38% - that's the amount of people who, according to the 2012 British Social Attitudes Survey, see homosexuality as either “Always wrong” or “Mostly wrong” (Park et al., 2013). And while the data is five years old, hate crime numbers seem to suggest that this number is either growing or those thirty-eight percent are becoming more violent as evidenced by the 9,157 hate crimes being committed against people due to their sexual orientation in 2016-2017. This is an increase of 27% since 2015-2016. In reality, that number is likely much higher as hate crime does often go unreported. In addition, some incidents of hate do not bring about a hate crime, but can still leave a person feeling vulnerable and scared.
A few years ago, when I was in Year 8, I was bullied quite badly, and one incident in particular stands out to me. I was walking to school as I did nearly every morning, and as part of my route I had to walk down a quiet and isolated street. That morning, I became aware that I was being followed by a small group of people. They were being led by a kid in my same school year who truly hated me. (For the purpose of this story, I'll call him “Jack.”) Jack started shouting at me, calling me a “Rent boy” and offering me money for sex. I was terrified. Luckily, I managed to get away from them, but I never told anyone about what happened that morning. I was ashamed and scared he would get retribution. I had heard rumours that Jack had set another kid’s hair on fire with a cigarette, and a few years prior to this he had thrown tomatoes at me on my way home.
After that incident, I was terrified to walk to school by myself. Unfortunately, I had no other way to get to school than to walk. Luckily, there was no repeat of that specific incident, although I was often called a “rent boy” in school. Eventually, Jack was permanently excluded from school. This didn’t give me much peace though as there always seemed to be somebody ready and willing to take over his work of making my time there a living hell.
- Tom Hurst