LGBTQ+ people still feel unsafe on London transport
A new report suggests that, despite widespread effort, LGBTQ+ abuse still prevails in our everyday spaces.
Though the rise in LGBTQ+ figures in the mainstream media — and flourishing national pride campaigns — may foster some ignorance to the realities of queer life in the UK, that reality is still painful for many.
But a new report by London TravelWatch has highlighted just how severe LGBTQ+ abuse can be, and how ingrained it is in our local spaces.
According to TravelWatch, two-thirds of 600 people surveyed in London felt they were at risk of violence or harassment when using public transport in the capital.
Two out of three of those who had experienced abuse or harm said that bystanders did nothing to intervene.
These statistics are heartbreaking, but unsurprising. One need only look at our government’s legislation and all-around attitude towards the queer community — trans people in particular — to get an understanding of how such vitriol is generated.
Just last month, the Home Office even admitted that the sharp rise in hate crimes against trans people in Britain is ‘potentially’ fuelled by anti-trans politicians. Here’s looking at you, Rishi Sunak.
In fact, anti-trans violence has been on the rise for some time. Last year, the government reported a 56% increase in transphobia from the previous year. Hate crimes against trans people have increased a staggering 186 percent in the last five years.
As part of TravelWatch’s report, they spoke with individuals who felt comfortable sharing their personal experiences of abuse on London transport.
Those included Ash Morgan, a 28-year-old who was punched in the head on a train at Clapham South in March on his way home from work.
‘No-one asked if I was OK or helped me up from the floor; just a total lack of compassion’, Morgan said.
The fear of facing these incidents has driven many LGBTQ+ people to alter their appearance in order to ‘fit in’, which Ash explained he has done himself.
‘I now second guess what I’m wearing; I try not to wear anything too bright and I don’t wear my pronoun pins on public transport’.
On a bureaucratic level, people like Ash also face lacklustre support from police and other public officials.
When taking his incident to station staff and seeking advice about reporting it, Ash was told ‘don’t bother’.
He’s certainly not alone. And if the results of the TravelWatch report weren’t enough, people are taking to social media to share their own experiences of abuse on London transport.
‘By far the most frequent place I’ve experienced homophobia in London is the tube’ said one user.
‘Almost every homophobic incident I’ve experienced has been in and around London transport’ said another.
Many factors come into play when determining why public transport is a hotspot for LGTBQ+ abuse. But perhaps confined space and lack of escape are key contributors.
Michael Roberts, chief executive of London TravelWatch, said: ‘We already knew that LGBTQ+ people had serious concerns about their personal security on public transport, but our findings lay bare the scale of the problem’.
Transport for London’s director of security has responded to TravelWatch’s findings by outlining policing and enforcement guidelines, stating that ‘we are committed to ensuring all passengers and staff are protected from harm and we have a bold and clear campaign across our network which encourages customers and staff to stand in solidarity against hate and abusive behaviour’.
But many would argue there is still far more to be done. Despite legal advancements and heightened awareness, discriminatory attitudes continue to thrive and are only empowered by the relative anonymity afforded within London’s busy transport system.
Intersectionality within the LGBTQ+ community also exacerbates the issue, with individuals facing compounded discrimination due to their race or physical ability.
If abuse is to be tackled adequately, we need to take a nuanced approach that acknowledges the multifaceted and layered challenges facing the LGBTQ+ community.
Increasing the visibility and representation of LGBTQ+ individuals within the public transport system can be a powerful deterrent to abuse, while a diverse workforce and inclusive advertisements within the tube system can help to foster more welcoming environments.
But ultimately, lack of funding and education continue to foster a crucible of violence and discrimination. And until these are confronted, little else will change.
While police at the Met have increased diversity and urged victims to speak out, a lack of trust between authorities and the community is a continual barrier to change.
TravelWatch’s report is a call to arms for a city that prides itself on diversity — to ensure that progress isn’t just a buzzword, but a lived experience for every passenger on every route.