How safe do LGBTQ+ students feel in Edi after homophobic assault on Leith Street?

‘It seems like homophobia is on the rise again if I’m honest’

TW: Homophobic abuse and violence 

The Edinburgh LGBTQ+ community was shocked by a horrific assault on a married gay couple last weekend.

Witnesses said they saw a group of four men punching, kicking and spitting on the victims (aged 30 and 33), before stealing a bag and fleeing the scene. They also reported hearing the attackers call the victims “p**fs” – a homophobic slur.

The attack happened outside John Lewis in the new St James’ Quarter. This is particularly shocking as the surrounding areas (Broughton and Hillside) are known as The Pink Triangle and have recently been given ‘Gaybourhood’ status. This is an international award recognising a high proportion of LGBTQ+ residents, a large number of LGBTQ+-owned businesses (including bars and nightlife) – as well as low levels of reported homophobia.

So, The Edinburgh Tab asked LGBTQ+ students how safe they felt in light of this. We also asked if they thought Edinburgh was a safe city for openly LGBTQ+ students.


35 per cent said the attack made them feel unsafe. Whilst that’s a sizeable minority, it does mean 65 per cent still feel safe in Edinburgh – even after a very public incident of homophobia.

Meanwhile, 89 per cent of LGBTQ+ students we asked said they thought Edinburgh was a safe place to be open about their sexuality and gender identity. Yes, that is an overwhelming majority – but still means one in ten LGBTQ+ students don’t feel safe being ‘out’ in the city.

Student experiences of homophobia

We also asked LGBTQ+ students about their own personal experiences of public homophobia. Arch, who is going into his Second Year, told us: “a woman once told me ‘shame on you’ just for walking down the street”. He also added: “it seems like homophobia is on the rise again if I’m honest”.

Similarly, Chris* said: “it’s become normal to be stared at and, on occasion, have comments made about you”.

Drew* joked: “if I had a pound for every time I’d been called a slur I could afford to live in Pollock Halls”. They also told us about an incident involving upstairs neighbours (third year students at the University of Edinburgh) sending them “homophobic messages laden with slurs” after asking them to stop partying until 2am during lockdown.

We also received several stories detailing homophobia experienced on nights out including being assaulted by bouncers and hearing slurs yelled across clubs. For example, Owen* said: “I experienced severe homophobic abuse outside Big Cheese when queueing with my boyfriend.”

Nicolas also has experienced homophobia on-campus after “walking into a Pollock pantry in Chancellor’s for a pres and this guy shouts out from across the room ‘that guy looks like a right f*****’, some people were a bit shocked but the guys around him just laughed”. He said the experience in his Third Year of uni left him “stunned”.

Several queer women also reported targeted abuse, including Robyn* who reported being “spat at” and had the word “f*****” yelled at her whilst holding her girlfriend’s hand – each on different occasions.

Elsie, a bi woman going into Fourth Year, also told us she feels much more safe being out and about in Edinburgh now she’s in a long term relationship with a man. But, when she was dating a woman, she said: “I felt much less safe than I do now which I guess shows that being openly and obviously LGBTQ+ can definitely make you feel less safe than the average cis, straight person”.

Speaking to the crossover between homophobia and misogyny, Holly* said: “As a queer woman I have totally different experiences than a gay man. I was discussing with a friend (a gay man) about different experiences in clubs, for example. I mentioned how if you’re a woman and you pull another woman in a club , you get a crowd of “lads” standing around you telling you you’re beautiful and sexy and they’d be down for a threesome, or saying ‘oh yeah I could turn you straight’ etc.

“In a world where women are murdered for ignoring or shutting down catcallers, this is scary to do! You feel like a product  under the male gaze , you feel scared if you piss them off, you feel like as a queer woman you’re not taken seriously and you’re just there for male consumption.

“Eg I was walking home with my girlfriend and a boy who was interested in her wouldn’t leave us alone. I didn’t know the boy but I was close friends with his friend so I spoke to the friend and said: “please can u ask ur friend to leave my gf alone”. He calls his friend over and says ‘bro they’re dating , stop hitting on her’ and kind of pulls him off to walk home a different way. When I caught up with my friend a few days later, he explained that the boy had been on a homophobic rant the whole way home. Somehow he made it my fault!

“Another time was once pulling a girl in the smoking area while we were sat down at a table. I turn around and see 4 boys literally standing round us clapping! When I looked at them they called us ‘beautiful’. I then told them to ‘fuck off’. Honestly, cunts all of them.”

Finally, Quinn* spoke to us about also facing misogynistic comments from straight men asking them and their girlfriend “if we had room for a third”. But they added: “as a masc-leaning non-binary person it had the extra layer of dysphoria in knowing I was being perceived as just another reason to be objectified”.

What to do if you experience homophobic abuse

You can report homophobic abuse to Police Scotland on 101 (or 999 if it is happening now)

Stonewall has a free advice line you can phone on 0800 050 2020 or you can visit their website for more information

You can also contact the EUSA Advice Place as well as the LGBT+ and Trans and Non-Binary Liberation Campaigns

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