By Justin Mahboubian-Jones - Community Engagement Manager

It’s clearer than ever that the UK is sliding backwards. We’ve all watched in dismay as the nation has lived up to its shameful new nickname: ‘TERF Island’. A horrific moniker, but undoubtedly accurate. Many of our nation’s trusted institutions are at best failing to protect us, or at worst, actively working against us. Some call this a culture war, but that feels insufficient. LGBTQ+ people are suffering very real harm and if something isn’t done, the situation will continue to decline.

Transphobia isn’t alone in haunting our isles: homophobia and biphobia are making a comeback. We’ve all seen the horrific headlines: lesbians on date brutalised on a London bus, two gay men slashed with broken bottles in Birmingham’s gay village, and just last weekend a man smashed in the head while walking through the park. The last story hit me particularly hard; I walk my dog in said park every day. These incidents aren’t horrendous one-offs, they’re happening all the time on our very doorstep. London is a progressive city where I’ve always felt safe, but year on year I find myself with a growing unease. I’ve always been myself in public, but this now seems a riskier proposition than any time in the last decade.

The freedom to walk down the street free from physical or verbal abuse is an extremely low bar to set for LGBTQ+ rights, and yet it’s one we’re increasingly failing to meet. Hate crimes against queer people have been on the rise since 2015 and have soared in the last couple of years. Between January and August 2019 the UK police recorded 10,817 homophobic and transphobic hate crimes. In the same period of 2021, that number was 14,670 - a 35 percent increase. According to Stonewall 31 percent of bi people in the UK were “insulted, pestered, intimidated or harassed” due to their sexual orientation in 2020. In the same year the ONS also found that trans people were twice as likely to be victims of crime than cis people. 

The stats are gut-wrenching, but they don’t account for the sense of fear and insecurity created by the ongoing maelstrom. We now all live with questions of basic security: “will my medical care be taken away?”, “can I hold my girlfriend’s hand in here?”, “is it safe to post that profile pic?”. The effect is cumulative erosion of mental health, especially that of minority groups within our community. The tide is rising, and these groups are at the water’s edge.

Prejudice doesn’t exist in a vacuum; its pollution spreads. The UK’s failure to challenge and contain transphobia has emboldened those who hate all queer people. We only need look to the United States and the barrage of fresh anti-LGBTQ+ legislation there to see where this may lead.

International Day Against Homophobia Biphobia and Transphobia is a chance for us make ourselves heard to policy makers, health providers, law enforcement and the media. If the UK is to drive these horrendous statistics down and reverse these worrying trends, then all of the above institutions must play their part. Tell your stories however you can. It doesn’t matter if you’re tweeting about it or writing to your MP. Tell the world that you want change. We must accept nothing less.