Kiss! Kiss!: London bus attack began in a way familiar to many LGBTQ women



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New York City’s police commissioner has apologized for the 1969 police raid at the Stonewall Inn that catalyzed the modern LGBT rights movement. (June 6) AP

Four teenage boys were arrested Friday in an attack on two LGBTQ women on a London bus, according to a statement from London Metropolitan Police. In a Facebook post on the incident, one of the victims said she and her girlfriend were beaten after refusing to sexually perform for the group. 

Melania Geymonat, who posted an account of the incident along with a photo of herself and her girlfriend Chris covered in blood, said the alleged attackers may have seen the two kissing on the upper deck of the late-night bus.

“They started behaving like hooligans, demanding that we kissed so they could enjoy watching, calling us ‘lesbians’ and describing sexual positions,” Geymonat wrote.

The women were punched several times before the attackers ran off the bus, and a phone and bag were stolen, police said in asking for eyewitnesses.

As Pride Month kicks off around the globe, the alleged attack on Geymonat and her girlfriend shows that the privileges heterosexual couples enjoy — which include showing affection in public — are still often risky for LGBTQ people, experts say. It also shows the particular vulnerabilities of lesbian and bisexual women, who must deal with hatred directed at them not only because of their sexuality but also because of their gender.

“The women who were victims of this hate crime made it very explicit that the attack didn’t just involve homophobia, it also involved misogyny,” said Jane Ward, a professor of gender studies at the University of California-Riverside. “These women were already kissing — that’s what drew the perpetrators attention to them. They could have quietly sat back and ogled them, but what we see here and is often the case with same-sex intimacy or touching is that it’s OK when it’s in the service of men, but when lesbian and bisexual women are interested in one another in ways that have nothing to do with men, that is when it becomes threatening. Those men wanted the women to turn attention from one another to them. And when they didn’t it turned violent.”

In November, the FBI released hate crime statistics for 2017 that showed a five percent increase in reporting of hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation bias. In 2017, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, a national organization which aims to reduce violence among LGBTQ people, recorded reports of 52 hate violence-related homicides of people who identify as LGBTQ, the highest number ever recorded by the organization.

While the majority (58%) of reported hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation target gay men, according to the FBI, lesbian, bisexual and transgender women face risks that are both similar and unique. 

The lifetime prevalence of rape for lesbians is 13%, bisexual women 46% and heterosexual women 17%, according to the CDC. The lifetime prevalence of sexual violence other than rape is 46% for lesbians, 75% for bisexual women and 43% for heterosexual women. In all cases, the vast majority report male perpetrators. 

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Kristen Houser, chief public affairs officer at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, told USA TODAY in 2018 that myths about LGBTQ people are pervasive and contribute to violence.

“Bisexuality is seen as a curiosity, and the way it is oftentimes presented, especially in pornographic connotations, is constantly willing, like you don’t say no to anyone,” Houser said. “I think you end up … running the risk of men in particular making assumptions about not being turned down and feeling entitled.”

Eliel Cruz, director of communications at the New York City Anti-Violence Project, says that consciously or unconsciously, most people who identify as LGBTQ have a safety plan in mind whenever they leave their home, and it’s especially important to have one if you’re planning to attend Pride events.

“We are in this month where we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, and in the last 50 years there has been a huge shift in legislative wins especially for marriage equality, but those wins don’t always mean safety,” Cruz said. “Folks zero in on homicides or when there’s a really horrific attack where there’s photos of blood or it’s really sensationalized, but violence against LGBTQ people is an epidemic, and we really need to have conversations that emphasize this reality and what we are doing to stop it.”

Cruz also encourages allies to report anti-LGBTQ violence and discrimination when they witness it and to safely intervene when possible. Some tips: 

If you witness hate violence

  • Make your presence known by talking to the victim and the perpetrator, or by causing a scene to distract the attacker.
  • Take a video of the incident on your phone

If you witness anti-transgender bias

  • Start a conversation with the perpetrators.
  • Report the incident to a manager or owner.

If you witness police violence

  • Record the incident with the audio on
  • Get the names, badges and car numbers of the officers.
  • Ask the survivor what they need.

If you’ve experienced or witnessed anti-LGBTQ violence, or are concerned about someone who has, you can call the Anti-Violence Project hotline 24/7 at 212-714-1141. All calls are free and confidential.  You can also report violence anonymously or ask for a counselor to reach out to you online.

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