Stop Hate Crime – LGBT

WARNING:

This report contains offensive language. These are examples of hate crime that were expressed over the course of this research. This language has not been censored as it is important to understand the nature of this type of crime as it occurs.

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Although not collected in census data, government estimates suggest that 6% of the total UK population identifies as lesbian, gay or bisexual, but no official figures exist to show exactly how many people this includes. Generally, the average British person knows 5.5 gay men and 3.1 gay women.[1] Even less data exists on how many trans people live in the UK.

A YouGov survey in August 2015 showed that 49% of young people (18-24) identify as something other than 100% heterosexual.[2] This shows the level of diversity of sexualities that must be considered by police when speaking to the public.

A partial indicator of some sexualities is the number of same-sex civil partnerships in North Yorkshire and York – information that is gathered in the census. Although this only provides information for a minority of LGBT people, it offers some indication of how large the LGBT community in the county might be.

 

There are 1386 individuals in same sex civil partnerships in the county, as recorded in the 2011 census.


In Yorkshire and the Humber, 1.3% of the population identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.[3] The Lesbian and Gay Foundation found that STIs, poor mental health and drug and alcohol misuse are disproportionately prevalent in LGBT communities.[4] LGBT hate crime can be a daily occurrence, particularly for those in rural communities.[5] For North Yorkshire, then this could be exacerbated due to the unique rurality of the county: the ethos of ‘the only gay in the village’ could be extensive.

LGBT issues have become more prevalent in recent years and acceptance has grown, with Section 28 of the Local Government Act being repealed in the UK in 2003.[6] Transgender awareness has been more visibly established recently following media attention of prominent Trans women, Conchita Wurst (Eurovision winner 2014); Kelly Maloney (formerly Frank Maloney, boxing coach); and Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce Jenner, Olympic Gold Medallist), yet there is still a lack of understanding and tolerance amongst the wider population.

Understanding of hate crime

  • What does hate crime mean?

Levels of understanding were high due to the consistency of abuse that had been received over time. Many chose to only report more serious crime (if at all), based on previous relationships with the police. There were some nuances within LGBT communities that might act as barriers to reporting, particularly if victims were not already, officially ‘out.’

More broadly, there were discussions surrounding mental health in LGBT communities and the effects of hate crime or abuse, particularly on trans people. There were suggestions that suicide rates were high for those who felt that they were living in the wrong body – up to 40% of police time can be spent responding to mental health needs, so a greater understanding of LGBT health is essential for understanding demand on service.

Hate crime is still prevalent in LGBT communities due to years of persecution and intolerance in wider society. The group shared that ‘normal’ levels of bullying occurred frequently, and one suggested that he had heard ‘about 100’ different LGBT hate crimes from within York over the last five years.

Sexual assault in minority sexual identity communities can be prevalent, but underreported due to remaining stigmas around sexual health and preconceptions and prejudices around sexuality.

‘What does hate crime look like? It looks like being raped for coming out as a lesbian’[7]

‘Sexual assault and rape are hugely prevalent in LGBT communities’

The group suggested that the image and stereotype of lesbians and gay men in pornography have added to the ‘sexualisation’ of these communities. Even ‘fetishisation’ and interest in different types of sex through porn had had an effect on different communities. The extremity of pornography, both in traditional, fetish and other sexual preferences can mean that an inaccurate and even damaging view of the physical relationships of LGBT people is portrayed.

Relationship with the police

  • Did you report the crime?
  • When you’re going about your day-to-day routine, do you feel safe? Are there any places/times where you feel unsafe or vulnerable?

Historically, the police and LGBT communities have had negative relationships – the group felt that that police have a ‘lot of work to do’ to undo the previous persecution of gay and lesbian people.

[Section 28, Local Government Act] ‘People were arrested left, right and centre for being the way they are. The police have to unravel that history. They think it’s easy to say that they’re ‘LGBT friendly’’

‘The police raising the flag one day a year is fantastic, but to keep that awareness, it needs to keep it up all the time, so does the council, the libraries… it gets normalised, rather than being a “special” day.’

Others suggested that the police were viewed as intolerant or anti-LGBT, based on past experiences with police officers and a lack of visible LGBT representation from within the police force itself.

A lot of people don’t want to report because there’s a notion that the police are anti-LGBT because some of the police are anti-LGBT’

Future research about the internal makeup of North Yorkshire Police will suggest how the organisation works with LGBT communities internally, and how this is reflected to face the public.

Others felt that the police response to hate crime could suggest that they felt it wasn’t important. There was wide understanding of the austerity cuts and the impact that this had on public services.

‘if an incident happens and two weeks later the police turn up to tell the offender that a hate crime happened, it is to tell the offender that it is not important.’

‘She gets bullied online… She’s just waiting for someone to take it seriously.’

There was direct reference to an incident in York where a gay couple received hate mail, attracting local media attention. Individuals in the focus group suggested that the police would normally be inactive, but because of the heightened interest, the issue was investigated fully.

If it wasn’t in the media, I don’t think that it would have got very far with the police.’

Some transgender individuals felt, ‘singled out’ as identifying as trans, when they (before or after their transition) they would choose to identify as male or female. Others did not wish to disclose their gender identity – if they had been victims of more than one type of crime, they would have to explain their history repeatedly, to different officers, which many may not wish to do.

The ‘normality’ of hate crime

  • What do you think were the causes or underlying factors of this crime?
  • Do you feel like you are treated at all differently because of any perceived difference between you and others? Is this a ‘norm’?

The frequency of hate crime incidents meant that crimes remain underreported – some suggested that they would never be out of contact with the police if they reported everything. Others felt that if the police did attend or have more patrols, then the crime would just move elsewhere, rather than go away.

There can’t be a police officer everywhere, all the time, so people will just do things where there isn’t one.’

A car drove past and someone shouted ‘scum of the earth’ at me.’

Transgender people, or those who did not identify as male or female (non-binary) said that their genders were often misjudged. They suggested that the traditional terms of address from police officers and other public services were limiting and did not promote feelings of trust. Some felt that being addressed as ‘sir or madam’ immediately alienated them.

It’s basic communication skills: it really isn’t that hard to say, ‘hello, how are you?’ or, ‘hello, how would you like to be addressed?’ it really isn’t that difficult.’

The group suggested that this basic level of understanding could be included in police diversity training, recognising that it wouldn’t be appropriate to ask everyone how they wished to be addressed, but giving officers and staff the knowledge that it was ‘okay to ask.’

The groups suggested that there is an overall lack of awareness and understanding of LGBT identities, meaning that hate crime can be very prevalent as a result.

You walk down the street and people say ‘are you a lad or a lass?’ what does it matter?

The extension of LGBT to include identities such as queer, intersex, asexual or androgynous meant that there is an ‘alphabet soup’ of different sexuality identities. Although the group was open to people asking questions to gain a better understanding of different sexualities they felt that greater consideration was needed, particularly on how to address people. There was also suggestion that the evolving meaning of LGBT to include QIAPK[8] might mean that it could be difficult for those outside the community to maintain awareness levels.

Participants in this research included transgender men and women. They expressed that there is still an enormous lack of understanding surrounding what ‘transgender’ means and they did not feel confident to share experiences of their transition or their lifestyle outside of close friends and family.

I’ve been sexualised by colleagues when I lived on the south coast who had seen my whole transition and I’ve experienced bullying in the workplace. I experience bullying in the workplace now, but they don’t know my history. I’ve experienced attitudes that trans people are revolting.’

Conclusion: strengthen police relationships

The LBGT community made the most criticism of the police, compared to all of the other groups. Historical relationships and the level of persecution felt by LGBT people in the past (by police) remains impactful today. Institutional racism remains at the fore of racial tensions and a similar, established anti-LGBT feeling is thought to exist among some police forces.

  • Diverse groups have no relationship with the police in North Yorkshire and York

Some reported having strong relationships with local PCSOs and argued that the majority of police currently are willing to engage and be involved – there was a noted positive police presence at York Pride 2015, for example. However, many participants felt that the police didn’t ask sensitive questions when a crime had been reported, failing to consider the needs or feelings of the individual. Some argued that they ‘got off on the wrong foot’ with officers who made assumptions about their gender identity or sexuality. There remained feelings that some police officers were anti-LGBT.

  • There are barriers to reporting hate crime

There were some personal barriers, for example if victims had not made their sexuality or gender identity known, or if abuse was indirect. There was good understanding of available support services, other than the police and support networks within the LGBT community are strong.

  • Victims become victims because they are different in some way

Many felt that they had been judged or persecuted for a long time, however they had noticed some social changes in acceptance of lesbian and gay people in particular. The LGBT community felt that more social change was needed to develop tolerance of sexual differences, especially those identities that went beyond the LGBT acronym.

  • There is an established ‘norm’

Many LGBT people, they felt that they had been abused for their sexual identity for many years and that is some way it had become ‘normal’ because it was prevalent. Transgender men and women suggested that trans identities had become more prominent in the media, raising more awareness about trans issues. Some expressed that they had experienced warmth from others about trans identities, but others felt that there was an overall lack of understanding about what transgender means.

  • There is a heightened sensitivity to hate crime

There is a very good awareness of what hate crime means in the LGBT community and there have been many campaigns to raise awareness, however, willingness to report is still wanting due to individual circumstances.

  • Police response to hate crime is poor

Again, some argued that the police were unable to act if there was not enough information to pass on about a hate incident. Most respondents felt that the response to the crime was appropriate, but that some of the initial responses to the individual and the personal circumstances of the victim were not fully considered – there was agreement that this was not malicious, but that considerations should be given to different identities outside the LGBT definition.

[1] YouGov, ‘The average Brit knows 3.1 lesbians,’ 2014

[2] YouGov, ‘1 in 2 young people say they are not 100% heterosexual’

[3] York Health and Wellbeing, a Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA)

[4] York Health and Wellbeing, a Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA)

[5] The Independent, ‘LGBT people are subjected to hate crimes ‘on daily basis,’’ 2015

[6] Local Government Act 1988, Section 28

[7] This disclosure went through appropriate channels to ensure the safety of the victim. The victim did not report this incident to the police due to lack of forensic evidence (after the event) and little faith in the criminal justice system due to low conviction rates for offenders of rape and sexual assault

[8] Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Pan/Poly sexual, Kinkiness