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Trans refugee cruelly forced into homelessness after years of abuse from neighbour. It’s a microcosm of transphobia in Britain

Vic Parsons January 21, 2021
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Trans refugee forced into homelessness after years of transphobic abuse

Flowers and placards after the Black Trans Lives Matter march in London, June 2020. (WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

R, a trans refugee living in London, had endured her transphobic flatmate for almost two years by the time she called the police.

When the man first moved into the property she was living in – a house divided into five individual flats – he kept making excuses to talk to her, telling her she was beautiful or to smile more. As time went on and she kept politely rebuffing him, he became angry and violent: making accusations, harassing her, banging on her door, shouting from the hall when she had friends round.

Once, when the two of them were alone in the building, he came in while she was doing her washing and accused R of following him.

“Imagine,” she recalls softly. “I didn’t say anything. I left my washing, and I went upstairs. He knocked on my door three or four times, shouting at me, accusing me of following him.”

“He sexually wanted me,” she explains. “When I have a male friend in my flat, he gets mad. He wants to be that one.”

They had lived like this for almost two years, sharing the main entrance to the flat and the washing machine. R stayed out of his way, in her own flat.

‘He called me a faggot and a witch’

Finally, on 8 January, things came to a head.

R was collecting her laundry from the shared washing machine downstairs when the man chased her upstairs, back up to her flat.

“He was knocking on my door, shouting at me: ‘You think you are a homosexual? You think you are a woman? You’re a disgusting piece of s**t!'”

R had the presence of mind to film the man as he crashed around in the hallway downstairs. In two videos seen by PinkNews, he shouts “you’re a faggot” at R, telling her to “suck d**k you f**king p***k”.

“You’re a f**king witch… I’m not bothering you go suck your faggot c**k you idiot… I think homosexuals are dogs going to hell.”

“Is that harassment?” he asks as R records him with her phone. “If I was harassing you I’d smash your f**king face in, you f**king dickhead. Record this and give it to the police.”

With four out of every five trans people reporting that they’ve experienced a transphobic hate crime in the last year, R’s experience is sadly not unusual.

And like R, almost one in four trans people in the UK has experienced transphobia in their own home, according to a distressing report from LGBT+ anti-violence charity Galop last November that revealed the scale of transphobia in Britain.

Afraid of her neighbour, R called the police. The person on the phone walked her through blocking the door with her wardrobe so the man, still banging and shouting outside, couldn’t get in to her flat.

But what happened when the police arrived really shocked her. “I thought they would arrest him straightaway,” R says. “They were listening to everything while they were on their way to me. So I felt safe, with the police coming.”

She hoped the police would stop him. Instead, the police spoke “quietly” to the man and listened to him “silently”, R claims, before coming up to her flat.

“They said to me, ‘Look, this person doesn’t like you. And according to his beliefs, his religion, you are not accepted. You are a sinner, going to hell.'” The police told her that if she gave them a statement about what happened then they would arrest him, but that he’d be back in the property within 24 hours.

“I thought about it for a second,” she says. “I was alone, I was panicking, and I imagined him coming back in 24 hours to kill me or to attack me.

“The police said, ‘Leave this place for your security.’ So I did.”

Trans people reporting transphobic hate crime to the police

Galop’s report found that only one in seven trans people who experience a transphobic attack report it to the police.

Of those who didn’t bother going to the police, more than a third said it was because they thought the police themselves would be transphobic. Seventy per cent felt the police could not help them.

R says she called the police because she was “panicking and paranoid”. She was afraid the man would get into her flat and physically attack her, and she thought the police would help keep her safe.

But, she claims, “All I got from the police was a crime reference number.”

The Metropolitan Police said they went to R’s flat that Friday evening “following an allegation of transphobic abuse”.

“Officers attended and spoke with a woman at the property. She gave a verbal account but did not wish to provide a formal statement. Instead, she asked that officers provide the other party with words of advice, making clear that she did not wish to communicate with him further, which they did,” a spokesperson said.

“Following the incident, the victim was contacted and provided with a reference number. She thanked officers and confirmed that she was satisfied with the outcome. She understood that she could call police if anything changed.”

Housing

When R first spoke to PinkNews, she’d been homeless for a week. “I have no family, no relatives, I’m a refugee here, and I’m transgender,” she says.

R was staying in a hotel, having spent one night in emergency accommodation provided by Haringey Council. But the council had deemed her “not a priority” and sent her on her way the following day.

For the next five nights, she stayed between a shelter, hostels and hotels, too afraid to go home. Finally, the council changed its mind.

Councillor Emine Ibrahim, cabinet member for housing and estate renewal at Haringey Council, said R had been in touch “after she experienced a hate crime in the communal area of her home”.

The councillor continued: “As a result of the incident, she reported that she no longer felt safe there and could not return. The team accepted [R]’s homeless status and offered discretionary accommodation for a night while her case was investigated.

“Following an initial assessment, [R] was found not to be in priority need by Homes for Haringey; however, the decision has since been withdrawn in light of new information. [R] will be made an offer of temporary accommodation while her support needs are assessed further.”

Trans refugee: ‘I just want to be safe’

R says she’s speaking out about what happened to her because she “wants to show the reality” of being trans in the UK, being a refugee, being a woman.

“I’m not homeless because I can’t afford my flat. I’m not homeless because I lost my job. I’m homeless because of my neighbour,” she says.

“I always like to be quiet, to be silent, to live peacefully,” R says. “I’m not a troublemaker.”

“The dream of my life now is just to have some safety somewhere, where nobody can s**t on my life anymore.”

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.

Related topics: Galop, Hate crime, homelessness, London, Trans, trans hate crime, transphobia

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