"We believe that equality can only be achieved when, as lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people, we are free to be who we are, where ever we are, without fear of violence or abuse.” Peter Kelley, Galop
On the 17th May 2014, Lush will join the fight against prejudice for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. This year has seen Uganda and Nigeria pass oppressive anti-gay laws; two men were put on trial in Zambia for homosexuality , and in Russia homophobia erupted against a backdrop of the Winter Olympics. In 2014, there are seven known countries that impose the death penalty and 76 countries where imprisonment or exile is the punishment for homosexuality.
In the UK, homophobic and transphobic hate crime is still a serious issue. Last year, one in eight lesbian, gay and bisexual people were the target of verbal abuse, physical assaults and harassment . What’s more, some reports suggest that as many as 75% of transgender people are victims of hate crime every year . In the UK, a hundred lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) hate crimes are reported to the police weekly, but estimates from LGBT organisations suggest a far higher incident rate. Many individuals receive so much abuse that they don’t see the point in reporting every incident, while others don’t trust the police system to act . There are even more worrying statistics about homophobic abuse online, which is almost never reported. In 2013 the word ‘faggot’ was tweeted a staggering 13 million times.
Despite this, LGBT organisations in the UK are forging new paths with support networks to increase awareness and clamp down on hate crime. Organisations such as Galop in London and LGBT Bristol are directly supporting victims of hate crime and helping to improve police services. The LGBT Switchboard in Brighton helps individuals with much needed advice on a range of issues including hate crime and homophobic abuse, while The Clare Project acts as a friendly and supportive network for the trans community. We support LGBT organisations like these, that strive to create greater public awareness around issues such as hate crime and provide such strong support for the LGBT community.
Other individuals have taken a more personal approach in their attempt to draw attention to homophobic hate crime. The artist Paul Harfleet created The Pansy Project after he was subjected to a series of homophobic attacks. In peaceful protest, Paul began planting unmarked pansies in sites where homophobic hate crimes have taken place. The small flowers exist as a living symbol of remembrance and public reminder of the attack that took place there.
The fight against homophobic prejudice is slowly moving away from government policy and legislation, but progressive changes are yet to be made for the trans community, who still have to obtain written permission from their spouse to legally change gender. By denying trans people the right to autonomously change their gender, the UK government is continuing to treat the trans community as second-class citizens . While the UK stalls on trans right, it is organisations like Galop, LGBT Bristol, The Clare Project and LGBT Switchboard that amplify and strengthen the voices of these communities.
In supporting International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, Lush’s aim is simple: to raise public awareness of hate crimes and promote the amazing work that these organisations do.
Join us on 17th May for a day of interactive talks and workshops with The Pansy Project, LGBT Bristol, LGBT Switchboard, Galop and The Clare Project to highlight hate crime across the UK. Visit a Lush shop in your area to get involved.
Read an interview with LGBTQ activist Peter Tatchell