fan.

      • @Katharine – I’m sorry you had to deal with that. What a shitty experience.

        But you do bring up an interesting point about fan stereotypes / awful sports-related violent streaks and how some places get marred more in the way of reprehensible fan behavior and stereotypes thereof than others (Glasgow fits well into this category too). And just being a sports fan and having pride in your team knowing full well that your fellow fans — and/or players — have a tendency to be awful jerks / do really terrible things to one another as a result of SPORTS!. That’s another thing we could probably go on for ages about. (Future open thread?)

        And, not to trivialize the seriousness and productivity of this conversation (thanks again, everyone, for contributing/sharing their stories), but yes, @bookbound, the Yankees do indeed suck.

  4. I live on the Wirral, and used to go out to Liverpool A LOT. I, myself, have been on the receiving end of a homophobic attack within the area and a friend of mine who works in a bar suffers from homophobia on pretty much a weekly basis. Liverpool has it’s fair share of narrow minded idiots, and it’d be silly to try and defend otherwise. But to say that it’s any worse than other areas is probably as equally ridiculous.

    • Sorry to hear about you and your friend. I hope things get better for her / him / hir at work.

      And I agree with you — I’ve met a few of said narrow-minded idiots, a couple of whom were friends of mine who I have had to have a chat with about word choice and things of that nature. It’s definitely frustrating. But it’s hardly a problem unique to Liverpool (& the Wirral). Hence the discussion thread.

  5. I believe all stereotypes are based on something, or someone, that exhibits true stereotypical behavior. Wherever you go you’ll have the potential to find the worst example of that area there is. However, the actions and attitudes of a few shouldn’t be used as a benchmark for everyone associated with that place, even though that may be the case re: Liverpool, Southerners, etc. I think the best way to dis-enforce (is that a word?) people thinking negatively of the place you come from is to be a proponent of all the good qualities you wish they saw, to be the anti-stereotype.

  6. I am glad to see that police are publicly showing support and taking a stand. I am an American but Liverpool is the only place I have ever wanted to live (of course I would settle for just about anywhere in the UK now). There is hate and violence everywhere it is frustrating when people link it to where people are from just being scouse does not make someone a thug. I hear the connection that people make all the time about how scousers are violent and theives and they always bring up Hillsborough but I usually hear this from football fans who hate L’pool. People who generalise like that are just as bad as they try to make people out to be.

  7. Also, I was raised in the Southern US and have actually experienced just as much direct homophobia in the North. I’ve worried for my safety in both areas.

    But one difference is that I know if I’m attacked in Alabama or Mississippi, the police won’t even treat it as a hate crime because it’s not on the books. That’s why the police response in Liverpool is important; they’re taking this seriously, even if it’s only because they know an inadequate response would tarnish their public image.

  8. Okay, so my comment has nothing to do with Liverpool, but I feel like I have lots of relevant feelings towards the bolded question.

    I grew up in a small town. There’s only 2,000 or so people in this town, and there’s only 200 kids in my school – this number includes grades seven through ten as well as faculty. There’s thirty students in my class. I’ve known every one of them since Kindergarten. We went to the same elementary, middle and high schools, played on the same sports teams, and attended the same yearly county fair ever for our entire lives.

    I had the fortitude of leaving my hometown with my cousins while they travelled on business so I could babysit their children, and I got to see the world. I’ve been to New York and London, and I fell in love with these huge cities, but I’d always feel a little homesick. I missed the interconnectedness of small-town life, the way it felt when everybody knew you and congratulated you on what you had accomplished in whatever endeavor, and the familiarity. I missed the natural, scenic beauty of the Sierra Nevadas, the wildlife, and the traditions that were alien and strange to my cousins, but the best thing in the world to me.

    Then, I realized I was a lesbian. When I got home from my travels, I started hearing things that I hadn’t even noticed before. I heard “that’s gay” and “stop being a faggot,” and words like “dyke” and “queer” and “homo” used in a derogative manner on a daily basis, by the same people who were the subjects of my fond memories of childhood and adolescence. I heard jokes about people who don’t express their gender in a traditional manner that I don’t even feel comfortable repeating, and the subject of these jokes was just a boy who was new to the school and wore skinny jeans. I was terrified to be myself. The loving, caring community that I had grown up in had transformed into a prison overnight, a place where I had to dress uncomfortably and pretend to be something I wasn’t.

    My New Year’s resolution this year was to come out, and I did. I’ve even started dressing in more masculine clothes, which I get endless amounts of harassment for. I’ve lost a lot of friends in the process, and they’re friends I’ve known my entire life. I now realize that I’m not going to “become straight” anytime soon, so I’ll give these people a chance to change their minds, but if they’re going to give up a lifelong friendship because of something so petty, they’re not the kind of people I should be associating with. And that hurts. I love where I grew up, but I hate that something as simple and harmless as sexual orientation or gender expression can rip something so picturesque completely apart.

    • “I love where I grew up, but I hate that something as simple and harmless as sexual orientation or gender expression can rip something so picturesque completely apart.”

      A thousand times this, and I’m sure plenty of readers will agree with the sentiment.

      Thanks for sharing Kat, and good on ya for coming out. It takes a lot of guts to do that, at any stage and in any environment, let alone one where casual homophobia is the norm. Keep your head up — it’ll hurt for a while, but the friends worth keeping will come around in the end.

    • I’m so sorry to hear that, Kat: it must be incredibly difficult for you. Are the adults in your town any more accepting than the kids? If so, things may get easier. I live in a village in the UK and most of the adults here are pretty easy-going: it’s the kids that can be tricky with one another, and who police one another’s behaviour for ‘normality’.

      • The adults are where the kids get it from, I think. The same thing happens here with polticial and religious views. Lots of families have been in the area for generations and many people never leave, so options are passed down as facts and are really difficult to break out of. I’m definitely changing a lot of opinions, though, because before I came out (and still?) I had that whole good kid reputation going for me, plus knowing how to talk to adults, so they like me. I hope that my being out makes them realized that -gasp- homosexuals aren’t all horrible societal deviants who want to disrupt their families and lives.

  9. I have a similar cognitive dissonance type scenario regarding my feelings about home.
    I love the area I’m from, in terms of the surroundings (it’s right up against the mountains, and tends to be very green. You can be up in relative wilderness in 10 minutes flat. It’s also an old orcharding community, and there are still a few orchards around in town) but I face a lot of anxiety whenever I go home because of my parents. I came out to them last year and they were less than supportive. They didn’t kick me out or refuse to pay for my college education, but it’s sort of an “I love you but not the gay parts of you, let’s just pretend you never said anything” situation.
    I guess I’ve sort of solved (but not really) my cognitive dissonance by really loving the place and the surroundings and missing it while away, but not…really missing my parents ever. It makes me sound like a horrible child whenever I say that, but I am much healthier away from them and experience less discomfort and anxiety related to forced closetedness. It’s not the best solution but I recently realized that’s what it is right now.
    I daydream about the mountains and orchards frequently, though. Where I go to school is a lot dryer.

  10. “We’re Merseyside Police and we won’t accept transphobia, we won’t accept homophobia or discrimination of any kind, and for us it’s what we do as part of our core business.”

    This made me tear up.

    • Their awesomeness in that regard kind of makes me want to move to Liverpool, making me feel like a 12-year-old Beatlemaniac again.

      I mean, I live quite close to where Chrissy Polis was assaulted, and while I’m glad her attackers are being brought to justice, they could be doing more to protect against transphobia here.

  11. I have lots of #feelings like this about my home, too. Texas really is a wonderful place. I love bluebonnets, and pecans, and the songs of the mockingbirds who’ve taken up residence two doors down from me. I love the way we say the word pajamas ‘puhJAMuhs’ instead of ‘puhJAHmuhs’, and I think ‘taters are God’s gift to man. I was raised on beef because it’s so cheap here. And yet… I suppose the hard fact of the situation is that even though I’m Texan through and through, I will always be viewed as an outsider because of my orientation. It’s like the day my digital electronics teacher looked down at me and said, “See? This is why we don’t have women engineers.” The society here has collectively looked down at me and said, “We don’t have lesbian Texans. So GTFO.”

    Sadly, this fall I am about to do exactly that. I will miss you with every one of my heart strings, Texas. Will you ever miss me?

  12. This is kind of tangential, but I had a moment like this while I was in Japan last month… I was enjoying the whole experience when suddenly a thought hit me like a ton of bricks – “The Japanese took my grandfather prisoner for a year of his childhood and almost killed his mother.” It almost stopped me in my tracks.

    I resolved it in my head as, “Well, it wasn’t *these people* who did it, but rather the people in power who thought they could rule the world” but I’ve got to be honest, it’s still a little uncomfortable for me to think about.

    • I’ve always admired the fact that my father harbours no resentment at all towards the Japanese, despite the fact that his father was killed by Japanese soldiers during WW2. I think it really is about being able to distinguish individuals from the group/nation. In the same way, not all Londoners or people in Yorkshire are mass murderers just because Jack the Ripper and Peter Sutcliffe were. Soldiers are trained to see their enemies as a ‘group’ rather than as individuals precisely because it makes it easier to dehumanise and to therefore to hurt/kill them. I think that’s how homophobes, racists etc. are able to hold to their views despite all rational arguments to the contrary.

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