June is supposed to celebrate Pride, but it’s also leading to an increase in hate crimes in Utah
At the start of Pride Month, tens of thousands of Utahns took to the streets of Salt Lake City over the weekend to participate in the Pride festival and parade. And across the state, multicolored flags wave in the wind.
But the festivities came as lawmakers wage a political battle to curb the rights of the very community that Pride Month aims to celebrate.
In May, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, sent a letter to Disney asking them to label shows and movies featuring LGBTQ issues and characters as disturbing content. During the state’s last legislative session, lawmakers reintroduced a bill banning gender-affirming health care for minors and passed a law banning transgender girls from participating in school sports teams that match their gender. gender identity.
Then there was a letter from Rep. Kera Birkeland sent to schools with so-called advice on transgender issues written by an out-of-state group.
“At some point it goes beyond rhetoric,” said Salt Lake Tribune reporter Paighten Harkins. “I think that’s what makes people nervous. What’s the step beyond talking about this stuff? »
Harkins wrote on May 31 that hate crimes against LGBTQ people in Utah nearly doubled in 2021 and climbed each year in June. Now, amid a divisive politics, Harkins said community members fear a further push.
Three people were recently assaulted as they left a Pride event. During the attack, the suspect shouted hate speech at the victims. For this reason, the police are investigating a hate crime.
If you have been the victim of a hate crime, the Human Rights Campaign urges you to seek medical help, if necessary, record as many details of the crime as soon as possible, file reports and find help.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Pamela McCall: You start your article with the story of Taylor Nelson from Provo. What has Taylor been through?
Paighten Harkins: Taylor rented this house in 2016 and raised a pride flag. And that was right when Donald Trump got elected. It is a conservative city. He foresaw that the pride flag might disappear. Someone could take it. But nothing happened for years, until this last year when it was stolen once. They put it back and then it was stolen again.
He was nervous. He had co-founded this inclusive theater space in Provo, and so he’s someone when you think of LGBTQ people in Provo, he’s a more prominent person. But when his pride flag was flown, he said it was a small thing, but it’s indicative of what he sees as a cultural shift where people are less tolerant, less accepting of LGBTQ people.
PM: Does this constitute a hate crime?
pH: It could. He did not report it to the police. But it’s possible that if prosecutors saw this, they could say it was a hate crime because it would target all members of the LGBTQ community.
PM: What does the data say about the number of hate crimes directed at Utah’s LGBTQ community last year and during Pride Month in particular?
pH: Thus, last year, in Utah, there were 42 against 22 the previous year. So that’s a doubling from 2020 to 2021. And it’s worth mentioning that the other hate crime subcategories also saw big increases. Anti-religion hate crimes also nearly doubled, there was at least a double-digit increase in anti-racial hate crimes. There are about three reasons why this could happen. One is just that more police are reporting right now because Utah changed the way it reports crime statistics in general. Basically, it’s just more in-depth. The other reason could be that with greater awareness, people report more to the police. Third, there may be more hate crimes. The way the state displays this data on its hate crimes website is in the form of a bar graph, and they break it down by month. And you can just see that June is this big orange square versus all the months that are these little thin shards. And there were 10 cases of a type of crime that targeted the entire LGBTQ community in June of last year. It seemed revealing.
PM: What does that tell us?
pH: June is Pride Month. It’s a month where the focus is on LGBTQ rights and issues, and the way a lot of people do that is by putting up pride flags in front of their homes. So, I don’t know if those 10 crimes targeted pride flags or something, but it was kind of a targeted attack on LGBTQ people.
PM: You wrote that officials say hate crimes not only harm the victim, but also have a chilling effect on the whole community. What do you mean?
pH: Experts have told me that if someone assaults someone, it’s a traumatic incident. But if you are attacked because you are wearing a pride shirt or because you are gay or something like that, that harm is not only done to you but to other members of your community. And it starts to permeate that fear into the rest of the community and make you change the way you live your life.
PM: How has concern over divisive politics over LGBTQ issues increased people’s fear?
pH: I think people are nervous. I sometimes feel nervous when I watch our legislature propose and pass bills that ban trans girls from participating in same-gender-identity children’s sports. When Senator Mike Lee says things like, we need to put disturbing content warnings on TV shows that include LGBTQ characters. At some point it goes beyond rhetoric, and I think that’s what worries people. You know, what’s the step beyond just talking about this stuff?
PM: Is there any reason for hope as we face the dark data you’ve uncovered?
pH: I think so. I went to Pride. I had a good time, maybe in my head. I was a little nervous that something might happen, but I feel that way everywhere now. But I think there are always reasons for hope. If there is no hope, what do we have?
KUER Morning Edition associate producer Leah Treidler contributed to this report.