Written by James Hitchings-Hales / Global Citizen
“I’m tired of being taken as a sexual object.”
Why Global Citizens Should Care
Homophobic hate crime has increased every year in London since 2014. But all over the world, the LGBTQI+ community faces threats and stigmatisation — indeed, over 70 countries actively discriminate against them, while five even impose the death penalty. Global Goal 10 for reduced inequalities fights to end discrimination in all forms. Join our movement here to help support the world’s most vulnerable people.
Editor’s note: This story contains graphic content.
Melania Geymonat was on her way home from an evening out with her girlfriend, Chris, when the couple jumped on a night bus to Camden, London.
It was about 2:30 a.m. on May 20 when at least four men suddenly began “behaving like hooligans” on the top deck on the N31, according to Geymonat, who posted about her expeirence on Facebook. She said nobody else was there.
She alleges that the men began making crude comments, describing sexual positions, and insisted that the young women kiss each other for their entertainment.
It wasn’t long until the men were reportedly beating up the women, drawing blood, and leaving Geymonat with a suspected broken nose. She said that the gang also stole a number of items from the couple, including a bag and a phone.
Five males aged 15 to 18 have now been arrested in connection with the attack, according to the BBC. The group have been bailed to attend a court date in July on suspicion of robbery and aggravated grievous bodily harm.
“In an attempt to calm things down, I started making jokes,” Geymonat wrote in her Facebook post. “I thought this might make them go away. Chris even pretended she was sick, but they kept on harassing us, throwing us coins, and becoming more enthusiastic about it.”
“The next thing I know is that Chris is in the middle of the bus fighting with them,” she added. “On an impulse, I went over there only to find her face bleeding and three of them beating her up. The next thing I know is I’m being punched. I got dizzy at the sight of my blood and fell back. I don’t remember whether or not I lost consciousness. Suddenly the bus had stopped, the police were there and I was bleeding all over.”
Geymonat, 28, shared the harrowing experience on her Facebook page on Wednesday this week, in an attempt to draw attention to the abuse faced by women and the LGBTQI+ community on a daily basis.
Both women were taken to hospital for facial injuries. Scotland Yard investigated the attack, and since the arrests have confirmed that they are not looking for any further suspects. The attack is being treated as a hate crime by the Metropolitan police, according to the Guardian.
The Metro reports that Geymonat is originally from Uruguay, but moved to Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, in February on a sabbatical from her medical studies. She works as an air hostess for Ryanair, while her girlfriend Chris lives in Camden.
“What upsets me the most is that violence has become a common thing, that sometimes it’s necessary to see a woman bleeding after having been punched to feel some kind of impact,” Geymonat continued in her Facebook post. “I’m tired of being taken as a sexual object, of finding out that these situations are usual, of gay friends who were beaten up just because.”
“We have to endure verbal harassment and chauvinist, misogynistic, and homophobic violence because when you stand up for yourself shit like this happens,” she said. “I just hope that in June, Pride Month, stuff like this can be spoken out loudly so they stop happening.”
Geymonat’s post has since gone viral, and been shared over 10,000 times. It’s provoked rage and empathy online from an array of public figures including Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who called it a “disgusting, misogynistic attack” as Pride Month is celebrated all over the world throughout June.
Maybe those who have the original, witty and clever idea of saying "Why can't we have a STRAIGHT Pride month?" might ask themselves how many times they've been shamed, bullied, mocked, stigmatised, isolated, beaten, terrorised, assaulted for being straight https://t.co/45isWzfkWA
— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) June 7, 2019
I’ve lost count of the number of lesbian friends who’ve told me about men aggressively demanding they perform their sexuality for them; or the number of times men have gotten aggressive when me or other women reject their advances.
This isn’t an outlier. https://t.co/AFLPgVWORC
— Ash Sarkar (@AyoCaesar) June 7, 2019
This was a disgusting, misogynistic attack. Hate crimes against the LGBT+ community will not be tolerated in London.
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) June 7, 2019
This is the worst thing I’ve seen today. It takes some people most their life to come out. And when they do these are the things they they have to deal with?? 🤦🏾♀️ Men beating up WOMEN because they won’t fulfil ur fantasy?! Please share for more awareness 💔 https://t.co/qf4P70xwfQ
— #CARMEN 💜💔 (@LadyLeshurr) June 7, 2019
Absolutely shocking. We must not, and will not, accept this homophobic and misogynist violence in our society. Solidarity to Melania and Chris, and to all in the LGBT+ community for everything they endure for simply being who they are.https://t.co/C4t7lxrr0M
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) June 7, 2019
The UK launched the largest survey of LGBTQI+ people anywhere in the world in June 2017, polling over 108,000 people, including 61% who identified as gay or lesbian, as part of a 75-point action plan that featured a ban on so-called “gay conversion therapy.”
It found that two-thirds of respondents feared holding hands in public, while nearly a quarter said that somebody in the workplace had responded negatively to their being LGBTQI+. Hate crimes had been experienced by 40%, while nine in 10 serious incidents went unreported.
There has been a marked increase in homophobic hate crimes in London every year since 2014. Indeed, the BBC reports that it’s doubled between 2014 and 2018 — with 2,308 reported crimes in the capital last year, compared with 1,488 four years before.
One detective said that was in some part due to better reporting, with more willingness for victims to come forward, and better awareness by police.
Britain is the fourth-best country in the world for LGBTQI+ rights, according to the ILGA-Europe Rainbow index, a snapshot of January to December 2018, published this year. But Laura Russell, director of campaigns, policy, and research at LGBTQI+ equality charity Stonewall, insisted that the attack shows that we must do much more.
“This attack is an upsetting reminder of how much we still have to do for LGBT equality,” Russell said in response to Geymonat’s Facebook post. “It’s tempting to think that in 2019, we are safe from attacks like these, and indeed we all should be. But sadly, this isn’t the reality.”
The story of the young couple has prompted others to share their own stories of misogyny and homophobia from around the UK, too.
I was on a date with a woman in a bar on exmouth market and a man came over to us, tried to force us to kiss, was aggressive. Nobody intervened. We had to leave. Everyone loves ‘pride’ but is quiet faced w the reality of why we need pride & protection https://t.co/anWXpYAtpG
— Eli Goldstone (@eligoldstone) June 7, 2019
This has happened to me too many times. Once, two men, trying to chat us up, got aggressive and sexual when we said we were on a date and to leave us. Started making lewd remarks, trying to force us to kiss to 'prove it' because we were clearly 'lying to get rid of them'
— Zoë Paskett🏳️🌈 (@ZoePaskett) June 7, 2019
This brings back awful memories. Me+ former partner kissed on a London bus and group of boys started jeering and taking pictures of us. It felt like we were just dolls for their entertainment. I knew it was wrong but the shame and fear we felt completely ruined our relationship.
— Katherine Sirrell (@KatherineSirre1) June 7, 2019