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‘You can’t let it get to you’ - Reported transphobic hate crimes in Norfolk could be ‘tip of the iceberg’

PUBLISHED: 16:12 16 March 2020 | UPDATED: 08:52 20 March 2020

People flood the streets for Norwich Pride 2019 to show their support for members of the LGBT+ community. PHOTO: Neil Perry

People flood the streets for Norwich Pride 2019 to show their support for members of the LGBT+ community. PHOTO: Neil Perry

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Leading LGBT charity Stonewall has argued reported figures are just “the tip of the iceberg” after it was revealed 113 transphobic hate crimes were recorded across Norfolk between 2016-2020.

Of the county’s seven district authorities, Norwich saw the highest number of reported transphobic hate crimes by far, with 64 incidents recorded across the four year period.

Great Yarmouth had the second highest number with 26 - and Broadland the fewest with four.

Laura Russell, one of Stonewall’s directors, said: “As worrying statistics like this demonstrate, trans people are facing high levels of hostility, simply because of who they are.

“While it is possible that the increase is due to higher confidence in reporting, these figures are still likely to only represent the tip of the iceberg.

“From our research into hate crime, we know that two in five trans people have experienced a hate crime in the last 12 months”.

For one trans woman who grew up in Ingham, North Norfolk, the statistics are “very sad” - but not surprising.

Georgie Fenn, a 22 year-old who now studies at the University of Lincoln, said that she always found Norwich in particular “a very welcoming community for LGBT people”.

However, she said that sexual assault and harassment against trans people is common everywhere in society because of the way their sexuality is misconstrued.

People flooded the streets for Norwich Pride armed with trans-inclusionary placards to show their support for members of the LGBT+ community. PHOTO: Neil PerryPeople flooded the streets for Norwich Pride armed with trans-inclusionary placards to show their support for members of the LGBT+ community. PHOTO: Neil Perry

She said: “There is a complete lack of education regarding the reasons why somebody is doing what they’re doing, and I find that misrepresentations of trans people means a lot of cis men, especially, think that it is to do with sexual motives, or that trans women in particular are simply cross-dressers seeking attention.

“I’ve had a lot of cis men approach me, follow me or stalk me - thinking they’re flattering me by claiming they have a ‘thing’ for trans women.

“I find this sort of fetishisation an oddity and it’s something I’ve never understood.”

For Ms Fenn, her appearance is to do with personal preference and nothing else: “Even though I’m 6’2”, I’ll wear my platforms and my 50s vintage clothes if I want. It’s nothing to do with trying to attract attention.”

Georgie Fenn, a 22-year-old masters student at Lincoln, says that she is Georgie Fenn, a 22-year-old masters student at Lincoln, says that she is "completely happy in her own skin". PHOTO: Georgie Fenn

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She said on one occasion in Norwich she was on her way to a family dinner, “all dressed up”, when another woman scorned her husband for “staring at her legs”, telling him Ms Fenn was a “tranny”.

“But then”, Ms Fenn said, “I had two men, complete strangers, who came after me, attempted to comfort me and told me that they thought what they’d witnessed was appalling.”

On the topic of her transition, Ms Fenn said that the option was between gender reassignment or ultimately, ending her life.

Georgie Fenn, a 22-year-old masters student at Lincoln, says that she is Georgie Fenn, a 22-year-old masters student at Lincoln, says that she is "thriving", but has had to "grow up quickly" because of her gender dysphoria in her teens. PHOTO: Georgie Fenn

She said: “For me personally, I was diagnosed with gender dysphoria in my teens and had to be put on a waiting list for three years to be diagnosed.

“With the whole social transitioning - before you undergo Sex Reassignment Surgery - you learn a lot about friendships, and you find out who supports you and who doesn’t.

“It’s strange that people think differently of you as a person, because for me my gender reassignment is just a part of my medical history. But you’ve just got to keep your head up.

“You can’t let it get to you because what else can you do?

Colour and fun in Norwich for the 2015 Pride celebrations.
Picture by SIMON FINLAY.Colour and fun in Norwich for the 2015 Pride celebrations. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

“I’m thriving and happy and completely comfortable in my own skin.”

According to a Freedom of Information request, between 2016-2020, 26 of the transphobic hate crimes recorded across Norfolk had more than one suspect.

So far, only 10 of the transphobic crimes recorded currently have a “positive” outcome, such as the suspect being charged or summoned, cautioned or given a community resolution.

For Stonewall, these statistics make it clear that “we are still not living in a society where every LGBT person is free to be themselves and live without fear of discrimination and abuse.”

Colour and fun in Norwich for the 2015 Pride celebrations.
Picture by SIMON FINLAY.Colour and fun in Norwich for the 2015 Pride celebrations. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

However, Norfolk Constabulary said that “investgiations are ongoing”, with the potential for the figures to increase as more charges are made.

In a statement, they said: “Transphobic abuse and attacks are absolutely unacceptable and we take such incidents very seriously.

“It is important to note that while the growth in reports of crimes of this nature reflects an increased confidence from victims in coming forward, often when dealing with reports of this type of crime, victims are not always in support of prosecution, the evidence may not be there to pursue a successful criminal investigation or a suspect has not been identified - and that affects the conviction rate.

“We’d encourage anyone who has suffered from such an attack to contact us so that we can fully investigate it. There are also routes available such as charities and third party reporting centres which we have across the county.”

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