Beaten up, abused, sexually assaulted and driven from her home – and all because she’s transgender.

Ellie Lowther’s story is just one of many that are buried behind stark statistics showing LGBT+ hate crime has more than doubled across the North East in just five years.

The 55-year-old Teesside woman transitioned ten years ago and has devoted her life since to campaigning for a more inclusive world – a world where gay, bisexual and trans people can live freely and without fear.

Read more: LGBT+ hate crime more than doubles in the North East

“When I first came out, I had to wait years before I could be seen by any gender clinic so had to transition socially first,” she says.

“That made me stick out like a sore thumb in Middlesbrough and in the first year alone, I was beaten up twice and sexually abused.

“I didn’t report it to the police because I didn’t feel comfortable engaging with them back then – I thought I’d be judged by them, too.”

The Northern Echo: The transgender flag

The abuse she suffered led to Ellie fleeing the area and moving to East Cleveland, where she found a more accepting community and went on to became the first openly trans council candidate in Lingdale.

Trans-specific hate crime almost doubled in the North East between 2016-17 and 2020-21, with more than 500 offences reported to the region’s police forces in that time.

“It may be that people are feeling more empowered now to report hate crime and we’re starting to get a truer picture of what’s happening,” Ellie suggests.

But as Ellie alludes to, the true scale of the problem is likely to be greater as not all victims will report their experiences.

Read more: What the region's police had to say about a rise in LGBT+ hate crime

And, she says, anti-LGBT+ sentiment is growing, especially online where hostility spreads quickly.

“The very existence of trans people now seems up for debate,” she says.

“When I came out in 2012, it was a safer world then – there’s been a definite increase in hostility, especially online.

“People like me are fearing for their safety and some are fearing for their lives.

“It is a dark world sometimes.”

To perpetrators of hate crime, Ellie says: “My existence does not change who you are.

“I had an existential crisis and had to transition in order to exist as myself.

“But that does not define anybody else, just me.

“Trans people are not going to go away and we need to look at how we can become a more inclusive community.”

Ellie believes the key to that world lies with its young people, saying: “Until we are free to be ourselves, we will never be able to have a truly inclusive world.

“It’s a long road ahead but the young people don’t have the time for the isms that the older generations are nurturing and passing on.

“They are the future – we just need to keep everybody safe and the young ones will take us forward.”


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