International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) was May 17th

Every year, in celebration of International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, we see services and individuals flying the rainbow flag in solidarity for their local LGBT+ community.

This year, we will fly it for these reasons, except this time the flag will represent so much more.

As we first went into lockdown, one of Hart Gables’ longest-standing service users, Catherine, became very ill with Covid-19.

For over nearly a decade, Catherine has become part of the Hart Gables ‘family’, championing LGBT+ rights, helping to train Cleveland Police new recruits, and taking part in several campaigns against hate crime. She has also supported many of her peers through poor mental health, helping to bring them back from some very dark places.

Thankfully, she beat the virus and is now back on her feet but unfortunately, on Saturday last week she was transphobically assaulted by two members of the public for how she looked, she was called ‘a freak’ amongst many other cruel words and then as the two men laughed, they threw a metal object at her.

From the moment Catherine tested positive for Covid-19 she was treated with respect and compassion from 111 responders, paramedics and the hospital staff from James Cook University Hospital. At no point did Catherine’s gender identity even matter, she was a just woman, a woman who needed help and was given it by a brilliant team of people.
In her words ‘they couldn’t have done enough’/

On the day Catherine was assaulted outside her house she flagged down a nearby Police car, the officers parked up and went to visit her and take some details as well as take away the metal object for evidence. Within a few hours the officers were back for her to sign a statement so she could move on to the next steps of the reporting process. Catherine had nothing but good words to say about the response from Cleveland Police in fact, the way they approached the situation gave her the confidence to take her report as far as she possibly can.

When we asked her how it made her feel she said, ‘it felt really good to be taken seriously, that what happened to me mattered’.

Since then, Catherine has commented on the support she has received from the street wardens in her area employed by Middlesbrough Council, she says, they make her feel ‘safe’ and often ‘keep an eye on her’ as they are aware she is a vulnerable person.

Catherine says, this ‘sends a positive message for the whole LGBT+ community and will hopefully give people the confidence to report hate incidents.’

The rainbow flag will mean many things to many people, and whilst meanings will differ from person to person, we like to think the foundations originate from a similar place.
It is a symbol both of individuality and togetherness, with its many colours all displayed together as one. It represents solidarity, such as that within our key work force, and the difference those people are making to the lives of thousands of people across the country.
The rainbow inspires Catherine because it represents survival, hope, and self-worth. She says, ‘When I was going through hate crime years ago, I had no one. I didn’t do anything, because I didn’t think I could. The difference now is that I know where to go for support, and I know I’m worth more than that. My life is as important as everyone else’s. I’ve survived hate crime, struggles with mental health, and now Covid-19. Nothing is going to take me down!’

Sarah Lewis, Chief Exec of Hart Gables says,

‘Today, as we fly the rainbow flag in support of IDAHO 2020, we also fly it in support of the many people risking their lives working on the frontline, those people are connecting us together without even knowing it. In the time of this devastating pandemic, they continue to make a difference to the lives of many people, and for that we are thankful’.

Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger said: “I am saddened to hear of the attack on Catherine, but I am encouraged to hear of the positive experience they received from Cleveland Police. Since I came into office in 2012 supporting victims of hate crime has been a key priority for me. I have invested in dedicated Hate Crime Investigators to ensure that victims of this awful crime receive as thorough a service as possible.

“I have also supported the Everyone Matters programme, including cultural awareness sessions for front line staff to ensure that they are fully trained to support members of diverse communities sensitively. And I have invested in Community and Diversity Officers to work with the wider Cleveland Police Engagement team and build bridges between Cleveland Police and the communities they support. I would encourage anyone who has been a victim of hate crime to report this to the police. The police are here to support you and to ensure that victimisation of this kind stops.”

Cleveland Police

Police & Crime Commissioner for Cleveland
Middlesbrough Council

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