An 18-year-old gay man from Tonbridge, Kent, has spoken to his local press in the hope of raising awareness about the daily homophobic abuse he has suffered.

Reece Heron told the Tonbridge Courier: “It happens all the time. Me and my boyfriend walk down the High Street holding hands and we get people shouting abuse . . . names like ‘shirtlifter’ and other horrible words.

“I don’t know why they find us offensive – it’s our life, not theirs. It makes us feel so hated.”

Mr Heron said that although he had other gay friends in the town, “they don’t really show it – they say to us we are brave for showing it. But it’s a normal relationship, [so] why would I want to hide it?”

Yesterday afternoon, a local reporter accompanied Mr Heron and his boyfriend along the High Street to witness the extent of the prejudice.

According to the paper, there were five examples of what could be described as homophobic abuse, ranging from pointing and jeering, to all-out aggressive verbal abuse from one man who called the couple “poofters” and gesticulated to them from across the street.

Mr Heron and boyfriend Simon Bennett, also 18, claimed a man in his twenties told them he hoped they’d die of AIDS and that two young women with children told them they should be ashamed of themselves.

Mr Heron said: “If anything did happen to hurt either one of us we would go straight to the police, but with verbal abuse it’s hard to do that. We would feel a bit stupid reporting some name-calling.”

Inspector John Phillips said: “There are a range of agencies that offer support to victims of hate crime and we have specially trained officers to investigate hate crime offences.

“I would urge anyone who feels they have been a victim of a hate crime, or who thinks they might have witnessed one, to report it to us and to be confident that we will take it seriously and investigate it sensitively.”

In response, a peaceful protest against homophobia has been arranged in the town for this Saturday 18 August at Tonbridge Castle: https://www.facebook.com/events/145828328888703/