Brexit, racial and religious hate crimes and homo-, bi- and trans*phobia – why they are all linked

Put Sexism, Racism an Homophobia in the trash. Kurt Löwenstein Educational Center International Team from Germany. Wikicommons. Some rights reserved.Last
month, the UK Home Office released a disturbing report on hate crimes in the
wake of Brexit. The Home Office reported, ‘The number of racially or religiously
aggravated offences recorded by the police in July 2016 was 41% higher than in
July 2015’. 

Days earlier, the LGBT anti-violence charity Galop
released its own post-Brexit hate crime figures. Compared to the support Galop
gave to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people experiencing hate
crimes in July, August and September last year, the charity reported a 147%
increase in the same period this year. 

If
the first set of figures was expected by many, the second set was not. As the Guardian reported, ‘few analysts predicted a rise
in hate crime based on victims’ sexual orientation’ and/or gender identity,
especially a rise that ‘is proportionately higher than other hate crime rises
in the wake of Brexit’. So what explains this rise?

The
explanation that has gained the most traction is rooted in the idea of a
spillover of hate. It suggests that hate crimes against LGBT people post-Brexit
is the result of how toxic pro-leave prejudices
about race and religion spread beyond racially and religiously marked targets, making LGBT people
additional post-Brexit targets. 

There are grounds to support this
explanation.  For example, the actor Colin Appleby
reported that days after the Brexit vote in Convent Garden in central
London, he heard a group of people singing a version of Rule Britannia, with eerie
echoes of 1930s German Nazism:

“Rule Britannia

Britannia rules the waves

First we’ll get the Poles out, then the
gays”

The unprovoked killing of Polish national Arkadiusz Jóźwik
in Harlow in August and the Galop statistics on rising homophobic,
biphobic and trans*phobic hate crimes seem to suggest this specific spillover
from ‘getting the Poles’ to ‘getting the gays’ is indeed taking place in
post-Brexit Britain.

Missing links

Yet
this explanation misses two crucial issues. 
It misses how racial and religious toxicities are
built into understandings about sexual
orientation and gender identity (SOGI). And it misses how these intertwined
toxicities have historically been and continue to be linked to nationalist and
sovereign claims made on behalf of a state and its people. Taken together,
then, the spillover explanation overlooks how mostly pejorative – though
sometimes positive – understandings of things like race, religion, class,
gender, and ability are intertwined with both SOGI issues and with
understandings of ‘the British nation’ and ‘British sovereignty’.

Here are three reasons why the spillover
explanation misses this.

First, the spillover explanation assumes
race and religion are separate or separable from SOGI issues. First, the spillover explanation assumes race and
religion are separate or separable from sexual orientation and gender identity
issues. This is why racial and religious prejudices can ‘spread beyond’
racial and religious targets and can ‘spill over’ to target minoritized SOGI
victims. What comes with this assumption is a conflation of ‘the British LGBT’ with
being white, Anglo and Christian – a British person is imagined as either sexually minoritized or racially/religiously minoritized, but
not both at the same time. This not only erases the existence of ‘British LGBT’
people who are racialized and/or who share the spirituality of post-Brexit
religious hate crime victims. It also erases those ‘British LGBT’ people who
combine these categories differently.

Second, this separation circulates the idea
that to be understood as ‘a normal LGBT’, a person must tick only presumptively
normal categories – like white, Anglo and Christian. So if you are this kind of
‘British LGBT’, that now makes you ‘normal’
in most UK law. But if you are read as non-white and/or British Pakistani
and/or Muslim, that still makes you culturally ‘deviant’ in the UK. So the
‘non-white, British Pakistani, Muslim LGBT’ ends up being someone who is legally
normal and culturally deviant at the same time in the same place. 

Finally, the separation of race and
religion from SOGI issues demonstrates no understanding about how the sexuality
of ‘Ls’ and ‘Gs’ and ‘Bs’ and ‘Ts’ is rooted in modern western discourses that
connect particularly homosexuality to pejorative understandings of race,
religion, class, ability and civilization. 

For example, it does not grasp how ‘the
homosexual’ in particular has been marked by medical,
psychological and religious discourses as not only sexually but also morally
and civilizationally underdeveloped
or un-developable. It does not grasp how ‘the colonial savage’ and ‘the racially
degenerate’ were cast in
British colonial imaginaries as ‘perverse homosexuals’, whose presumed homosexuality
was outlawed by colonial governments. And it does not grasp how these understandings
did not just disappear when ‘the British LGBT’ became a new normal figure. They
persist
to this day in national and international understandings and policies
around development, immigration, security, human rights and national, regional
and international integration.

What that means, then, is that even the
white, Anglo, Christian ‘British LGBT’ is inseparable from the hated ‘deviant
immigrant’ and/or ‘monstrous
Muslim’ found in pro-Brexit discourse, even when British discourses of tolerance of
‘the British LGBT’ at the same time connect it to an expanded understanding
of ‘the normal British citizen’ through civil partnership, same-sex marriage, and military service laws. It does not grasp how ‘the homosexual’ in particular has
been marked by medical, psychological and religious discourses as not only
sexually but also morally and civilizationally underdeveloped or un-developable.

By failing to recognize how race and
religion are integral to and inseparable from understandings of ‘the
post-Brexit British LGBT’, proponents of (just) spillover explanations of hate
crimes misread the post-Brexit landscape. 

They misread this landscape in part because
they fail to see how homo-, bi-, and trans*-phobias are not distinct from
racial and religious prejudices. Rather, some phobias around SOGI issues exist because of how racial and religious
prejudices make them possible. Had they understood this, they would not have
been surprised by the rise in attacks against ‘L’ and ‘G’ and ‘B’ and ‘T’
people post-Brexit.

Grasping how prejudices around things like
race, religion and sexual orientation and gender identity are inextricably entwined/
intersectionally
connected and
persistently activated in the name of nationalism and sovereignty is crucial
to combating all sorts of hate crimes. It’s time to get over our surprise and
get on with this difficult work.

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