Transphobia: Does spike in reports mean more hate crime on Manchester streets?

In a previous life Suzie Morl went by the name ‘Lionel’. She was stabbed and beaten to death in Manchester in August 2011.

Her killers stuffed her body in a suitcase and left her to rot in their bathroom in Victoria Street, Openshaw. At court they confessed that they killed her to steal money to buy drugs.

They were jailed for life for murder in July 2012.

Suzie Morl is one of more than 1,500 transgender people worldwide whose murders have been reported since 2008, and one of six in the UK during this period.

Transgender people make up possibly lower than 0.1% of the population – yet still they experience a disproportionately high rate of hate crime and a number of cases go unreported. 

Last year, some of the UK’s biggest police forces said that reports of transphobic hate crimes soared, including GMP, who received 33 reported incidents across the region in 2014 – as many as were reported throughout 2012 and 2013 combined.

For LGBT History Month, MM investigate whether a spike in the reported transphobic hate crimes is such a bad thing for Manchester.

Tony Cooper, Trustee and Press Officer for Sparkle, a charity supporting the rights and positive representation of Trans people in the UK and worldwide, believes this upsurge in reported incidents may actually reflect a growing confidence among trans people to come forward.

“Although it is sad to see the figures increase we absolutely believe that is a direct result in people reporting more rather than an actual increase in hate crime,” he said.

“We are aware that some crimes are not reported and this could be for many reasons – whether it is because the victim is not ‘out’, or because of fear that their report will not be taken seriously.

“But with all the work that has taken place with GMP over the last couple of years we believe that all hate crime needs to be reported so that we have a true picture of the level of hate crime.”

Anwen Muston, Trans Officer for LGBT Labour and Labour Candidate for Wolverhampton, explained that trans people are inherently conspicuous in everyday life, and that this visibility makes them targets for hate crime.

“Over the last ten years a lot more people have identified as trans. There are a lot more people going through the process and there are now more trans people out there,” she said.

“It can take many years before you can get the surgery. This is because demand has outstripped the capacity to help trans people.

“People are required to live the life experience before medical intervention. This makes them stand out and they are more susceptible to hate crime.”

Accurately estimating the number of trans people in the UK is difficult because of those who feel sufficiently stigmatised and do not publicly ‘out’ themselves.

Approximately 56,000 of trans people currently live in the UK, of whom as few as 10,000 have publicly presented themselves with gender dysphoria and undergone transition.

The Home Office stated 555 incidents of transgender hate crime were reported nationwide between October 2013 and October 2014.

Serge Nicholson, Trans Casework and Development Officer at LGBT anti-violence and abuse charity Galop, suggested this figure may only account for 20% of incidents.

“A third of trans people in the UK go through transphobic abuse every year,” he said.

“As much as 80% of transphobia is not reported – so the rise in transphobic police recording can be viewed as encouraging, though it leaves us with mixed feelings.

“One transphobic hate crime is one too many.”

Labour Councillor for Burnage and co-chair of LGBT Labour Bev Craig commended a ‘concerted effort’ by community groups, the council and the police in nurturing Trans confidence.

“Over the past 18 to 24 months, and over the last year in particular, there has been quite a concerted effort by the city council and Tony Lloyd to work with a lot of Trans community groups to increase the rate of reporting,” she said.

“I think the Trans movement is growing more confident, and I think it is a really positive thing that people feel like they have the confidence to report it and to see the police and Crown Prosecution Service take it further.”

Anwen Muston is more sceptical of the future of the Trans community, but believes education is vital in paving a path toward equality.

“Trans is still well behind LGB because of a lack of understanding around trans,” said Anwen Muston.

“The key to equality is education. If we can get Trams education into schools – science, history and good citizenship – things will move forward.

“The highest thing that we can do is to teach issues in mainstream schools, so that when these pupils go out into the world they would have some understanding of why people are born differently.

“The chance of them of committing a hate crime is immediately lowered.

“The chance of acceptance over generations will increase, creating a better work environment and social environment.”

GMP Chief Commissioner Tony Lloyd spoke at the Transgender Day of Remembrance – a day commemorating victims of hate crime – to urge all victims to come forward.

“Nobody should have to face the prospect of hatred, murder or violence simply for being who they are. This is a brutal wrong that has no place in our society,” he said.

“Trans hate crime is still massively underreported and I urge the Trans community to please report any such incidents to the police or via a third-party hate crime reporting centre.

“Through zero tolerance of hatred and ignorance, we can start to change attitudes and behaviours for the better.”

Manchester City Council will hold the annual LGBT Question Time on Sunday February 8 from 12-2pm at Manchester Town Hall.

All are encouraged to attend and to put their questions to a panel of councillors and the deputy police and crime commissioner. Those who cannot attend can follow the event of social media using the hashtag #LGBTQT.

To report a hate crime contact the police on 101 or dial 999 where there’s a threat to life or a crime in progress.

You can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or you can report it online by clicking here.

Image courtesy of Optik Images, with thanks.

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