After a spate of anti LGBTQIA crimes, the met police have released “safety tips” for rainbow community members- tips like “avoid dark areas” and “don’t listen to music” and now I as a member of the community ask the police – when will you attack the perpetrators instead of chastising the victims?
(In this article I’ll regularly reference women and LGBTQIA people- I understand that there are women in the LGBTQIA, so please bear with me – as an inclusive feminist, and as a man who sees intersectionality and the commonality of struggles between all women and all other members of the LGBTQIA, I want to write a thorough and fair piece to anyone and everyone who experiences the unhelpfulness propagated by the rhetoric of the advice above. I would never purposely discredit or prioritise any one group’s difficulties over another, but I write from my own experience as a cis gay man and unfortunately suffer from my own bias as I write. I understand your struggles as best I can and I hope this article does justice to it, as much as it can but would be more than happy to edit or add as may suit you. Please also bear in mind I’ll be discussing sensitive themes.)
I RECIEVED A SURPRISING amount of blowback to a video I created speaking about my displeasure with the narrative the met police are offering regarding the spike in anti LGBT+ sentiment in the UK. A few people said they felt I was making parallels that didn’t exist- that the police were simply suggesting people take accountability for their safety- as if those of us who are regularly offered this waffling and useless nonsense for our own protection are normally the hapless first to die at the start of a horror movie- we hear our boyfriend being brutally slaughtered downstairs but still go to investigate, we run up the stairs and hide in the closet instead of going for the front door. The suggestion that women or LGBT+ people don’t take our safety seriously, and need to be offered empty advice like “don’t go into the dark areas like parks” is ludicrous.
It’s also proscriptive towards those of us- of which there are many – in the community, male, female or enby who don’t live in some theoretical well lit, safe, upscale apartment block with security and friendly neighbours. LGBT+ people take many shapes and forms, and can live anywhere from town houses to run down flats- and suggesting we avoid the very areas we may need to live in due to personal circumstance is insane, and feels like a rebuke against people whose lives are difficult already due to circumstance- from being ousted by family members to having life altering trauma that prevents full time employment, warning us away from areas that may be unseemly is pointless when we may live there as our only option.
Much like the edging-very-close-but-not-just-saying-it’s-your-fault rhetoric, this is another patent attempt by an ineffective and indifferent police force to off-shift blame for crime from those who feel entitled to commit them, knowing the advice focuses on the narrative of the victim placing themselves at peril rather than the perpetrator being discouraged. Women, cis or trans are asked about what they were wearing, gay men are judged for their presentation or- as was the case for both myself and a male friend- we’re asked if we went to places we didn’t even know are cruising spots, if we went wanting sex then regretted it, judged, shamed and then dispensed with no justice. This is the reality of life for women, LGBT+ people- and who knows how women who are LGBT+- and then WOC who are LGBT+ cope- presumably we are increasingly urged to entrench ourselves in our homes, seal every gap, sit quietly in a panic room and wait for change because apparently our mere presences provoke people to attack.
Look at the increase in anti LGBT+ hate crime in the UK from 2011 to last year. No doubt the figures will have changed due to lockdown and in 2022 the met police will celebrate a job well done, failing to realise that when you keep people separate, their ability to attack each other is limited. But a dip in figures is not a change in sentiment.
The frustration in regards to this advice is that again, much as women are punitively advised not to go out, to carry their keys defensively, to check in with friends, walk in groups, plan their routes- it fails to address the root causes.
A society that commodifies the (in particular) female body as something that people are entitled to regardless of consent, that places the onus of blame on the visibility of skin or the friendliness of the individual is a broken society. And now to extend those less than useless (as evidenced by the tragic case of Blessing Olusegun, Sarah Everard, the horrendous acts of the Plymouth incel, the fact that 97% of surveyed women- NINETY SEVEN PERCENT- have experienced sexual assault) guidance again as if they are of any use at all, other than to tell us to lock ourselves away for our own protection, is insanity.
I feel like I’m quintessentially British when I write- I throw in a smattering of posh words and moan a lot so here are some things I’d like to see the police actually implement or action to perhaps make some sort of dent in this endless rhetoric that is damaging to anyone but cishet, and sometimes just cis, men.
Stop victim blaming
Suggesting limp talking points like “don’t go out in the dark- don’t listen to music- wear running shoes” is placing the responsibility on us- of course it’s common sensical and we all do it- so why waste the time telling us when you could be creating sustained education campaigns to impress on young men that they are not entitled to sexual gratification from other people. There could be a reiteration that crimes of these natures will be punished severely to the full extent of the law. The media could be approached to prevent the platforming of what SHOULD BE CALLED extremists, terrorists and more. No name, no notoriety. Crimes against women and LGBT+ people (and, obviously, the women in the community especially), should be prioritised as the stats continue to rise- with a focus on those who do experience anything being supported properly (this, in my experience, does not happen and leads to worse for those who have already suffered enough). Creating the narrative that we are responsible for other’s behaviour merely by showing skin or being open about our gender or sexuality is a complete dereliction of duty.
Earlier this year when news broke of an Iranian gay man, murdered before he could flee, the article stated that there was “worldwide condemnation”- and yet there was also a disquietingly loud smattering of those stating “why would he come out? would you really wave your sexuality around like that?” As though the crime of existing and being gay should be met with such swift and horrific punishment.
And then in Spain, a man was beaten to death by a homophobic crowd- again, condemnation, shock, outrage- nothing.
Now it’s common to, on the daily, open up the news apps to a small headline about another gay man, lesbian, trans person, couple, enby person, being beaten, bashed, robbed, chased, sexually assaulted. These crimes are horrific wherever they occur but are getting closer and closer to home, and it’s not the responsibility of those who may suffer from these crimes to take precautionary measures- it is for those who would commit the crimes to be discouraged through either the simple expedient of education or through fear of repercussion.
Start repairing trust in a community that has historic bad blood
Even I, as an extremely tepid and boring human, have had several very negative interactions with the police- twice related to my sexuality, twice not. But my trans friends, and several of my cis lesbian, gay and bi friends have had very negative interactions with the police based on their sexuality and hate crimes. I haven’t even bothered to report some of the things that have been done or said to me on account of my own sexuality- partly because I can manage, and partly because I know that often nothing comes of it.
Faith in an organisation that’s previously categorically failed to help the LGBT+ community and women is unsurprisingly worn thin- but the police never work to make reparations for communities they have historically (and arguably presently) let down. The right wing press demonised the police’s attempt to create vehicles with the pride inclusive flag, writing that the police should focus on “real” crimes.
The irony of this move is, it’s yet another cishet created move for “inclusion” that misses the mark but allows the community to suffer the repercussions. We do-not-care about flags on police cars. We care about a competent police force who will listen to and action our issues. We care about resolution to any crimes committed against us, and we care about the betterment of the society in which we live which currently seems to be slowly turning against us in a frightening way.
Protest has always been a key tenet of the LGBT+ community as we’ve fought for our rights to be who we are without judgement or, ironically, fear. But that right has been taken, and it’s a right that must be enshrined- yet has been desecrated by a flippant government seeking to avoid retribution for it’s actions. This move was, to our eyes, fostered by a police force desperate to be able to prevent public speech in dissent of it’s behaviours and so lends another unneeded nail to the coffin of LGBT+ trust in the force.
Cis men won’t like the idea that society fails too many of them in the simple area of being taught that they cannot touch what people do not consent to- that they cannot (I have literally witnessed this behaviour and screamed at the individual) take pictures of girls in workout clothes at the bus stop at the bottom of Briggate in Leeds, that they should not open conversations with pictures of their genitals. Whatever it is that is not impressed upon them in their youths and as they grow must be implemented if we hope to make a society that allows people to feel safe. I as a cis man am regularly dumbfounded by people assuming I’m happy to receive unprompted pictures of their naked bodies. And the RAGE! The rage that is directed at you when you aren’t interested- as if looking at their bodies when I didn’t want to was some sort of secret reward. As if being told that I make them horny when I didn’t want to know is some elusive prize they want to award me. The depersonalisation of the other is a huge, foreboding problem with far too many men- some think their unprompted sexualisation is wanted or a gift we ask for just by existing in the same space as them.
Though the article is old, I doubt the systemic belief has changed much with no campaign to do so:
Others don’t care if their obscenities are received well, they simply want to get off to knowing that others are forced to see it. It’s flashing for the 21st century and the police should be impressing upon people that they can and will access records of conversations, and that if someone sends pictures like that unsolicited and without agreement, it merits punishment.
Before the “it’s not all men” crowd leap in, yes women should be subject to the same scrutiny- and yet I noticed an odd phenomenon when discussing this topic with straight cis men before- when I told them how annoying it is to be subject to something of an occasional deluge of pictures of penises, they told me they would love to receive pictures of vaginas randomly. It’s this disconnect in mindset I don’t understand and would like to.
These are the same people who, when I explained that I have been sexually assaulted by a partner who woke me up holding me down, taking off my underwear and taking advantage of me when I was exhausted and unable to consent, and more than once did say “no”, “stop” or “get off”, was met with either silence or indifference, told me that they would “love” to get woken up by sex.
You didn’t misread that. On three occasions I’ve disclosed to straight cis men (and two gay cis men…) that I was painfully sexually assaulted and their response is that they would want that to happen to them. Either their lack of imagination when it comes to consent is terrifying or a worrying proportion of men have distorted opinions when it comes to what sex is and should be. I’ve also had -specifically- several cis straight men tell me that they imagine it’s “normal” that eventually sex slows down and that situation occurs. And when people ask me why I, to this day, have trouble trusting men, it’s because of these statements and the actions of the person who did it to me.
Society needs to stop procrastinating at the peril of people who suffer these heinous crimes- sexual and simple violence- and come to an understanding of causality and change. Lives would be saved.
The UK media must be stopped
The anti LGBT+ sentiment has always boiled along in the background, my entire life. I remember disparaging articles in the daily mail when I was in my formative teen years, that gave people I cared greatly for the energy to rail against my sexuality as though I chose to make their lives more difficult by dint of who I find attractive. We haven’t yet reached the resurgence of openly and blatantly homophobic headlines like these compiled by Tony Reeves:
Disgraceful, isn’t it! And yet are we really- really- so far from this rhetoric?
Last year’s “poofters” and “d*kes” are this year’s “trans Taliban”, activists seeking to erase women, erase lesbians, roll back freedoms and rights, imperil people- and a disturbing portion of the community allows themselves to foster and promote these beliefs by buying into and actively promoting them. Nobody should go through what the LGBT+ activists did, and yet they did, so to perpetuate such scorn upon yet another community is a travesty of the highest proportion.
More cis people writing hateful books about trans people- demonising them, accusing them of propagating trans ideology and more. Joyce didn’t even interview a trans person for her book, focusing instead on burrowing deep in the echo chamber of the internet’s anti trans activists. Shrier’s book suggests that being trans is a craze rather than a divergence from being cis, and that the increase in people coming out as trans was a more accepting society and a deeper understanding of the nonexistence of the gender binary.
At the same time, we see regular reports of anti LGBT+ preachers extolling their dangerous platitudes about how we’re trying to de-sanctify the world, gay up Jesus, whatever else these curmudgeonly hacks want to push into their echo chamber. We’re asked or told to debate our right to be, to live, to love, to access healthcare- we’re forced endlessly to defend ourselves against accusations of trying to woo children into some imagined community initiation scheme, talked about, grumbled about and loosely tolerated until the first time a lesbian tells someone to shut up and then suddenly – SEE, WHAT HAPPENED TO THE TOLERANT AND LOVING LGBT?
When all is said and done, the police will continue to mop up hate crime rather than look at ways to tackle it systemically and the problem will worsen, the media will continue to half heartedly demonise us for things out of our control, and make the worst of us the examples of the rest of us and until many of us have paid the price of their lassitude, the problems will continue.
I’d urge the police to consider taking some actual action, doing some actual groundwork with the government to stem the tide of hatred leaking through every brick in the wall that holds us safe against those who would wish us harm. Is that too much to ask? Or do you need to clean my blood off the pavement to realise, too late, that I told you this was coming?