feature image via Stonewall
The UK has seen a huge surge in anti-LGBTQ hate crime, according to a new report by Stonewall, the UK’s leading LGBT activist organization. Hate crime against LGBTQ people in Britain has increased by 78% since 2013, with one in five LGBTQ Brits experiencing a hate crime because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity within the last 12 months.
It’s been four years since marriage equality was approved by Parliament in England and Wales, and progress on LGBTQ rights has been slow since. While same-sex marriage was introduced in Scotland in 2014, it remains illegal in Northern Ireland, and discriminatory clauses like the spousal veto and unequal pension rights mean truly equal marriage is still to be won. After years of campaigning, a consultation on reforms to the Gender Recognition Act is due to be published this Autumn, but we have no idea when or even if any changes may pass.
The proposed ‘Turing Bill’, which would have pardoned all men convicted of homosexual acts, was quashed by the government and only implemented in a watered-down form this year. We’ve also seen the Conservatives block proposals to make LGBTQ-inclusive sex education compulsory in schools, citing the need for protections for faith schools that believe “that homosexuality…is not right”. And yet the myth that LGBTQ equality has been achieved in the UK remains; this complacency has led to the UK slipping down the rankings on LGBTQ equality in Europe, falling from #1 to #3 in the Rainbow Europe rankings over the last two years.
This lack of forward momentum comes at a time of increasing intolerance in the UK. A record number of hate crimes were recorded following the EU referendum last year and attacks against all minority groups only keep increasing; in the month following the Manchester Arena bombing in May, Greater Manchester saw a 61% increase in race-related crimes and incidents compared to 2016, a 41% rise in attacks and abuse targeted at disabled people and a surge of over 500% in Islamophobic hate crime. And those numbers only reflect incidents that are reported to the police – hate crimes of all kind remain vastly under-reported, with 81% of LGBTQ people who experience a hate crime not reporting it to the police and only one in nineteen disability-based crimes reported.
Hate crimes and bigotry against the LGBTQ community have soared in this atmosphere. Stonewall’s study, based on a YouGov poll of over 5000 LGBTQ Brits, shows that the fear of discrimination and harassment remains a daily reality for LGBTQ people around the UK. A third of LGBTQ people avoid certain streets because they don’t feel safe there, with one in ten reporting that they feel unsafe where they live. 36% of all LGBTQ people aren’t comfortable holding their partner’s hand in public, rising to 40% for lesbians. Trans, disabled and lower income LGBTQ people are almost twice as likely to report feeling unsafe.
One in five lesbians and one in six bisexual women have experienced a hate crime in the last twelve months because of their sexual orientation, with lesbians most likely out of the LGBTQ community to have been discriminated against while shopping and least likely to feel their religious community welcomes them. The findings are particularly alarming for trans people and LGBTQ people of colour. Two in five trans people report having experienced a hate crime in the last 12 months, compared to one in six cis LGB respondents, while non-binary LGBTQ people are 20% more likely to experience hate crime than their binary siblings. QTPOC, meanwhile, face up to double the rate of discrimination and abuse experienced by the community as a whole in almost every setting covered in the study, from sporting events to social services.
Unsurprisingly, online abuse is also rampant: three in four LGBTQ young people have witnessed homophobic, biphobic and transphobic abuse online within the last month, with almost one in four targeted themselves. Young people are at greatest risk of abuse offline as well, with 56% of trans and 33% of cis LGB people aged 18 to 24 having experienced a hate crime in the past year.
Introducing the report, Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive of Stonewall, said, “LGBT people continue to face abhorrent levels of abuse, harassment and discrimination on a daily basis…it is clear that much must still be done before all LGBT people can feel safe, included and free to be themselves in Britain today”. The charity has launched a national campaign to raise awareness of the need to continue the fight for LGBTQ equality in the UK.
While the British LGBTQ community has spent the summer commemorating the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality, we can’t let celebrating how far we’ve come obscure how far we still have to go. Until all LGBTQ people can walk our streets without fear, equality is a long way off.