Seeing queer people experience homophobia makes me scared to be myself in public

I feel powerless, afraid and vulnerable


CW: Homophobia, sexual assault, harassment, violence and abuse

In the last few weeks, there have been several violent homophobic attacks reported in the national news. At the end of May a young woman and her girlfriend were threatened with rape and murder. A gay couple were attacked with a knife on 11 June. Two bisexual men, who were friends, were both beaten up on seperate occasions last week. Members of our community are getting beaten up, harassed and abused for simply existing.

Queer people I know have been attacked too – I ask myself all the time, what makes me any different from them? If they get beaten up for being gay, why wouldn’t I? What is there to stop someone from attacking me when I kiss a girl? We have seen it happen several times in the recent weeks – but I’ve never felt safe.

I feel like I can’t embrace my sexuality in public

21-year-old Jack

“I think the fear of being attacked is rooted so deep within me. I’ve never wanted to hold anyone’s hand in public. I don’t even want to kiss my boyfriend on Brighton beach which is probably one of the safest places for a gay couple to love each other,” my friend Jack tells me. And I agree, I’ve been on Brighton beach with a girl before and have constantly been looking over my shoulder to see who is around before we kiss.

When I’m out with a girl, I always expect someone to say or do something that will try to intimidate us. If we walk holding hands, I often let go when we pass a certain crowd or hold her hand tighter if I get nervous.

As a woman, I’ve never felt safe on the streets. But as a queer woman, I feel even more powerless, afraid and vulnerable.

My heart beats that little bit faster every time a man looks at me or a woman I’m with for too long. If anyone stares at us in a bar I’ll go on high alert because I am convinced something will happen. This isn’t how I want to live my life, it’s not how anyone does, but it’s the way I’ve been made to feel when unprovoked homophobic attacks take place so often.

My brain goes straight back to previously reported attacks

When I’m out, especially in London, I think of the attack against two queer women by group of men in London. Maybe it’s because it invovled two queer women who refused to kiss, I think how easily that could be me and anyone else I know.

Uni student James says he learnt the hard way about the need to keep his sexual identity to himself until he knows he can trust the people he is around.

He said when he got to uni, he had a sudden shock that not everyone was going to be accepting like his college friends. He was introduced to a friendship group and says he was met with “a number of microaggressions” like being referred to “as one of them”. James, who identified as bisexual at the time, was sexually assaulted in his first year of univeristy.

Now James says he has realised he’s pansexual and since realising that, he said he’s had more experiences like the ones from his first year at uni.

James said: “Having experienced sexual assaults more times than I’d care to mention, coupled with instances of microaggressions and snide comments, I find myself trying to work out which instances I can feel safe to be open about who I am.”

Our sexuality and gender identity should not make us subject to abuse

Lily was walking around her uni with her girlfriend when a car stopped on the side of the road. Immediately Lily and her girlfriend dropped each other’s hand but the men inside the car continued to shout insults at them and then got out of the car and proceeded to follow them until they reached a main road.

Lily tells me this experience was enough to change her perception on holding hands in public for good. This shouldn’t be the case though. We should not be made to feel abnormal or unsafe because of who we chose to love.

Like so many of my other queer friends, it took me a very long time to come to terms with being gay. I am so proud of myself and how far I have come but at the same time, I’m terrified.

I’m scared that I’m not straight-passing enough to avoid being attacked. I get worried every time I hold another girl’s hand. If a man even looks at me differently I become hostile, probably even make the situation worse a times with an attitude which could so easily make him angrier and act out on it.

I can never be myself in public because that would put me, and anyone I’m with, at risk.

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story you can contact Switchboard, the LGBTQ+ helpline, on 0300 330 0630 or visit their website. You can also find help through The Mix. You can also contact The Survivors Trust for more information about sexual violence and abuse. If you have been a victime of a hate crime, you can contact Stop Hate UK for support.

The Tab’s Pride reporting series is putting a focus on highlighting LGBTQ+ issues and celebrating queer voices across UK campuses.

If you’ve got a story you’d like to tell us – whether it’s an incident of homophobia on campus, an experience you’d like to share, or anything you think we should hear, get in touch in confidence by emailing [email protected]

Related stories recommended by this writer:

How to help a friend who has just come out to you, by LGBTQ+ young people

This is what it’s really like growing up with gay parents

These stories from LGBTQ+ young people prove schools let down a generation of queer students

Some names have been changed to allow people to speak freely