London bus attack: Homophobic violence more common than people realise, LGBT+ campaigners warn

‘This attack won’t be the only hate crime against the LGBT+ community this month’, campaigners warn after London attack

Abby Young-Powell
Friday 07 June 2019 18:49 BST
Woman and girlfriend left covered in blood after 'homophobic attack' by gang of men on London bus

LGBT+ campaigners have warned that homophobic incidents, such as a recent bus attack in which a lesbian couple were left bloodied and hospitalised, are more common than many people realise, as Pride month gets underway.

Police have called for witnesses and information after Melania Geymonat, a 28-year-old Ryanair cabin crew member from Uruguay, and her girlfriend Chris, were attacked by four men on a London night bus on 30 May.

The men demanded the couple kiss for their entertainment while they threw coins at them. They then beat them up, including punching the women in the face.

“This attack won’t be the only hate crime against the LGBT+ community this month,” Laura Russell, director of campaigns, policy and research at Stonewall, told The Independent.

For many in the LGBT+ community, harassment and violence is a daily struggle, campaigners said.

"People don't realise this is something people face every day," Kim Sanders, director of communications at Stonewall told The Independent.

"People don't hold hands and there's a reason for that; it's because LGBT+ people still face hate crimes. So people are trying to keep themselves safe by trying to go under the radar."

Jessica White, community safety lead at the LGBT Foundation, also said attacks often go unreported.

"[When it comes to this most recent attack] unfortunately there wasn't any element of surprise," she told The Independent.

Kseniya Kirichenko, senior officer for women and UN Advocacy at the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), told The Independent: "This is happening even in places you think would be safe spaces, like London."

Campaigners also said many lesbian, bisexual and queer women experience homophobia and misogyny combined. "This [attack] also reveals the sexualization of lesbian women, even the word lesbian is so sexualised and this attack reflects that," Ms Kirichenko said.

"For lesbian women there is always an added dimension of misogyny thrown in there. It's an assault on you as an LGBT+ person and on you as a woman," Ms Sanders said.

In a government report in 2019, at least two in five respondents had experienced an incident because they were LGBT+, such as verbal harassment or physical violence, in the 12 months preceding the survey.

However, more than nine in 10 of the most serious incidents went unreported, often because respondents thought “it happens all the time”.

LGBT+ Pride month takes place this month to recognise the impact the LGBT+ community has had on the world. "Having pride month and expressing who you are is incredibly valuable," Ms White said.

"Pride is definitely still an act of defiance," Ms Sanders said. "It's defiant just to walk through the streets and hold hands."

The Independent is hosting a panel discussion and Q&A on the role of Pride in 2019 at the Century Club in Soho on 4 July, with guests Peter Tatchell and Asifa Lahore.

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