Hate crimes still a harsh reality

A recently published report by The Danish National Police focusing on hate crimes in 2015 shows that LGBTQ people are still targeted for being out and proud. Homotropolis decided to let some of these hate crime victims share their stories.

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While Scandinavia in general might be considered a very liberal and tolerant place to live for LGBTQ people it does not mean that all are free to be who we are without risking harassment, discrimination or even being beaten up. For those asking why pride is still necessary in 2016 one of the answers should be the fact that people are still being spit on and beaten up because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

A recent report by The Danish National Police reveals that nearly 1 out of 6 hate crimes registered by the Danish police in 2015 was motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Moreover it is assumed that the actual numbers are much higher since one of the biggest challenges in gathering information on hate crimes is the severe underreporting. Fear, shame and insecurity can be reasons why a hate crime is not reported by the victim although recent years have seen several campaigns in Denmark urging victims to come forward.

The report also shows that the majority of hate crimes targeted at LGBTQ people happen in public places and are committed by people with no former connections to the victim. Not surprisingly the highest number of hate crimes took place in Copenhagen in 2015 and opposite to the racial and religious hate crimes there are often 2 or more persons involved in carrying out a hate crime against an LGBTQ person.

The Danish National Police concludes in the report that better education of the police force, improvements in the registration of hate crimes and more accurate data are necessary in order to more precisely identify hate crimes and provide more accurate statistics for future use.

On the following pages we have handed over the pen to Simon, Nikolaj and Paul. All three of them have stood face to face with homophobia or transphobia in Copenhagen and experienced hate crimes. They chose to share their stories and come forward in order to create awareness of a serious problem that LGBTQ people still face in Denmark – and to give a very good reason to those asking why pride is still relevant and necessary in 2016.

THEY WERE SPITTING IN MY FACE
Simon Sumal knows what it feels like to stand face to face with homophobia. In 2014 a group of young men started spitting on him because he was holding hands with another guy.

Simon Sumal

I had experienced it for the first time a few years earlier when me and my boyfriend were in Paris. We were walking hand in hand down the street when a man suddenly stopped us, started yelling and threatened to beat us up. We had to run into a nearby shop to seek shelter and the security staff from the shop helped us get back to our hotel because the man kept standing outside the shop waiting for us to become his victims.

After that experience it took some time before I again held hands with another man in public. It happened one night in December after a christmas party. I was walking hand in hand with a guy through downtown Copenhagen and we stopped to kiss each other on a street corner. We continued walking down the next street and when we passed a group of young men I felt the first gob of spit hit my face right below the eye. I turned around and actually thought that someone had just sneezed in my face, but that’s when he spit on me again. Seconds later the rest of the group joined in and began spitting on both me and the guy I was with. Moments later we were moving away quickly down the street. And that’s when it hit me. I had not at any point tried to cover my face to avoid the spit from hitting me because I simply could never imagine that something like this could really happen to me in the middle of Copenhagen.

After a few days we decided to go to the police. We were met by a security guard at the police station situated inside Copenhagen Central Station and he asked us what we wanted. As soon as we started telling him our reasons and what had happened we were directed to a waiting area and even though this was a busy and pretty chaotic day at the police station we felt that our situation was taken seriously.

After one hour an officer came to us and we were taken into an interview room. It took almost one and a half hour for the officer to complete a very thorough report on everything that had happened.

I was very impressed actually, especially since this was a late afternoon the day before Christmas and everybody most probably just wanted to go home for the holidays.

Before deciding to file a report with the police I had described the episode openly on social media. I could not simply be a victim who shuts up and accepts the world as it is. And I had lots of reactions. Likes, comments and shares. Journalists who called to learn more about the incident.

What hit me was that most people were curious to know how I – the victim – was holding up. I received loads of well-meaning advice about how we as gay people should simply act less gay and thus be less likely to fall victims to hate crimes. To me that sounds both twisted and wrong in every way.

In the aftermath of the incident it became official that authorities had decided to not publish a report on hate crimes for the year 2014 due to too few reported incidents. Still Denmark has a maximum sentence of 2 years for hate crimes, but that does not change a thing if the hate crimes are not reported and the perpetrators never get prosecuted.

Hate crimes are real and they will keep on taking place in the future. But a way to try to put an end to at least some of them would be to report them to the police every time and by that giving the authorities the possibility of providing politicians with real numbers and statistics. My experience has made me an ambassador for the reporting of hate crimes. We need to change society and give our politicians something to work with. We need to not be seen as potential victims simply because we choose to be visible.

Simon

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I WAS ATTACKED WITH A BOTTLE AND KICKED REPEATEDLY
Nikolaj was out in Copenhagen in full drag when a group of men suddenly attacked him with a bottle and started kicking him.

nikolaj-2It was the final party at Copenhagen Mix Film Festival in the Meatpacking District in Copenhagen. I was working as a hostess along with my fellow drag queens from Vesterbro Drag Udlejningsservice.

The party had already peaked and it was getting more and more quiet. My friend Andreas and I decided to leave and continue the party downtown. I was totally sober as drinking makes you pee and that can be a challenge when wearing 3 pairs of tights, a corset, a body stocking and a whole lot of padding. I thought that since I was all dressed up I might as well feed on the positive attention a while longer.

I was wearing 21 centimeter heels and a golden sequin dress with batwing sleeves. My wig was huge and turquoise and my makeup was fierce. I was ready to go out dancing. Andreas was not in drag; he was just wearing his regular clothes.

I have been doing drag for years. Walking through the streets of Copenhagen in my finest outfits has always meant curious looks, compliments, smiles and occasionally a few raised eyebrows.

Andreas and I left the Meatpacking District. We laughed and talked, but kept to ourselves as we walked towards the gay bar Nevermind located in the opposite part of the city. We approached Tivoli and had just passed the former Hard Rock Cafe when someone yelled at me from behind: ”Are you a boy or a girl?”

I didn’t turn around, but replied: ”I’m a boy”. I didn’t put more attention into that and we continued our walk. It only took a few seconds before I heard the voice again. ”WHAT?!!!”. I barely had time to turn around before a guy ran up next to me. He smashed me over the back of my head with a beer bottle. I didn’t have time to react, but thoughts were running through my head: ”What’s happening? What should I do?”. I lost my balance, but was able to move myself closer to a nearby restaurant. I got pushed and hit a concrete staircase near the restaurant. My hips hit the stairs and I managed to block my face with my hands to avoid the concrete.

I was surrounded by 6-8 guys. They didn’t speak neither Danish nor English. They yelled at me. They spat at me. The little guy who hit me with the beer bottle looked at me with big, wild eyes. He yelled at me while he kicked me in my stomach and ribs. I didn’t even notice that my big earring had been ripped out of my ear and that I was bleeding.

I felt helpless. I yelled: ”STOP. STOP NOW”.

They stopped. All of a sudden they stopped. They started walking casually towards the City Hall Square as if nothing had happened.

At this time Andreas managed to get some help. A taxi pulled over and the driver asked me if I was okay. My instant reply was ”yes”. I didn’t cry. I didn’t hurt. I was high on adrenaline. I was angry, upset and didn’t understand what had just happened.

A group of girls walked over to me asking what happened while wiping off the blood that ran from my ear. I started searching for the stupid earring.

The police arrived. I had to tell them everything that happened. The bystanders pitched in and informed the police about what they saw. I was a bit confused and still in shock. The police advised me to go to the emergency room.

Andreas and I arrived at the emergency room. I still felt no pain; just anger and a feeling of ”what the fuck just happened?”

In the emergency room we were told that we had to wait for 3 hours before it was our turn. People gave me strange looks in the waiting room. A nurse and I agreed that I should go home as I didn’t feel any pain. I got a painkiller and was told to go see a doctor the next day for a check-up. I went home and so did Andreas.

When I woke up the next day I went to the emergency room again. The doctor said that my earlobe was ripped, I got a bruised rip and a bump on the back of my head. I can be thankful for my big wig, my corset and all the padding on my hips that helped me avoid serious injuries.

I didn’t cry about it once. I was angry, but I didn’t let it get to me. I went out in drag again the following weekend to serve the annual Christmas beer and I had a blast even though the pressure from my corset hurt a bit on my bruised ribs.

My attack was reported to the police as a hate crime. The perpetrators were never found.

Nikolaj

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TRANSPHOBIA LEADS TO ANGER AND VIOLENCE
Paul Calderon was robbed and beaten up because of gender identity.

PaulIn june 2016 I was targeted in a gay bar downtown Copenhagen by a young man. By Sunday morning I had been robbed and badly beaten up – to the point of getting a broken nose and several bruises, both on the face and my body.

How or where the attack happened is not what matters to me. It’s why it happened in the first place that should be questioned. I will not go into details about my story, my attacker or the circumstances of the incident. Instead I will explain why it happened:

I identify myself as a transgender person because my gender identity does not match the gender I was assigned at the time of my birth. In fact, I do not match the boxes of male and/or female that society establishes, therefore one could say that I am a non-binary Gender Queer Person. Neither my genitalia, nor my clothes define who I am, and this is something that confuses a lot of people. Some even find it offensive, and get angry about it. This anger leads to levels of unexplainable hate resulting in attacks like the one I was submitted to.

I wish I could say Denmark is a country that is free from transphobia, but I cannot. This is only one case of many. Luckily for me, because of the pressure of the media, politicians, and the fact that the case was finally assigned to a hate crime detective, who actually showed empathy, the attacker has been caught and is waiting for trial in custody. Let’s hope that the system shows it’s support to the transgender people by locking this person up or sending him away.

Paul

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Photo of Simon Sumal by Marie Priem

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