(translation of the editorial of our Annual Report 2017)
After seeing a decrease in testimonies over the last two years, the number of hate motivated violence against LGBT people in 2016 has risen again. SOS homophobie recorded a 19.5% increase in testimonies (received on our helpline, via emails or online) compared to the year before. The highest increase in testimonies (76%) concerned transgender people. Hatred of lesbians, gays, bi and transgender people (LGBT), firmly anchored in French society, persists and is even increasing.
Internet (22.5 % of testimonies) facilitates the spread of homophobic and transphobic hate speech, which has become so commonplace that it has created a climate of intolerance towards LGBT people. 42% of testimonies concern day-to-day homophobia experienced in the immediate family or from relatives and friends, in public spaces, at school or at work.
How can this be explained in view of the fact that over the last few years the civil liberties and rights of LGBT people have made great progress in France, such as the passing of the law in 2013 that gave same-sex couples the right to marry and to adopt children, or the recent legal gender recognition procedure (but so far with no “right to self-determination”), which allows transgender people to change their gender marker on documents, or the requirement for schools to address homophobia and transphobia in their curriculums?
This rise in more tolerated hate speech is largely due to the discourse of a conservative minority that repeatedly condemns these breakthroughs.
What kind of society do we want to live in? Is it a society where hatred of others is tolerated, or even encouraged? A homogenous society where all otherness is suspect and seen as a threat?
We could also opt for an open and inclusive society where the liberties and rights of each individual are accepted, regardless of their sexual orientation, their gender identity or of any kind of otherness. Then everyone must become responsible for their actions: any word or act that legitimizes and encourages homophobia make them accomplices to the violence that LGBT people are subject to, make them guilty of creating a society of violence and hatred. That is why SOS homophobie appeals to the politicians and public authorities in regard to the rearguard actions they have taken against the liberties and rights of LGBT people, their unfulfilled promises, their reluctance to acknowledge LGBT people as full-fledged citizens, all of which help fuel this hatred. How many young people have to be mocked and insulted in the schoolyard, how many acts of discrimination and assault must LGBT people continue to be subjected to before the political decision-makers will acknowledge their responsibility? How long will they continue to listen to the clamouring of a minority who propagate exclusion and intolerance, which is in total contradiction to the fundamental values of our nation? And all this despite the fact that according to the opinion polls the majority of French people approve the progress made regarding civil rights for LGBT people.
But our organisation also appeals to the sense of responsibility of civil society. Although the media has done a lot to combat homophobic and transphobic violence and promote a positive image of LGBT people in the last few years, these advances are not enough. How many more TV shows must we tolerate in which LGBT people are mocked or even insulted? In the business world, we commend the companies that have realised the importance of fighting harassment and discrimination against LGBT people, but unfortunately they only represent a minority. The issue of violence and discrimination against LGBT people in the workplace is still covered-up and ignored.
So in these contexts the goals of SOS homophobie remain essential and relevant: we will continue supporting and advising victims of homophobia and transphobia, who are often helpless in face of the violence they have been subjected to. With our prevention work in schools and businesses we will raise awareness about the mechanisms of rejection and intolerance by deconstructing stereotypes, which are often at the root of despicable behaviour. We will also continue fighting for the civil liberties and rights of LGBT people, foremost for the “right to self-determination” for all transgender people to change their gender marker on documents as well as for the legal recognition of diverse family forms, measures that are essential for a full integration of LGBT people into society.
SOS homophobie along with its members and supporters will go on striving to create an open-minded world where all human beings can live and love freely regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.