Life Abuse and Hate Crime Hate crime and bullying: why we have to be better By Matthew Hodson - @Matthew_Hodson Last week I went to an event in Westminster. There was a crucial vote that evening and outside the Houses of Parliament pro and anti-Brexit protestors hung banners proclaiming, ‘Leave Means Leave’ and ‘We want a Peoples Vote’ next to each other. The sight did not support the notion that our country is united. I got home late that night and saw the news that a famous actor, handsome and talented, had been attacked in the street, walking home after grabbing a late-night sandwich. The actor was Black and gay. The early reports indicated that he’d had a rope put around his neck and had some chemical liquid thrown in his face. Something in me just broke at this news. Weeks later this actor’s account is being questioned. As I write this, the story is still unfolding. Whatever the truth in this instance, the bigger picture remains the same. Every day black people are attacked for being black. Every day people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans face violence, purely because of their sexuality or gender identity. I would like to say that I struggle to understand how attacks like these can happen. The truth is that the path that leads to such horrific crimes is clear. This is what happens when the lives of gay men, lesbians, bisexual and trans people are considered to be inferior or unworthy. This happens when parents insist that homosexuality is something that their children need to be protected from. This happens when people in power support the harmful fallacy that our natural desires can be counselled away. This is the physical manifestation of that joke about beating the gay out of children. An attack on a celebrity makes the news but the attacks on our communities are daily, they are relentless, and they are far more likely to affect you if you are black or disabled or trans. In the UK the number of reported hate crimes increased by 17% in a single year. In 2017-2018 there were more than 13,000 anti-LGBT hate crimes, with one in four anti-gay crimes being violent; an even higher proportion, one in three, of anti-trans hate crimes involve violence. This is what happens when people are taught to fear and blame someone who is different. The figures for LGBT hate crimes are dwarfed by the more than 70,000 race-related hate crimes. In recent years the political axis has shifted. You don’t have to look hard to find powerful people eager to stir up racial fear and hatred to meet their own agenda. If you’re black and gay or black and trans the odds of being a victim of a hate crime only increase. We just have to be better than this. Every single one of us. We have to join the dots, not only from the words of those in positions of power to the attacks on the street but also from our own words and our own actions to such anger. None of us come out of this well. LGBT people are not only the victims of prejudice. We have failed to make many of our gay spaces, whether physical or online, safe, let alone welcoming, for black LGBT people or for disabled LGBT people. People living healthily and well with HIV are still abused and shunned. Gay men are likely to be judged on their ability to meet a physical ideal which is way beyond most of us. We have to be better than this. We have to be sure that we douse the flames of hatred rather than fan them. We cannot decry bullying from someone whose views we oppose and then bully that person or their compatriots. This even applies to President Trump. Any weapon we raise against others will likely be used against us also. We have to be better than this. And that means stepping outside of our own comfort zones, the limits of our own experience, to understand how life is for others. That means being active in our support of our trans sisters and brothers who face relentless harassment in the media. That means calling out racism wherever we encounter it. There is no magical fix. The fractures in our society run deep, we can’t just paper over them any longer. But we know that social change is possible because we have seen the huge progress that has been made in terms of LGBT rights and LGBT acceptance in the last thirty years. It starts with the acknowledgement that it will require effort and energy to build a better society for all of us to flourish. It starts with us. Matthew Hodson is the Executive Director of NAM/aidsmap. Visit www.aidsmap.com.