OPINION: Norwich must unite and condemn rising number of homophobic attacks

The Artichoke pub have replaced their Pride flag which was torn down.

The Artichoke pub have replaced their Pride flag which was torn down recently in one of a number of homophobic incidents in the city this year - Credit: Jess Coppins

I was recently the victim of homophobic abuse in a pub while trying to enjoy a summer evening with my boyfriend.

Luckily I wasn’t hurt, and staff, security and police were very helpful (which unfortunately is not often the case), but it got me thinking.

As I went to use the bathroom, a man grabbed me as I washed my hands, blocked me from leaving and repeatedly shouted for me to perform a sexual act while his friend looked on.

I was able to escape the situation and I shrugged this off, like many homophobic situations I have found myself in.

It wasn’t until I shared this on social media, with friends and with colleagues that I realised how serious this was.

People reached out to offer support and condemn the behaviour of these men and I was truly surprised by this reaction.

I told people that I was OK  because I had experienced it so frequently in the past and was used to this sort of behaviour.

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I’m glad that the people around me told me that I should never get used to homophobia as it was then that I realised the scale of the problem.

I have become so accustomed to behaviour such as this in nearly all areas of my life and have repeatedly been shouted at in the street just for appearing gay.

I have internalised the idea that nothing will ever be done about it because as someone from the LGBTIQA+ community, I felt it wouldn’t matter to anyone.

I was pleasantly surprised that action was taken but this was just by coincidence.

We had a lovely server who happened to be a member of the community.

It was because of this that I felt comfortable to mention the incident as part of a conversation about our experiences. It didn’t even occur to me that action would be taken.

We should not have to rely on coincidence for us, as a whole community, to be taken seriously, our struggles respected and action taken on the discrimination we have to go through in our day to day lives.

June was Pride Month and yet we have seen a distinct rise in reported homophobic and transphobic incidents across Norwich and Norfolk.

From the Pride flag at The Artichoke pub being torn down , to a trans rights mural being defaced or gay and trans people being targeted in a hate incident at Broadland School, these are just some of the incidents that have been seen while the majority will go unreported and uninvestigated.

We are living in dangerous times. According to Home Office figures, the number of hate crimes has hit record levels with over 100,000 reported in the UK last year.

Alexander Catt, who was recently the victim of a homophobic attack in Norwich

Alexander Catt, who was recently the victim of a homophobic attack in Norwich - Credit: Alexander Catt

Within this, homophobic and transphobic hate crimes rose by 19% and 16% respectively.  Moreover, transphobic offences have quadrupled between the reporting years of 2014-2015 and 2019-2020, representing a staggering 354% increase.

This increase in hate crimes has also affected people of colour, disabled people and religious people and it’s important that the LGBTIQA+ community stands with all of these groups in an intersectional campaign against hatred, because attacks against any minority group hurt all of us across society.

This rise in attacks across Norfolk is now unfortunately feeding down into our young people and being seen in our schools.

Here, it is going to be hitting vulnerable people who may just be starting to explore their sexuality or gender identity - they may feel scared to be who they are and may be targeted based on outdated stereotypes about appearance.

We all want a tolerant and respectful society where people can be their true authentic selves and proud of their identity. We should all be proud to live in Norwich where we can find strength from the diversity of our communities.

That means everybody feeling safe to live, love and work freely across our wonderful city and county.

So, what can we do? As LGBTIQA+ people, we need to stand with other minority groups, organise and be proud of who we are.

We all, regardless of who we are, need to call out homophobia and transphobia wherever we see it, challenge stereotypes and come together to support Norwich Pride at the end of this month.

Together, we can show Norwich to be the tolerant and welcoming city that we know it to be.