Page last updated 19 December 2015
Paul Mihalescu | 14144
What this is about
Despite all the progress of recent years in the UK, many of our community still fear they will be subjected to homophobic and inequal treatment. Sadly, weekly, the news confirms their fears are well-founded.
What is homophobia?
The irrational and illogical reaction to someone’s sexuality – homophobia. Homophobia is sometimes called sexual prejudice and usually manifests itself in someone being hostile or prejudiced against us. That hostility may be intentional or unintentional, and may be expressed in any way ranging from physical violence to mental or social pressure.
Intentional. In some employments prejudice is usually a disciplinary measure, but it is difficult to make a complaint about behaviour when you are not completely sure you have been discriminated against, or that the behaviour was intentional. Sometimes you may not even know who sent you the hate letter, or the name of the person who insulted you. If you are being bullied, the subject of a vendetta, or people are playing games with you, setting you targets they know you cannot achieve, just so they can get at you, it is hard to deal with. Most people suffer homophobia in silence, feeling there is nothing they can do.
Homophobia is more pronounced in people with unacknowledged attraction to the same sex. People who grew up with authoritarian parents who forbade such desires may be more prone to homophobia. Parenting and sexual orientation affect the formation of intense and visceral fear of homosexuals, including self-reported homophobic attitudes, discriminatory bias, implicit hostility towards gays, and endorsement of anti-gay policies. Attackers often perceive some level of threat from homosexuals. People in denial about their sexual orientation may lash out because gay targets threaten and bring this internal conflict to the forefront. People with supportive and accepting parents are more in touch with their implicit sexual orientation, while people from authoritarian homes showed the most discrepancy between explicit and implicit attraction.
Internationally, attention is drawn to homophobia by the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17 every year.
Homophobic attacks in the community are now classed as ‘hate crimes’ and reported and seen as a serious matter.
Fifteen years ago your Activist was involved in setting up the first anti-hate crime campaigns and worked with Police and other authorities as they set up their hate crime reporting systems. It did not take long for us to realise that a national standard for the reporting of hate crimes was needed. For many years – because hate crimes had hitherto not been taken seriously by the authorities – as the numbers of hate crimes rose, it was assumed that was largely due to the increasing numbers of victims of hate crimes reporting the crimes. Now it is clear that in fact hate crimes are a growing problem in society.
Wilfred de Bruijn (left), a gay man beaten in Paris in April 2013; Raphael le Clerc (right), a gay man beaten on leaving a bar in Nice two weeks later | W. DeBruijn/R. LeClerc | The Local | 17005
So how bad are they? On 26 November 2014 the Independent reported that hundreds of attacks on gay men and lesbians have already been reported this year – and many of them involved violence. There were more than 300 violent homophobic attacks in London alone. South Wales Police reported that the number of hate crimes against the gay community which featured violence, had increased from 89 in 2012 to 162 between January and October 2014 – almost doubled in two years. Freedom of Information Act enquiries revealed that 19 Police Forces were recording more assaults against the gay community than they did the previous year.
Is Britain untypical? No. The Local reported that France saw a 78 per cent rise in hate crimes in 2013, which was also the year France legalised gay marriage.
The Government, legal establishment and Police are giving increased attention to hate crimes, and the punishments for hate crimes are being made considerably more severe. Homophobic attacks of any description where you work are not part of your job description or your conditions of service. If you feel you are being discriminated against, you probably are being, so complain – don’t suffer in silence.
Behaviours behind homophobia
Four typical behaviours which reveal intentional or unintentional homophobia are lying, stereotyping, misrepresenting, and linking. Gay men and lesbians fear that these behaviours re-enforce people’s prejudices and old wives’ tales.
Many religious groups will tell downright lies about gay men and lesbians in order to push their own agenda. For example, that gay men and lesbians are not suitable for adopting children. Such lies are difficult to counter, but have to be continually rebutted.
An example of stereotyping at work was an advertisement where a generic gay figure was portrayed in a derogatory and predatory manner which may have led some viewers to think that the behaviour portrayed was stereotypical.
Misrepresenting usually occurs in the media when insufficient care is taken writing and proof reading stories, and continuity of approach is lost. For example, the Guardian following a particular case consistently called the accused person a paedophile before the trial. During the trial a different reporter called him a homosexual every day of the trial. After he was convicted the original reporter took the story back and called him a paedophile. That treatment misrepresented all gay men as paedophiles in some people’s minds.
Unintentional linking occurs in the media, for example a positive story about changing the laws was immediately followed by a story about schools banning video filming at nativity plays to prevent the footage falling into the hands of paedophiles. So gay men, lesbians and paedophiles were linked as being the same, and the positive story was turned into a negative one by the linkage with paedophilia.
Stereotyping, misrepresentation and linking are all unthinking forms of homophobia but they are still homophobic, inappropriate and unprofessional. The only way to deal with them is to challenge them when they occur and explain why they are wrong.
Hate crime in prisons
Homophobic crime is endemic in Britain’s prisons, but often ignored by the authorities, according to the Howard League for Penal Reform who found that homophobic incidents are not nationally monitored. The targeting of gay men for sexual favours is also widespread, and victims are too scared to report abuse in case they are mocked or ignored by staff. Sending prisoners to vulnerable persons’ units for their “own protection”, along with child abusers and informants, fuelled dangerous, false stereotypes about homosexuality. One bisexual man told the League:
“I’ve been put in segregation and slashed down my back with a razor. They say if I go into the shower they will beat me up and some ask for sexual favours. We can’t report it, as we’re then labelled as a grass and that leads to abuse.”
Homophobia is also endemic throughout Europe, according to the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights. More than one in four gay people in Europe have been subjected to violence, abuse or hate-filled threats in the past five years. The European Union is calling for action to counter discrimination and violence against homosexuals after the survey, by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, revealed many gay people are living in fear across the 27-nation bloc.
The survey of 93,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people showed that more than 80 percent of the group are verbally abused or bullied at school, nearly one in five feel discriminated against when seeking work and a quarter of the people have been attacked or threatened in recent years. Morten Kjaerum, Director of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency, said action is needed ‘to break down the barriers, eliminate the hate and create a society where everyone can fully enjoy their rights.’
In 2014 research by Dr Mark Hatzenbuehler, assistant professor of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University in the U.S found that lesbian, gay and bisexual people who lived in communities with high levels of anti-gay prejudice have a shorter life expectancy of 12 years on average compared with their peers in the least prejudiced communities.
There is growing evidence of anti-gay attackers using gay dating apps to meet gay men to beat them up or worse. Under the Communications Act 2003 it is an offence to post menacing messages on the internet. The London Metropolitan Police have a dedicated Internet Hate Crime Unit.
Homosexual men are four times more likely to be attacked than straight men.
Metropolitan Police, London | 14141
Statistics for the UK
In the UK the way statistics are both compiled and presented is ever-changing which makes it difficult to compare one year to another.
The Home Office – Hate Crime figures for the year 2014-15 reveal that there were 5,597 hate crimes against gays and lesbians in 2014-15, a rise of 22 per cent on the previous 12 months.
Take care when using Dating Apps
The Police have released some safety tips for using gay dating apps, following some men being targeted by gangs of men who set up dates only to attack and rob their victims. The tips are:
Don’t share personal details such as your home address until you can trust the person you are communicating with
If you decide to meet in person, let someone know where you are going and when you’re likely to return
Always meet in a public place with lots of people around
Plan your journey to and from the date in advance. If using a mini cab always pre-book
Drink responsibly and never leave your drink unattended
Ensure your mobile phone is fully charged and working
If at any time your feel uncomfortable, leave the date – you are not obliged to stay
Act of Parliament
Guardian, 14 July 2009, Biphobia – The last bastion of prejudice
Futurity, 9 April 2012: Some anti-gay bias may be self-directed
Daily Mail, 17 May 2013: More than a quarter of gay people in Europe have suffered attacks or hate-filled abuse in last five years
Guardian, 25 Aug 2013 – Homophobia still rife in UK, survey claims
Daily Mail, 17 Feb 2014: Gay people regularly subjected to homophobic abuse ‘have a 12 year shorter life expectancy’
Home Office, 29 March 2012: Hate crime, cyber security and the experience of crime among children: Findings from the 2010 to 2011 British crime survey
BBC News, 11 Aug 2010 – Have transgender people become easy targets?
Civil Rights Movement UK, 14 Aug 2012: Standing Up To Hate Crimes
Guardian, 13 Sep 2012: Hate Crime Map of England and Wales
The Local, France, 13 May 2014: France sees 78 percent rise in homophobic acts
Independent, 14 October 2015: Figures reveal a shocking rise in homophobic hate crimes
Metro, 19 December 2015: Gang using Grindr to attack gay men