Although hate crime is designed to hurt the community, it often has the opposite effect. It has united people to action and strengthened the community’s sense of itself.
1999: Admiral Duncan pub bombing
Serious hate crime incidents in the UK have, mercifully, been quite rare. However, the attack in Soho stands out in the minds of many.
On 30 April 1999, a nail bomb exploded in the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho, killing three people and wounding 97. Although the attack was aimed at hurting the gay community, it perhaps brought it closer together. It also demonstrated that the LGBT community is not just made up of LGBT people. Many of the victims of the bombing in the Admiral Duncan that night were straight friends of gay men.
‘It wasn’t until three weeks later, when I began to recover from my injuries, that I was told Andrea, John and Nick had been killed. I was told I had been unconscious and my injuries were very serious.’
– Julian Dykes, survivor of the Admiral Duncan bombing
The Pink Singers sang ‘Hand in Hand’ at the memorial service in the courtyard of St Anne’s Church in Soho the Friday following the bombing.
Still a bleak picture
While the last known execution for being gay in the UK was in 1836, there are still many countries in the world where being gay is a crime punishable by death.
The Pink Singers sang at World Pride 2012 in honour of those fighting for their rights around the world. We regularly travel to other countries to support Pride movements.
Over the years we have had members who have moved to London looking for a new life and to escape the persecution they would face in their home country. The choir has offered strength and support during the years it has taken for them to receive permission to remain in the UK.
Marching in Malta
In 2008, a Maltese choir member arranged for the choir to perform with a local Christian choir in support of Malta Pride.
The presence of the Pink Singers doubled the number of marchers and the choir received a special mention from the Bishop of Gozo who said we would go to hell.
Choir members remembered the trip as a powerful experience and one observer recalled, ‘The Maltese EU parliamentary representative stood up and professed his ignorance regarding the gay rights movement and his desire to work with the community towards a greater acceptance and social freedom.
Amazingly, the Maltese Prime Minister followed his lead and has now established a lobby group to promote gay rights on the island. Further to this, the Malta Gay Rights Movement has set the wheels in motion for the formation of a gay choir, an amazing development considering the current social ramifications of being openly homosexual in Malta.’
Violent attacks in the USA have had a strong influence on people living in the UK.
In 1993 Brandon Teena was murdered in an attack fuelled by transphobia. This was the first such hate crime to get wide media coverage and the story was adapted to make the film Boys Don’t Cry which raised public awareness of the trans community.
In 2009, civil servant Ian Baynham was murdered by teenagers as he walked home across Trafalgar Square at night.
This tragedy highlights the crucial importance of discussing LBGT people and issues in school, and supporting teachers in standing up against homophobic bullying.
Particularly shocking to many was the central role played in the attack by a 19-year-old former public school girl. Police found blood smeared on the ballet pumps she was wearing as she kicked the unconscious man.
‘It seems so ironic that his life ended so horrifically and senselessly on the streets of London which he loved so much.’
Jenny Baynham, sister of Ian
Anti-hate crime vigil
In the face of hate crime, LGBT groups have come together to show solidarity.
London LGBT music groups, including the Pink Singers, performed together at the Anti-Hate Crime Vigil in Trafalgar Square. It commemorated the victims of the Admiral Duncan bombing, and the Brick Lane and Brixton bombings which were also carried out by the same perpetrator.
Not proper mothers
Persecution of lesbians has often been through the denial of access to their children.
Although much homophobic legislation did not apply to women, many women suffered at the hands of the law when they were caught up in custody battles for their children and deemed unfit to be mothers on grounds of their sexuality. Significant psychological research has demonstrated that LGBT parents are every bit as effective as ‘straight’ parents. Two of our altos, Frances and Susan, are pictured here with their daughters.
When someone is killed or attacked as a result of homophobia, the shock reverberates beyond the victim’s family and friends.
As members of the LGBT community we feel a combination of fear and anger, which can contribute towards undermining a personal sense of worth. But attacks have also inspired collective action and strengthened communities.
Between 1986 and 1989, Gay Times identified 55 murders of gay men in the UK, 28 of them in London. The prominent group OutRage! was set up following the murder of actor Michael Boothe. Identified strongly with the activist Peter Tatchell, OutRage! promotes radical, non-violent direct action and civil disobedience in support of gay rights.