'It’s become the "Twilight Zone" up here': Rise in anti-gay attacks unsettle U.K. advocates

In the early hours of June 11, three men were attacked and subjected to homophobic abuse near a pub in Liverpool, England, by a group of teenagers, one of whom police said was carrying a knife.

“We are treating this as a hate crime because of the heinous verbal abuse the victims have been subjected to,” Detective Inspector Chris Hawitt said in one opinion At the time, the attack was called “despicable” and said Merseyside police would “not tolerate people being attacked in this way because of their sexual orientation or gender”.

A few weeks after the incident, Merseyside police released a report said that “the increase in incidents involving LGBT + victims unfortunately reflects an increase in crime experienced from the relaxation of lockdown restrictions”.

The LGBTQ community, with the help of people working in nearby bars and several organizations, organized a rally after three men were attacked and subjected to homophobic abuse near a pub in Liverpool, England, in June 2021.Stefan Price / LCR Pride Foundation

In response, the local LGBTQ community organized a protest rally. According to the Liverpool-based LGBTQ organization LCR Pride Foundation, people working at nearby bars and multiple organizations helped put it together.

“Hate crime is still a shock,” said Andi Herring, CEO and co-founder of the foundation. “For me it is the determination that these people are not going to win and we are going to go ahead and do what we said and do it.”

The attack on Liverpool is one of several homosexual hate crimes that took place in the UK over the summer.

West Midlands Police arrested three men last month after attacking a same-sex couple in the gay village in Birmingham, England. Police said two men, both in their 30s, were attacked with bottles on August 15 after being subjected to homophobic abuse. One was left unconscious and the other suffered “bad cuts”. according to the police report.

Sexual orientation and gender identity crime has increased almost every year since at least 2015, according to government figures from England, Wales and Scotland. In England and Wales: Sexual orientation hate crimes rose from March 2019 to March 2020 by 19 percent and anti-transgender crime by 16 percent. Sexual orientation-related hate crimes have increased in Scotland rose from April 1, 2020 to March 31, by 5 percent.

The British Government, in a opinion attributed the increase over the past year to better criminal record coverage by law enforcement agencies and better identification of hate crimes. Police also report an increase in hate crime following major political or terrorist events.

While some UK LGBTQ activists agreed that queer people report hate crimes more easily to the police than in the past, they said the isolation from the pandemic and the rise in political hate speech and violence encourage anti-gay sentiments.

“When there are people in power who are bigoted … that legitimizes people to be hateful in their everyday lives,” said Rebecca Crowther, policy coordinator at Equality Network in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Crowther said she had seen an increase in hate crimes in Scotland in addition to the mental health problems the pandemic-induced lockdown had among people, adding that there was still distrust between the community and the police.

Following an attack on two men in Edinburgh in July, three men were arrested and charged in connection with the alleged assaults and homophobic crimes. according to to the Scottish Police.

“It’s become the ‘Twilight Zone’ up here,” said Crowther.

Herring said he also attributes the increased numbers of hate crimes to more survivors understanding what a hate crime is and a growing confidence that once reported, they will get the support they need.

The UK government made several important decisions regarding LGBTQ rights over the past year. The UK allowed sexually active gay and bisexual men to donate blood last December. Since September 2020, LGBTQ inclusive sex education has been compulsory at all high schools in England.

That same month, the UK government abandoned plans to allow transgender people to self-identify, announcing that a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria would be required for legal transition. the Government also said It was planned to open three gender clinics in 2020.

85 percent of Britons surveyed said they would support if their child, sibling or close relative came out as lesbian, gay or bisexual, and 71 percent said they would feel the same if a family member turned out to be transgender or would come out non-binary. according to to a YouGov poll in August. Seven percent of people in the UK identify as LGBTQ, according to the survey.

Crowther said that visibility and allies affect a community’s friendliness towards LGBTQ people. When the bars and public spaces in Edinburgh 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 place and that you will not tolerate hate,” Crowther said of LGBTQ equality symbols.

When the countries reopened, Herring said that fighting anti-gay sentiments should take place all year round. He said everyone has a duty to report hate crimes they witness.

“I can see everything is moving in the right direction,” Herring said of ongoing education efforts and Liverpool venues aiming to become official safe spaces for the LGBTQ community. “It’s not just a response to a crime; It’s about the big picture. ”

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