Hateful rhetoric against transgender people is culminating in physical attacks, Sheffield LGBT charity warns

Hateful rhetoric against transgender people has echoes of the homophobia seen forty years ago and is even resulting in people being attacked, an LGBT charity has said.

Heather Paterson, CEO of Say It Sheffield, says the language seen used against trans people is similar to that seen in the 1980s against gay and lesbian people, and is culminating in physical attacks and abuse.

"In the past few years, there has been a lot of stirring up in the media about transgender and non-binary people (people who do not identify specifically as men or women)," Ms Paterson said.

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"Trans people are often painted as being sexual predators and people you would not want to be in a changing room with. It is the exact same rhetoric that was used against gay people back in the 1980s.

There were 191 hate crimes recorded against transgender people by Yorkshire's biggest police force last year, but it is believed most victims do not report the crimes

"These are not just words on a page – they are having a detrimental impact.

"I have heard of lots of trans people being attacked – it is the reality for some people we work with at Say It Sheffield. Many trans people will say they haven't experienced it, but then when you talk more, they will say, 'oh but I don't really go out anymore', or, 'I avoid walking down certain streets these days'. There is a level of self-policing going on.

"One woman I know who is trans was attacked coming home. She had put the key in the door and was hit over the head. The attack left her blinded in one eye."

She added that, as a gay woman, she had experienced "horrific" abuse, but that this was still "out of proportion" with the abuse experienced by her transgender and non-binary friends.

Demonstrators at a transgender pride rally in Leeds city centre in 2019

"Many of them do not even want to leave their own houses," she added.

"If we are going out, they don't want to be out for too long because of the grief they get using public toilets."

It comes as figures from one police force in Yorkshire reveal it has seen nearly a 1000 per cent increase in hate crimes against transgender people in five years.

West Yorkshire Police revealed it had recorded 191 hate crimes categorised as transphobic between April last year and March this year, compared with 18 in the same period between 2014 and 2015.

There were 191 hate crimes recorded against transgender people by Yorkshire's biggest police force last year, but it is believed most victims do not report the crimes

Figures from Humberside meanwhile show 46 such crimes in the same period, while in North Yorkshire there were 16.

Although no recent data currently exists publicly from South Yorkshire Police, the force has revealed there were 60 transphobic hate crimes reported between 2017 and 2018, with victims aged between 14 and 75 and offences ranging from harassment to attacks and sexual assaults.

Recent figures from the Crown Prosecution Service, however, revealed that in the Yorkshire & the Humber region there were only six cases charged in the year ending March 2020, while data from the Office of National Statistics last month showed transgender people were were twice as likely (28 per cent) to have been a crime victim in this same period.

Ms Paterson meanwhile says such reports may be the tip of the iceberg, with many trans people experiencing abuse and physical attacks not reporting it out of fear it would not be taken seriously.

There were 191 hate crimes recorded against transgender people by Yorkshire's biggest police force last year, but it is believed most victims do not report the crimes

"I would say the vast majority goes unreported," she said.

"Most transgender people who experience hate crime do not go to the police, they think it won't be taken seriously. They just accept that it is a part of their life, but they shouldn't."

West Yorkshire Police has reassured the community it takes hate crime in all its forms very seriously.

A spokesman said: "As a force we are aware that transgender offences are under reported, this is the same nationally.

"We continue to work with key individuals within the transgender community to break down barriers and encourage reporting whether directly to West Yorkshire Police or via a third party reporting centre for example.

"West Yorkshire Police also provides officers with training around Transgender and this training is supported by two transgender ladies who have become trusted advisors and are Police Volunteers. Their help enables officers to understand how to engage effectively with Transgender victims and improve victim confidence in reporting."

A Humberside spokeswoman said: "Hate crimes will not be tolerated across the Humberside Force area. We would encourage anyone who has been the victim of this type of offence to please come forward and report it to us."