As a supporter of LGBT rights and a member of the heavy metal subculture, I think it is time both movements started working together around the world to end violence against us.
UK’s Greater Manchester Police (GMP) recently branded attacks on members of alternative subcultures as ‘hate crimes’. I am pleased with this classification – but it is only a small step on the road to equality.
Attacks on such people are not reported often. So every society has much work to do. This includes attacks carried out in and by anti-gay nations like Indonesia and Uzbekistan.
I can tell you I have had plenty of homophobic abuse thrown at me because of my long hair and effeminate clothes. But that is nowhere as bad as being imprisoned, told how to live or worse – physically assaulted. That is what has happened to some subculture members.
The murder of goth girl Sophie Lancaster, is one example of an assault over someone’s dress code. The Sophie Lancaster Foundation was set up in remembrance. And it’s this killing that sparked the move by the GMP.
Many members of the punk, goth and emo subcultures also identify themselves as LGBT. Being attacked for your sexuality is a current definition of a hate crime, therefore being attacked for your dress code must be treated as an equal motive.
And human rights activist Peter Tatchell said: ‘I am glad that Manchester police have broadened their definition of hate crimes to include subcultural groups who are victims of prejudice-motivated criminal acts.
‘I hope other police forces will follow GMP’s lead. All crimes perpetrated because of intolerance should be treated as hate crimes. They merit a strong police response.’
GMP’s website says: ‘From April 2013 GMP also now records alternative sub-culture related hate crime.
‘We have done this following work we have carried out in partnership with the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, as we feel that adding this extra category of hate crime will help us better understand how some people are suffering from crimes because of their appearance.’
However, we are talking about an achievement in the UK, a democracy with great respect for civil liberties. The British enjoy greater freedoms than people living in nations which are not democratic. It is in these countries where hate crimes are the rule of law – and that needs to change.
For example last August, the goth scene in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, were blamed for a cemetery being desecrated and several goths were imprisoned. In Uzbekistan homosexuality is illegal and can carry a prison sentence up to three years.
The same goes for Indonesia, which imprisoned a group of punk rockers in 2011 because their appearance apparently ‘offended’ Sharia law. Last we heard of these victims, they had been sent for ‘re-education’.
Same-sex couples in Indonesia are not given the same legal protection as opposite-sex couples, and they are not allowed civil unions.
My point is, activism must carry on raising awareness of anti-gay and anti-alternative subcultures around the world. (The Sophie Lancaster Foundation is an excellent place to start.) And it must be driven by solidarity.
The LGBT movement needs to build solidarity with subcultures seeking acceptance. We are all after the same thing: equality and respect.
The LGBT movement is a global phenomenon just like the alternative scene in every country – it’s time we start working in global unison to urge our governments to recognize us.
One police force has recognized our concerns – so let’s bring them to the rest of the world.
If you live in the UK and want to take part in raising awareness, one place you can go to is Stop Hate UK.
You can also show your support by buying wristbands from the Sophie Lancaster Foundation’s website.
And if you’re reading this from another country, I suggest you talk to anyone who belongs to either your LGBT movement or alternative culture and discuss how they are looked upon by society.