This year, Hate Crime Awareness Week falls at a time when our nation is going through a period of intense divisions.
In any society, as rhetoric grows coarser, and communities are pitted against each other, it’s often the individuals and communities who don’t fit the ‘norm’ – including LGBT people – who are singled out for hostility.
In Britain, despite the progress we’ve made in recent decades, many LGBT people continue to be bullied, harassed and marginalised in our society simply because of who they are.
Nowhere is this clearer than in the horrific instances of anti-LGBT hate crimes we’ve seen in our newspapers and on our screens this year, and in the significant rise in recorded anti-LGBT hate crime and incidents that’s taken place in recent years.
Earlier this year, a freedom of information request made by the BBC found that recorded anti-trans hate crimes and incidents had increased by 81 per cent between 2016-17 and 2017-18.
Meanwhile, our 2017 research with YouGov, LGBT in Britain: Hate Crime and Discrimination, found that the proportion of lesbian, gay and bi people who’d experienced a hate crime or incident had nearly doubled since 2013.
One in five LGBT people have experienced a hate crime or incident in the past year
We are now at a stage where one in five LGBT people have experienced a hate crime or incident in the past year alone. And there are some groups within the community who are at particular risk – this figure nearly doubles for trans communities and LGBT people of colour.
But that’s only half the story.
The vast majority of LGBT people who are victims of hate crimes and incidents do not feel able to report their experiences to the police.
The vast majority of LGBT people who are victims of hate crimes and incidents do not feel able to report their experiences to the police. This can be because they fear they won’t be taken seriously, or worry they’ll be met with further discrimination, or simply because they don’t recognise that what they have experienced could be a hate crime or incident. We have so much more work to do until Britain is a safe place for all LGBT people.
But there are things to be hopeful about.
In England and Wales, the Law Commission is now set to conduct a review of all of our hate crime laws to make sure they’re fully up to date. It’s absolutely essential that hate crimes based on sexual orientation and trans identity, alongside disability, are treated equally to those based on race and faith, by making them aggravated offences.
The Scottish Government have committed to bringing forward a Hate Crime Bill to modernise and consolidate hate crime legislation in Scotland. These reforms should extend the protections LGBT people have from hate crime by introducing new offences related to the stirring up of hatred against LGBT people – and they should ensure existing protections are not diluted.
But more than just changing the law, we need to make sure that police forces and prosecutors are given the training needed to support LGBT victims effectively and understand what anti-LGBT hate crime looks like.
In uncertain times, this year’s Hate Crime Awareness Week gives us a chance to pause and reflect on the progress we’ve made, and plan what needs to be done.
Until every LGBT person is free to walk down the street without needing to glance over their shoulder, without letting go of their partner’s hand, without feeling fear, our work continues.
Confidential help and advice:
For further information on reporting hate crime, you can visit our Help & Advice section or you can fill in our enquiry form, call Stonewall's Information Service on 08000 502020 or email email@example.com.
You can also speak to Galop, the LGBT+ anti-violence charity, on 0207 704 2040 or firstname.lastname@example.org.