Half of trans people too scared to use public bathrooms as transphobic violence in Britain spirals to dangerous new heights

Vic Parsons
·5-min read

Four out of every five transgender people in the UK experienced a form of trans hate crime in the last 12 months, new research has found.

The scale of transphobia in Britain has been revealed by a distressing new report from LGBT+ anti-violence charity Galop.

Delving into what it means to be transgender in the UK today, Galop found a bleak picture of violence, abuse, harassment and prejudice.

The report found that half of trans people experienced a transphobic attack in the street in the past 12 months.

As a result of high rates of physical, sexual, and verbal attack, more than half of transgender people in the UK feel less able to go outside and two-thirds say they cannot use public bathrooms as a result of transphobia.

“Before I leave the house, if I’m planning to do something where my trans identity might be an issue, I have to do a huge itinerary in my head of all the things that might prevent me passing…” one respondent shared.

Another said: “Being disabled trans, it’s becoming more difficult to do anything without some sort of abuse, from carers to just going out makes me more of a target because I’m seen as more of a vulnerable target.”

Leni Morris, CEO of Galop, said that the report showed the reality of life for British trans people amid increasingly hostile debate about trans rights and toxic, transphobic commentary in the media.

“As the whole LGBT+ community knows from our history, there are real-world consequences to public debates,” Morris said. “Our new report shows how the safety and dignity of trans people is currently at risk.”

Galop conducted two focus groups with trans people to determine the questions for a survey, which 227 trans people responded to. The aim was to better understand the nature and impact of trans hate crime and transphobic prejudice in the UK.

Trans hate crime in the UK in numbers.

Nearly half of trans people in the UK were transphobically abused by an anti-trans activist in the last 12 months.

There were also high rates of “second hand transphobia”, with respondents saying that witnessing transphobia online such as deadnaming, verbal abuse, discrimination and invasive questioning had an impact on their mental health, making them more afraid of direct transphobia.

Transphobia also took the form of being treated as “diseased”, outing, death threats, doxxing, sexual assault, damage to property, and blackmailing.

Trans women and femmes were more likely to be harassed online, treated as if they were “diseased” or contagious, and doxxed.

Trans people also reported being vilified in the media on a regular basis and being rejected by their partners or family for being transgender.

A quarter of trans people have suffered transphobia in their home, and a third have suffered it at work. And those safe spaces weren’t the only places that trans people are abused: a third reported that they’d received transphobic abuse from someone else in the LGBT+ community.

And the abuse comes in many forms: a quarter of trans people were physically assaulted or threatened with physical assault, and nearly one in five experienced a sexual assault or the threat of a sexual assault.

Seventy per cent of trans people said that transphobia has been detrimental to their mental health in the past year, and almost half have self-harmed as a result. More than half had contemplated suicide.

Only one in seven trans victims actually go to the police.

In October, new Home Office figures showed that police investigate seven transphobic offences every single day in the UK, with the numbers having quadrupled between 2014-15 and 2019-20 – a 354 per cent increase.

Last year, there were 2,540 transphobic hate crimes reported to police.

But it’s long been suspected that the true number of transphobic attacks are much higher, and this is borne out by Galop’s new research, which found that just one in seven trans people who experienced a transphobic attack – be it physical, verbal, sexual or online – reported it to the police.

Seventy per cent said this was because they felt that the police could not help them. A third said they expected the police to be transphobic, while another third said they experienced too many transphobic incidents to be able to report them all.

Morris said this shows that “many trans people feel that the police are unable to help them, and often have poor experiences when they do report”.

She continued: “Everyone facing hate crime has the right to report it if they choose to. Reporting helps to build a more accurate picture of hate crime in the UK.

“However, this is a right not a duty, and many people have valid reasons not to report. Galop is here to support all trans people experiencing transphobia, whether they choose to report to the police or not.”

One trans person who did report a transphobic incident to the police said: “One officer said I left myself open to being abused because I ‘chose to be different’.

“Misgendering throughout the interview then told that the physical assault, death threats and threats of further violence against me weren’t strong enough to do anything about and maybe I should ‘go home, make a cup of tea, and dress “normally”‘.”

Off the back of its research, Galop is calling for more funding to develop specialist support and assistance for people recovering from transphobic violence and abuse, including community-based trans social and support services.

The charity also pointed to long waiting times for trans healthcare in the UK as an exacerbating factor, and recommended more training for NHS staff.

Galop is the UK’s LGBT+ anti-violence charity, supporting LGBT+ people experiencing hate crime, domestic abuse and sexual violence. Report an incident and get advice here.