“If it wasn’t going to happen to me that night, it was going to happen to someone else.”
This is how Loukas Prodromou talks of being punched in the face last month – as an act of violence inflicted not on a specific individual, but on whichever member of the LGBT community was unlucky enough to run into a small group of men riding around east London in a party limo that night.
The 28-year-old drag performer had nipped out from The Glory – the east London venue where he was appearing – to get some cash from a supermarket ATM.
“There were three of them in there and they were like ‘ugh, what’s that?’,” he tells HuffPost UK.
“They started to film me on their phones, antagonising me and trying to be funny. I was walking back to the venue and he took me from a blind spot and just completely knocked me out.
“It was a fucking blow to the face.”
Police were called but, fearing retribution from his attackers, Loukas chose not to help prosecute them.
He will be one of an estimated 500 people taking to the streets of Hackney on Friday night as part of the newly-launched “Night Pride” – a protest “in response to the massive rise in hate crimes” in the UK.
And it’s not just anecdotal – official statistics released last year lay bare the shocking increase.
Police in England and Wales recorded 103,379 hate crimes in 2018/19 – 10% more than the previous year and more than double the 2012/13 figure of 42,255.
While race remained the main trigger in the majority of reported offences there were also significant jumps in the number of transgender identity hate crimes – up by 37% in the last year from 1,703 to 2,333 – and a 25% hike in offences motivated by sexual orientation (14,491, up from 11,592).
Of all the hate crimes recorded by police, one third involved violence.
The collective organisers of the march insist it is “not a demand for equality” nor “a demand for better policing” or “a demand for mere tolerance and acceptance”.
In a statement, they wrote: “We are revolting, and we will have true liberation! We will hold hands, share affection, kiss our friends and lovers wherever we want. We won’t be confined to the safety of our homes, clubs and community spaces.
“We will express our gender identity in any way we damn please. We are unapologetic and unashamed. We are authentic and real. We are many and we will no longer be attacked.”
Another of those attending is Madeline Street, 23, from south London, who was assaulted and spat at while getting off the Tube with her girlfriend after Pride last year.
“I can speak for London because that’s where I live,” she said. “I feel like it’s got more volatile over the last few years and I truly believe there’s a sense of tension.
“And after the Brexit vote it almost created a divide in the country and I think people are now more willing to express hate to all areas of minorities, especially LGBT.”
The effects of hate crimes last long after they’re committed. A report by Stonewall last year that surveyed the LGBT community in Scotland found almost half had experienced depression.
More than half of trans people (52%) said they had thought of taking their own life in the last year, while two in five (37%) have avoided seeking healthcare for fear of discrimination.
Three in five (60%) LGBT people reported experiencing anxiety in the last year, including nearly four in five (77%) trans people.
While Friday’s march will provide a visible display of unity and support for the LGBT community, both Street and Prodromou are clear about what the long-term solution is – education.
“If we start early and normalise something which is incredibly normal which is how people identify and their sexualities, then as people grow up they won’t necessarily have these prejudices,” says Madeline.
Speaking of the man who punched him, Loukas says: “I’d love to meet him.
“What he saw was the the front cover of the book but he doesn’t know any of the pages.”
Useful websites and helplines:
- London Lesbian & Gay switchboard (LLGS) is a free confidential support & information helpline for LGBT communities throughout the UK | 0300 330 0630
- Manchester Lesbian and Gay Switchboard is a free support, information and referral service for the Manchester and North-West area | 0161 235 8000
- Stonewall for more information on other LGBT services and helplines | 08000 502020