Gay men 'don't feel comfortable expressing themselves in Chesterfield' following homophobic abuse
Concerns have been raised that LGBTQ+ people don’t feel comfortable expressing themselves or going on dates in public in Chesterfield, after homophobic attacks and abuse.
LGBTQ+ rights campaigner Calum McDermott from Hasland said he received ‘worrying’ messages from people who have been attacked in venues in the town and others who have been subjected to homophobic slurs while on dates.
One gay man, who has lived in Chesterfield all his life and wished to remain anonymous, told the 24-year-old that would now feel uncomfortable meeting up with a partner in the town and would prefer to travel to Derby, Sheffield or Nottingham – where he felt there would be less discrimination.
It comes after a man was left with a broken cheekbone following a ‘vicious’ assault in Barlborough last week, when a group of men are alleged to have used homophobic language before beating him up.
Peter Domanic, from Creswell, was left was a broken cheekbone, multiple cuts and severe swelling after he defended a friend who was referred to in a derogatory fashion.Derbyshire Constabulary confirmed it is investigating reports of an assault and is urging witnesses to come forward.
Calum, who is a producer for the LGBTQ+ radio station Gaydio in Manchester, said: “It is obviously incredibly worrying but it is also great that people feel confident enough to speak to me.
"It's awful to hear of these instances during pride month especially."
John Yates-Harold, a hate crime advocate at Derbyshire LGBT has supported victims who are reluctant to officially report the discrimination they’ve received to the police.
While working at the charity’s Chesterfield Centre pre-Covid, he spoke to a transgender person who had reported 27 hate crime incidents within a 24 hour period – after they received abuse in the town and their workplace.
John, whose role is funded by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Derbyshire to support LGBT+ hate crime victims, described cases like this as ‘not unusual’ with many people recording ‘countless incidents’.
Nationally, there is a ‘massive under-reporting of hate crime from within our community’ said the charity worker, with estimates that 80% of cases are not formally reported along with a 19% increase in hate crimes against lesbian, gay and bisexual communities.
John added: “As a community, hate incidents/hate crimes have become part of our collective DNA: we expect to be abused because of how we present ourselves to the world.
"It fundamentally affects our daily lives and, left unchecked and unresolved, can affect us throughout our lives.
"As a victim of hate crime myself, I speak from personal experience.
“We learn coping strategies and are on our guard when going out in the community "just in case".
"For some people I have supported, it makes them prisoners in their own homes.
"For some, they cannot even go out in their own gardens because of fear of continued abuse from neighbours.”
Calum, who also experienced homophobic bullying while he was in school, is calling for allies of the LGBT+ community to do more to call out discrimination when they see it and share their support on social media.
He said: "I would say it is getting better but then there's people coming to me and saying they don't feel comfortable or free to be themselves on a day to day basis.
"To hear that sort of thing is happening is disgusting and to know people are being victimised is awful.
“I remember in school guys throwing a rugby ball in my direction and it hit a girl instead - who was next to me.
"He went 'sorry, that was for Calum' and that was obviously to do with me being gay and at the time I hadn't even come out at school.
"I've had times in clubs where people have used slurs against me, that's just been because I’m dancing in a club and people have felt comfortable enough to be like that.”
The radio producer previously moved to Manchester for university but recently returned to his hometown, which he fears is less accepting of LGBTQ+ people.
Calum added: "With me growing up in Chesterfield, I felt like I had to be a subdued version of myself.
"I didn't feel comfortable being more extroverted and that is why now, when I've faced this pain and I've witnessed other people going through attacks and similar experiences, I feel comfortable using my voice.
"I want to turn that pain into a power for not only myself but for these people suffering in Chesterfield.
"There's a genuine fear from the people who have reached out to me, they have expressed that pride is so important to them because it is a place where they can exist without worries and they wouldn't be able to do so in the same sort of way, outside of that event."
Chesterfield Pride will be held at Queen’s Park on Sunday, July 18 with Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK star Joe Black heading the event – after last year’s celebrations were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Calum is urging other businesses in Chesterfield to do more to stand up for the LGBT community and help keep them safe.
He said: "We have Pride for people to feel safe but it shouldn't just be for one month, people should be free to express themselves all year around”, Calum continued.
"I'm also calling on businesses and bars in Chesterfield to show their support for the community all year around not just during pride month when they think it is profitable."