A LEADING campaigner who believe life is improving for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community says that much more needs to be done to bring about more change in the region.

The North-East still lags behind other parts of the country on levels of acceptance and especially trans-inclusion, with some still living in fear of attack or intimidation, says Phillippa Scrafton, who transitioned in 2003.

She has spoken out as part of County Durham and Darlington Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner Ron Hogg’s new campaign to tackle hate crime across the region.

Presenting a united front against hate crime, the Hate Hurts campaign seeks to raise awareness and encourage reporting so that police can get a more accurate picture of levels of threat, harassment, abuse and assault against target groups, including the LGBT+ community.

Phillippa, who worked at Darlington Borough Council for 27 years and is now North East regional programmes officer for Stonewall Scotland, said: “A lot of work is going on in schools, by Stonewall and other charities, the police as well as other parts of the public sector, who are now much better informed. That’s really positive to see but more needs to be done in terms of getting into communities.

“We have to bring people together and break down the barriers in a way that we have never done before. Communication and education are key and anything that can be done to highlight that, such as the Hate Hurts campaign, is a good thing.”

As a woman with a trans history, Phillippa suffered years of abuse, physical threats and violence, including being sworn at and spat on in the street and once having a half-full can of beer thrown at her head.

“When you’re transitioning it’s very difficult," she added. "You feel continuously exposed and are incredibly vulnerable. It’s a very personal thing you’re going through and yet you have to suffer a public onslaught of transphobia, and now of course there’s the toxicity of social media to contend with as well.

“Certainly things have improved and changed significantly since I transitioned. But I very rarely use the bus and I am still conscious of where I am, where I’m going and the safest way to get there,” she added.

She says cities like Edinburgh, which are much more inclusive for same sex couples mean more people are able to be their authentic selves.

“But we are nowhere near that level in Darlington; I couldn’t even comprehend a same sex couple being able to walk down the street holding hands here and that’s really sad. Society can be cruel and while things have got better, we still have a long way to go."