LGBT community suffer “continuing threat”

Gay Pride in London 2011 pic: Milennial Myth

Members of the gay and transgender community in Tower Hamlets still face a “continuing threat” of homophobic attacks, despite a slight drop in the latest recorded figures.

Homophobic attacks went down by 2.6 per cent in the year until October 2011, according to Met statistics released in mid November. There was a total of 74 reported incidents in the borough – two down on the same previous period.

Figures for homophobic attacks in Tower Hamlets in November are due to be released in just two weeks.

But members of the borough’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community say they continue to face abuse and threats due to their sexuality, often in their own neighbourhoods. Many feel that more needs to be done on the part of the council and police.

Daryl Stafford, 40, who lives on the Glamis Estate on Cable Street, spoke of his experience: “I suffered homophobic abuse from people who moved next door to us. They would say things outside the flat and told other neighbours that it was disgraceful for men to be living together. We made a complaint to the police but nothing was done about it.

“There are transgender people living on the estate who receive verbal abuse daily and graffiti in the lifts saying ‘death to gays’”.

“We have a very diverse community in Tower Hamlets – one of the most diverse in the country – and I am happy to rub shoulders with people from other backgrounds. But it seems the feeling isn’t mutual.”

A spokesperson from local charity Galop, which gives advice and support to people affected by homophobic and transphobic hate crime, told EastLondonLines that the most recent figures were not necessarily reflective of the real number of incidents, as many people do not report incidents due to ‘fear of reprisals’.

They said: “There is a continuing threat of homophobic and transphobic attacks in Tower Hamlets.

“While attacks in the street outside bars or clubs do happen, the majority of cases we come across involve harassment from neighbours. Because it comes from people living nearby, people are often too scared to report it”.

But they added that there were ‘positive initiatives’ in place to tackle the matter, such as a dedicated police LGBT officer, and that gay and transgender people should ‘not be scared’ of living in the area.

A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets council said that local businesses and voluntary organizations are encouraged to sign up to the ‘No Place For Hate’ campaign.

They added that the council continues to work closely with Rainbow Hamlets, the Tower Hamlets LGBT Community Forum.

The slight decrease in reported incidents comes after a year in which tensions over homophobia resurfaced.

In June an 18 year-old man from Leamouth was fined £100 for affixing posters that declared the borough a ‘Gay-Free Zone’ and quoted a verse from the Qu’ran. Later that month, East London Mosque condemned homophobia and pledged a ban on hate speakers.

But some commentators have criticised what they see as media attempts to associate homophobic attacks with all Muslims in the area.

While Tower Hamlets recorded the 6th highest level of homophobic crime out of London’s 32 boroughs, the largest volume of complaints occurred in other inner London boroughs, with Westminster peaking at 160.

The borough, which has witnessed a spike in related incidents over the last ten years, continued to show higher numbers than Hackney (52 incidents), Lewisham (29) and Croydon (20). Across the capital total homophobic crime figures stood at 1,204 – an overall decrease in of 10 per cent – down from the previous annual period total of 1,339 up to October 2010.


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