A couple stands next to the London underground, holding their arms around one another and holding a pride flag.

Alarming rise in LGBTQ+ hate crimes on UK public transport

Hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people on public transport have spiked alarmingly, data from LGBTQ+ anti-abuse charity Galop has highlighted.

The recent report showed that since 2016, reported anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes have doubled.

In 2022/23, there were 24,102 reported hate crimes targeting sexual orientation and 4,732 targeting transgender individuals, reflecting increases of 112% and 186%, respectively, over five years. 

Worse still, this dramatic rise in hate crimes is likely underestimated due to underreporting driven by a lack of trust in the criminal justice system.

James, 47, from South East London, shared his harrowing experience.

He said: “I have been the victim of transphobia numerous times over the past two years, and yet the police haven’t really taken it seriously.

“I was even deliberately misgendered over the phone by the police, even after I’d corrected them twice.”

Approximately 39% of LGBTQ+ respondents feel the UK has become less safe over the past five years, compared to just 10% who feel it has become safer. 

This sense of increased danger is particularly acute among trans+ respondents, with 43% expressing heightened concerns.

The pervasive fear of violence and harassment is having a profound impact on the daily lives of LGBTQ+ individuals.

A significant two-thirds of respondents reported that they always feel a possible threat of violence or harassment when using public transport in the UK.

This constant fear affects their travel patterns, making routine journeys stressful and dangerous.

Willow, 40, from Wales, commented on the rising transphobia, saying: “Even just five years ago it was not safe for me to come out as trans.

“Unfortunately, there now appears to be a backlash against that progress in the last year with hate from the media against trans increasing disturbingly in the last six months.”

In the past 12 months, 66% of LGBTQ+ respondents experienced at least one form of victimisation on public transport, with 21% subjected to hate crimes while travelling. 

These incidents range from verbal harassment to physical assaults, illustrating the hostile environment many face while simply trying to commute.

More than half (54%) of LGBTQ+ individuals believe the police would not take action if they reported abuse, while 38% feel such incidents happen too frequently to report each time. 

This distrust in law enforcement exacerbates the underreporting problem, leaving many crimes unaddressed and allowing perpetrators to act with impunity.

Galop CEO Leni Morris emphasised the need for systemic change.

Morris said: “Travelling is a vital part of day-to-day life, and everyone should be able to move around the city freely and safely. 

“This report highlights the experiences of LGBTQ+ people and provides recommendations for improving their safety when travelling in the UK.”

Galop and other organisations are actively working to mitigate these issues.

They offer support through the National LGBT+ Hate Crime Helpline and are advocating for better training and accountability within the police force. 

Additionally, they are pushing for public awareness campaigns to reduce societal prejudice and improve public spaces’ overall safety and inclusivity.

British Transport Police Assistant Chief Constable Paul Furnell stated that preventing and tackling hate crime is a priority.

To ensure the safety and security of passengers and staff, the British Transport Police conducts highly visible patrols and dedicated operations across the railway.

Furnell said: “Our officers are ready to respond to incidents of hate crime immediately, and with access to more than 150,000 CCTV cameras across the rail network they can quickly identify offenders and make arrests.

“Throughout a hate crime investigation, we’ll ensure that victims receive the care that they need. Our officers work tirelessly to achieve a successful outcome for the victim and the wider community. Incidents of this nature will not be tolerated on the railway, or anywhere.

“We urge anyone who sees or experiences a hate crime to report to police by text 61016 or the Railway Guardian app.”

Transport for London (TfL) has been made aware of these findings and is committed to addressing the safety concerns of LGBTQ+ passengers. 

They have introduced a bold and clear campaign across their network, encouraging customers and staff to stand in solidarity against hate and abusive behaviour. 

TfL’s Director of Security, Policing and Enforcement Siwan Hayward said: “We want everyone to feel safe and be safe when travelling around London at all times without fear of abuse, and hate crime has absolutely no place on our network.

“TfL’s staff are trained in how to support our customers and deal with reports seriously and with compassion, and earlier this year we also set out clear guidance on how customers can safely intervene if they witness incidents of hate crime.

“We will continue to work closely with LGBTQ+ groups and stakeholders in response to the London TravelWatch recommendations to ensure that no one ever faces abuse or discrimination for who they are.”

The fight against LGBTQ+ hate crimes on public transport in the UK is ongoing, but with continued efforts and increased awareness, there is hope for a safer and more inclusive future for all residents.

Feature image credit: London TravelWatch

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