There has been a significant spike in homophobic attacks and incidents in the North East.
Since 2016 there has been an 80% increase, a sharp rise from 16% in 2013.
From 2012 to 2014, Durham Police recorded statistics of homophobic attacks and reported a drop of reported incidents in 2013 but figures increased again in 2014.
Mark Nichols, chairman of Northern Pride in Newcastle, said: “Statistically, the number reported has seen a significant increase. I think some of the increase is due to people feeling they can report it and be dealt with. I think if you look at the scene, however, I think there has been an increase in incidents as the demographics of the customers have changed.”
After the vote to leave the EU in 2016, there has been a reported 147% rise in homophobic assaults and attacks.
Mark also said: “I think things like Brexit have brought discrimination to the forefront of people’s minds. However, like I have said, I think a lot of the cases were there before and not getting reported and following a great campaign by the police these cases are now being reported and dealt with.”
There have been more than 400 physical attacks on LGBT people since 2010, 157 of those were between January 2015 to the end of 2016 – County Durham being the worst for reported crimes with a total of 187 attacks and incidents.
Sam Robin Clarke, 21, of Sunderland has experienced homophobia himself: “Sure, on multiple instances I have had glares and mutterings off people on the metro or around shopping centres. It’s something that happens more around the Sunderland area than in Newcastle.”
In Durham 2016, a man was attacked and set ablaze in a churchyard after being questioned by a group of men over his sexuality. The 20-year-old man in question needed several skin grafts to his calves after he was set alight with a lighter and can of aerosol. Police have made no arrests and the investigation is still on-going.
Reports have been made to the police about homophobic incidents. In September, 2016, police appealed for witnesses after homophobic comments were shouted at the driver of a car by two men. The victim was commented as saying Northumbria police were ‘very understanding.’
Dean Martin, 27, from Newcastle said: “I haven’t witnessed any homophobia for a while, if anything it’s getting less homophobic. I don’t think it’s getting worse, more people are open about their sexuality these days and aren’t as scared to come forward and report it and that’s why the figures are going up.”
But some believe that homophobia is learned from parents or peers around people from a young age.
Tina McWaters, 20, from Durham said: “Normally some kids pick things like that up from their parents and some do it to fit in. Kids can be cruel but their parents can be worse.”
The level of acceptance of LGBTQ+ people has come a long way in recent years with same-sex marriages now legal and recognised in the U.K.
As a nightclub worker in the Pink Triangle, Newcastle’s gay district, I have seen first-hand homophobic incidents and experienced some myself. I have been called various names by the customers but I just ignore them and move on.
One incident was in South Shields when myself and my boyfriend at the time had abuse thrown at us because we were walking down the street holding hands.
At the bar I work at, I have had homophobic slurs thrown at me by customers before – both sober and drunk – so it just goes to show while things are better for the North East LGBTQ+ community, there is still a long way to go before there is total acceptance.
Abbie Osguthorpe, 24, from Houghton Le Spring said: “I think people all over have become definitely more accepting of the LGBT community – and rightly so – but I think in any city you will always have a small majority of people who are homophobic. Personally I haven’t noticed any difference.”
Northumbria Police refused to comment.