This week we’ve been having discussions around hate crime and homo/bi/trans-phobia as it’s National Hate Crime Awareness Week (not that the title of this post gave that away or anything…!)
The Salford LGBTQ group has been making a massive photo project for this week – head over to their page on the WUU2 site to check it out or have a look at their instagram feed Wuu2salford. You can find out more about their group here!
Here’s a brief snapshot of our own Q&A session!
What is homo/bi/trans-phobia?
“Homo/bi/trans-phobia” (sometimes abbreviated to “HBT”) covers a range of behaviours and is broadly defined as the dislike or prejudice against homosexual, bisexual or trans people. Despite the “phobia” part it doesn’t really have anything to do with fear!
So what actions are “HBT”?
That’s not an easy question to answer! Internet forums can get pretty intense over the matter, and usually end up with arguments around free speech, over sensitivity, ignorance, denial, well you get the idea…
We thought intent played a big part. If the intent behind someone’s behaviour is to belittle, dismiss or in any way imply someone is less than anyone else because of sexual orientation or trans status then it’s “HBT”.
One that comes up in discussions is the habit of calling something that’s rubbish “gay”. Now to many, that’s homophobic, because you’re saying that being gay is the same as being rubbish, which is saying gay people are less than other people. But not everyone agrees all the time!
Sometimes the intent isn’t there, but someone’s actions can have the same effect, mostly due to ignorance. Sometimes this is to do with something called heteronormativity (or cisnormativity) too. This is basically the assumption that everyone is straight or cisgendered and going about things in a way that pretty much ignores those who aren’t in that majority. Sometimes these things can be hurtful, upsetting or downright disrespectful, but there’re not always “HBT” – you could argue the problem is ignorance, not prejudice…
What’s a hate crime?
OK, so legal stuff. To steal the police’s definition, a hate crime is:
“Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender”
So hate crime is a hate crime if you say it’s a hate crime! If you report a crime and you feel you were targeted based on any of the characteristics above, it gets recorded as a hate crime.
And even if the target isn’t actually gay / bi / trans, it can still be a hate crime if that was the assumption or focus of the abuse.
Incidentally, online it is also illegal to;
Write messages calling for racial or religious violence
Have web pages with pictures, videos or descriptions that glorify violence against anyone due to their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or because they are transgender.
Asking, or “inciting” other people to commit hate crimes
Is all “HBT” a hate crime?
“HBT” behaviour can be defined as a hate “incident” (targeting someone on the basis of race, religion, disability, sexuality or trans status). But to be a hate crime, the incident must also hit the threshold of being an actual crime. Not all “HBT” behaviour is a crime, no matter how offensive it may be.
What about “HBT” bullying?
Bullying isn’t a legal term as far as courts are concerned, so it isn’t a crime on its own. The UK government considers it to involve these characteristics though:
-that it happens more than once
-that the actions involved are intended to cause someone harm (emotionally or physically)
These also happen to be 2 of the characteristics of “harassment” – and that is crime. (Bullying can also involve physical assault, and obviously that’s definitely a crime!)
Harassment is a criminal offence and is considered a hate crime if targeting someone based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or trans status.
Legally, harassment is when someone intentionally causes alarm or distress to someone on 2 or more occasions. In a court, the threshold for something to be considered harassment can be fairly high and you would need to prove clear intent to cause harm and the harm would need to be evidenced. That’s sometimes why “HBT” bullying doesn’t end up recorded as a hate crime – it doesn’t always hit the threshold of a “crime”.
If you’re experiencing HBT bullying it’s always a hate incident and becomes a crime if it involves things like assault or you believe it is harassment.
What can you do about it?
Your school / college / uni / workplace should have a policy that tackles all forms of bullying but that highlights hate incidents or crimes too. You should be able to read this policy yourself at any time. Your school / college has a duty to act on reports and should always be the first port of call if something’s happening there.
If they’re not handling things how you’d like, or if things are happening outside of school or college check out these places;
Firstly – if it’s an emergency dial 999!
You can contact the police if (it’s not an emergency) on 101 or head to www.police.uk
You can also report incidents online at www.report-it.org.uk
And you can if you don’t wish the incident to be investigated by do want it reported for monitoring info you can anonymously tell Crimestoppers about it at http://www.crimestoppers-uk/org
Stonewall has a great guide to reporting hate crime and why it matters to do so https://www.stonewall.org.uk/sites/default/files/how_to_report_hate_crime_booklet_1.pdf and there’s more info on their page http://www.stonewall.org.uk/help-advice/hate-crime