Chichester's first non-binary councillor says council can be 'vocal leader' in fight against hate crime

Rhys ChantRhys Chant
Rhys Chant
Chichester District Council can be a ‘vocal leader’ in the fight against hate crime, its first non-binary councillor has said.

Rhys Chant (Lib Dem, Chichester East) said they regularly heard from members of the LGBTQ+ community about abuse they have faced.

They added: “Recently, I have had a resident, who was a young gay man, write to me and reveal they were spat at in the street for holding hands with their partner.

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“University students have told me about how they have faced similar verbal abuse in the main streets of the City, being followed or hollered at for expressing their sexuality perhaps through their clothing or through holding hands or cuddling on a bench – all things which non-queer people do but which seem to have become an issue for some people if they are done by members of the LGBTQ+ community.”

The letter, which asked what the council would do to show solidarity, create safe spaces and promote a culture change, was discussed during a meeting of the cabinet on Tuesday (June 6).

Leader Adrian Moss said the council’s message would be to ‘reach out to all communities in our district to ensure that they are given the respect they deserve’.

He added: “It is important that our district celebrates diversity and respects all residents.

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“We will work across community groups and organisations to ensure all residents are shown respect and dignity.”

The City’s second Pride event was held on the college green on May 27 – a sun-kissed day of music, colour and fun which organisers described as ‘truly remarkable’.

But for every friend, there seems to be someone who is less tolerant.

Information from the ONS shows that, in the year to March 2022, there was a 41 per cent national increase in LGBTQ+ related hate crimes to 26,152, and a rise of 56 per cent for hate crimes against those who identify as transgender.

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Mx Chant said: “The issue is a growing intolerance of difference, a shift away from embracing people for all of who they are and all that makes our society so wonderful, a growth in judgement and rejection.

“It’s not everyone, there is still support from most residents who know and believe in the values of acceptance and kindness but there is a growing vocal group of people who treat people who are not like them with intolerance – and LGBTQ+ people are part of the group experiencing that treatment.”

Insisting that such treatment cannot go unchallenged, they added: “The council can be a vocal leader of that challenge within our community by being at the forefront of speaking up, standing alongside communities and using our voice and our energy to support a culture of tolerance, compassion and respect. – to create a place where everyone is welcome.

“The council can lead the way on equality and diversity by creating bodies and groups whose goal it is to collaborate between these communities and the council so that all people from all different backgrounds – LGBTQ+, People of Colour, people from poorer socio-economic backgrounds – feel respected and involved and know that their council represents and respects them.

“Whatever we do we have to put communities at the forefront and amplify their voices, needs and concerns as the fundamental core of our work.”