Violence against our community is a core part of our past. But sadly, it’s still part of our present

By James Maxwell on Monday, 28 February 2022

In fact, if you asked, politely, many if not all of your Queer colleagues, could tell you a story or two of being attacked, threatened, followed or humiliated. Some may appear minor, while others are criminal. But ALL are borne out of bigotry and hate. Add to that the fact that transwomen and our lesbian sisters find themselves at the sharp end of intersectional violence too - combining gender or trans violence.

One only has to watch the harrowing footage of Iyanna Dior, a black transwoman being beaten by a mob at a Minneapolis gas station to feel the compounded hatred.

Just for driving a car, walking down a road, sitting on a bench or, being at a bar.

My own incident was in a parking lot. I won’t go into too much detail, but it resulted in me in hospital, covered in blood, a nose broken in two places (part still broken) after having parts of the back of my head kicked in by around 10 people. For simply standing in parking lot, looking at the word “F*GGOT” written in the dust on the back of my little red VW Golf.

It may be in the past, but for me and others it’s not history. It is very modern and very current. So current in fact that last year one of our own talented senior creatives had his jaw broken in two places and endured extensive surgery after an unprovoked attack.

Violence against the Queer community has long existed and while much is lost to history, some of its anger and gore has been detailed. And it’s against people who often just were trying to exist.

If I sound bitter, that’s because I am. We are talking about hundreds and thousands of people across millennia, whose lives have been cut short or ruined, many have had their children removed, others thrown to the outskirts of conventional or ‘normal’ society.

Some recorded history sound romantic, even in the face of abject tragedy. In the Swiss canton of Zürich. Knight Richard von Hohenberg (died 1482) was burned at the stake together with his lover, his young squire.

In South Africa my “favourite” historic take is recorded in the movie PROTEUS. A decade-long love affair in the 18th century on Robben Island. The two interracial lovers were a Dutch sailor and a young Khoi herder. Their punishment was to be tied together and thrown into the deep, freezing Atlantic waters. Bound together for eternity.

The final ironic act of this story? An actor friend of mine in the film, Brett Goldin, whose character was hung for being gay in the story, was kidnapped, shortly after its release, with his boyfriend, taken to a field, stripped bare except for their socks... and then executed.

Each of these people were targeted simply for being gay. The echoes of violence continuing to ripple down through the centuries.There are names etched in memory for many gay people, like Matthew Shepherd in the US who was beaten to death. Or, more recently, Melania Geymonat and Christine Hannigan in London attacked on a London bus – in 2019.

If you’d like a shocking longer list... please click here.

If the personal stories don’t move you, the cold hard statistics of 2018/2019 might:

• In the UK Police recorded 14,491 crimes committed against people because of their sexual orientation.

• Police recorded a further 2,333 offenses against transgender people because of their gender identity.

• But despite an increase in reporting, the number of cases that lead to prosecutions has actually fallen.

• Homophobic hate crimes in London have increased by 55% in five years, prompting calls for changes to the law.

• But campaign group Stonewall said 81% of people who experienced LGBTQ+ hate crime did not report it to the police (often citing Police indifference, cultural resistance)

So why does this matter in the context of your agency, your office, your colleagues and your diversity efforts?

Well, put simply, your office may be the ONE place some of your colleagues can be themselves. A place they know they can walk into and feel totally safe. Secure. And not subject to what could be out there. Am I being melodramatic? possibly. But, I assure you it’s with good grounds and for hopefully good effect.