This week I spent an evening with an old friend – a very old friend actually. A friend I have known since I was four years old; which incidentally is now the age of her own child. As a young child and teenager, I was lost. Everyone around me (as it seemed at the time) were straight. Experiencing their first love, first fling or first relationship in a world which seemed so full of heterosexuality and heteronormativity. On top of this I was bullied, not just for being a gay woman but for being different. My point here is that this old friend, stood by me through thick and thin; she could see my difficulties and struggles, and she did what she could to make it better for me.
So, with this in mind, yesterday’s news reports detailing the Home Office’s latest hate crime and hate incident data left me feeling even sadder, even more frustrated and so utterly disappointed that there aren’t more people like my old friend in this world. Because for me, hate crime and hate incidents are a form of bullying. Yes, bullying by definition is repeated behaviour, and a hate crime or incident may only happen once, or may happen many times from completely different, unrelated people, but I do believe a person’s motivation for committing a hate incident or crime or being a bully may in fact be quite similar. Perhaps to gain a sense of power or purpose, to distract from something they are unhappy with in their own life or simply because they don’t know any better?
THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR BEING A BULLY OR COMMITING A HATE CRIME OR INCIDENT
And there is no excuse for bullying someone or a group of people and there is no excuse for committing a hate incident or crime. It simply should not be happening at all. I am not naïve; I know it’s not that simple and many people do these things for many different reasons. But it is time, now more than ever, that UK governments, authorities, communities and individuals came together and played their part in making our country a better place to be and live. With transphobic hate crime and incidents increasing by 37% since last year and homophobic or biphobic hate crimes and incidents increasing by 25% across the same time period – we have to do something!
Does anyone, regardless of demographic, label or identity really want to live in such a hateful society? I know I certainly don’t. I want my friend’s little boy to grow up in a world full of love, kindness but most importantly difference. We don’t have to agree on things or be the same to be kind to each other and respect and accept each other. And with kindness and acceptance comes a positive sense of wellbeing, a sense of safety and a sense of community and belonging.
LOVE, RESPECT & ACCEPTANCE WILL ALWAYS WIN
We owe this to every LGBT+ child that is growing up in an increasingly divided society, to every older LGBT+ person who has already lived through periods of history where they saw violence and hatred towards themselves and their LGBT+ family. We owe this to every parent/carer of an LGBT+ person, to a sibling of an LGBT+ person or to the person sat opposite you on the train whose best friend is LGBT+. Transphobic, biphobic and homophobic hate crimes and incidents don’t just hurt LGBT+ people but also their loved ones and wider LGBT+ family who can see and empathise with their pain and suffering.
I may not have all the answers and I know reversing the ideologies behind our increasingly divided society and reducing hate crimes and hate incidents, has no easy solution and will take time. But I know in my heart it can be done. I am proud to be supporting those striving for LGBT+ inclusion and if my work can help support others to be truly inclusive of LGBT+ people and to change hearts and minds, maybe this is just one way of making our society a better and safer place for everyone?