Considering the amount that has been said about Black Lives Matter in the past few weeks and the amount of attention this is now being rightly given to it, and the fact that today would also have been UK Black Pride, I think it is worth talking about both of these issues together.
The best way to kick off this conversation is to look at the data and ask questions about what the numbers tell us. Unfortunately, there is little data available, a problem that has been highlighted by a range of studies, and many of these often group BAME together as a single category. I will warn you that much of the below is uncomfortable but necessary reading.
With this in mind, let’s start by looking at LGBT+ hate crimes. YouGov and Stonewall carried out research with a sample of 5,000 LGBT+ people. The overall question about hate crime showed a 70% increase in LGBT+ related hate crimes for BAME LGBT+ people compared to white LGBT+ people.
Coupled with this significant increase, the vast majority of these incidents do not get reported to the police. As an LGBT+ person, I have experienced incidences of hate crime and have not thought to report these and brushed them off, even when this should have been done. This is a major problem, but it is even more profound for BAME LGBT+ people.
What the research exposes is that this also translates into discrimination, and compared to all LGBT+ people it is higher for BAME people in all settings, despite legal measures in place designed to reduce this.
What this points to is that these are not things that happen once in a while or have been ‘fixed’. In fact, it shows systemic issues and a lack of attention being paid to resolving them. It also reflects difficulties in reporting or prosecuting for these crimes, which many under-resourced investigation teams simply cannot handle.
Online abuse is also a problem. Compared to 9% of white LGBT+ people who said they had experienced online abuse in the past month, among BAME LGBT+ people this number rises to 20%. That is an appalling increase of 122%.
Related to this, it has been well-reported that social media platforms are struggling to police incidents of abuse and hate crime. Trying to salvage advertising spend from Unilever, Facebook highlighted that they removed 86% of hate speech from the platform last year. However, this only covers reported hate speech and suggests there is limited capacity for any proactive content removal. Many in the LGBT+ community feel more comfortable in an online forum, and an attack on these platforms should be treated as seriously as what happens offline.
Moving to another piece of research from YouGov and Stonewall, an important area to mention is domestic abuse, which is 50% more likely among BAME LGBT+ people. This points to problems within the community itself, where discrimination within the LGBT+ community due to background disproportionately affects BAME LGBT+ people, and even more so for black LGBT+ people.
It shows that the problems faced by BAME LGBT+ people are not just external. Within the community, LGBT+ people have to confront their own prejudices and it needs to become a more inclusive place. We have to set an example as a community and must act swiftly.
Finally, there is a vital area that has not been addressed. Mental health. At a time where there is more attention, there is still a lack of research. However, there is an interesting study from 2016 of 5,799 gay and bisexual men in the UK which focuses on mental health and indicates that inequality in mental health is more pronounced for gay and bisexual men from black backgrounds.
The stats here reaffirm that there is still so much to be done about mental health, particularly in the LGBT+ community, and that there needs to be a closer look at how this interacts with attributes such as race.
This is the theme that is apparent from all the research I’ve discussed, and as we celebrate Pride is something that needs to be thought about. Pride shows that we can do better. We have done it before and can do it again.