Anti-LGBTQ+ hostility is rising. We asked queer people how safe they feel.

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If LGBTQ+ Americans are feeling increasingly anxious about their safety, they have good reason. The past few years have seen a marked increase in anti-LGBTQ+ hostility on the political right, with Republican lawmakers across the country passing laws intended to ban the very mention of LGBTQ+ people in schools and in some places making it nearly impossible for trans and nonbinary people to simply exist in the public sphere. Online, anti-LGBTQ+ misinformation has led to violent extremist groups protesting and disrupting queer events like Pride celebrations and drag performances.

And anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes appear to be on the rise. The most recently available FBI data shows that reported hate crimes in general are now the highest they’ve ever been since the bureau began tracking such data in 1991. Late last year, the Department of Homeland Security warned that the LGBTQ+ community remained at risk of possible copycat attacks following the deadly shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Earlier this year, the Leadership Conference Education Fund warned that political attacks perpetuating the false “groomer” narrative around LGBTQ+ people could result in hate-motivated violence against the community going into the 2024 election cycle.  

Reports of Pride flags being torn down or defaced, queer people being assaulted, and most recently the high-profile murders of O’Shea Sibley and Laura Ann Carleton — it’s a lot! Even in New York City — a gay mecca in a blue state—multiple gay bars and restaurants have been attacked in recent years.

All of this had me wondering whether other LGBTQ+ people in my community of Brooklyn are feeling a little more anxious about their safety lately. So, I went out and asked them. Here’s what they had to say:

Damian, 24, transgender woman

“Coming from a place like Georgia, I would say I’m a refugee, these days. Back home, there were months when I did not leave my apartment because it was just not safe for me. Being a doll here in New York — there’s a difference between being a doll and being a baddy. I’m a bad b**ch. My safety is never of my concern, but the safety of my sisters is definitely really high right now.”

“Being trans in New York is like…you are a sex object. Being trans feels like you are prone to the sexual desires of strangers in public, and that makes me feel unsafe every time. And f**k the police! The police are against us 100%! I don’t care if a man is slicing my throat, I would never call the police. They hate us. We’re not safe here. But the thing is, once we do our self-defense training and you educate yourself on laws — it’s very important amongst trans people, especially living in a place like this.”

Quanisha, 25, transgender woman

“I feel like as a New York native, I’ve had the opportunity to witness a lot of things in the city. It’s always been a queer haven for people, and it’s always been a place where I’ve felt the freedom to express myself. But at the same time, I also feel like people conflate queer visibility with queer safety, and it’s not necessarily the same thing.”

“A lot of the context with safety in New York is very nuanced. It’s not like other places — not like Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, where there’s so much overt violence. It does happen, of course, but here it’s a place where people don’t get looked at funny for interacting with a trans person, so it makes them a lot less afraid to approach you and say something inappropriate or violent or that makes you feel dehumanized.”

“I also feel like, with safety in general, so many people are coming here to escape from things, and there are lots of queer spaces where we can be ourselves and where we can be open. It’s never a place where I feel like I have to hide, but it’s a place where I feel like I have to be on high alert. I wouldn’t say that what’s in the news has affected my sense of safety to a measurable degree, only because I am consciously aware of things. You have to be on high alert, but it’s also just evidence that people are less afraid to do things.”

“It used to be where you could operate on the notion of: They might not do something to me if I don’t look at them or whatever. But even now, when you’re minding your business walking down the street, people will say something vitriolic, and the government supports it. They feel empowered by that, and I think it creates an unsafe dynamic.”

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Eric McArthur, 28, cisgender man

“There’s a lot of stuff happening around the world right now. Not even in the U.S. — Like, in Uganda they just sentenced someone to death. And here it’s not as severe as that where you’re punishing people by death for being LGBT, but it’s still — it’s not a very safe atmosphere right now. We know that people still hate us and nothing has changed.”

“I don’t have safety issues as a cis man. No one’s really gonna bother me. But I don’t feel like a lot of my trans brothers and sisters feel safe walking around the city, taking Ubers. It’s always been that way. We always feel like people have it out for us.”

Maya, 24, cisgender woman

“I’m from New York — well, Staten Island specifically. So, where I’m from, I wasn’t really able to express myself in a way that I felt was authentic to me, because I didn’t feel safe. I didn’t feel comfortable doing so. I moved to Brooklyn a year ago, but I’ve always worked here. Brooklyn is where home is. Wherever I have family and people taking care of me, I feel safe. The people that love me keep me safe and I do the same for them.”

“I’m always thinking of my safety, I’m always thinking of queer and trans folks’ safety everywhere I go. I have to be mindful and diligent of where I am. But I feel like whenever we hear about the current events, that scares us. But that’s the tactic. That’s what they want to do. They want to scare us. They want us to not live in our full truths, and by doing that every day, that’s the best resilience that we have and what we can offer.”

Ramon, 46, cisgender man

“I feel like throughout my life, things have changed to be more safe. When I was younger, I feel like things were much more dangerous in terms of just identifying as gay or holding hands or kissing in public. I feel much safer than before, of course. Also, I grew up in Puerto Rico. Nowadays, I feel like my right to hold somebody’s hand or carry a purse or do whatever, it’s much safer than before.”

“The overall movement is much larger than [anti-LGBTQ+ people’s] little power-grab. They’re trying to engage in this power-grab because they’re insecure about their power, and it’s temporary. I feel like we as a community have more power than them. Yes, they’re creating this situation of, like, danger, and taking our rights away, but those things are going to be temporary.”

Peter, 33, gay

“I would say in New York I don’t feel any less safe. I am in a relationship for the first time and holding hands with someone more regularly, and I have noticed, like — when I visited Washington, D.C. — I felt less safe. But we were in touristy areas and that’s a lot of middle America, which I think is homophobic. I think there are certain areas in New York where, if someone tried to f**k with a gay person, they would run into more trouble than they are looking for. I do feel like I’m in a little bit of a white gay bubble, though.”


Dave, 37, gay

“I feel like in New York we live in a little bit of a bubble. We have power in numbers, right? And I will say you do have to watch your back a little bit, but that’s just the city in general, post-COVID. But you do feel like if something’s going to happen to you, there’s somebody that is like you that is going to protect you or come to your defense. It is a city where people will combine forces and help you. So, I don’t feel the fear — like I do if I fly to Texas or Florida — that I’m going to be left on my own. It’s a disaster, what we’re seeing everywhere else, just because there’s not the numbers to back us up and to help out, and a lot of people, I feel like, shy away from us.”

Matthew, 33, gay

“In certain pockets of the city you can kinda feel a shift in the energy, but especially outside the New York City area and outside of major cities as a whole. My parents live down in Virginia, and there is definitely an energy that I feel there, mostly from myself, of almost going back to that 15-year-old self who’s trying to fit in, as opposed to being the out-and-proud human being that I’ve come to be here in the city. Recently, in the past year or two, there has been more of an internal acknowledgment of that. There’s almost like a code shift that can happen.”

Steven, 34, gay

“When it comes to fear, being LGBTQ, I’m a Black man in America, so the fear was always there. I had fear just of existing as a Black man in America even before I came out as gay. And then, realizing that I was gay added to the fear that I had, because it’s two things to have fear about living in the United States of America, where they disregard you if you’re anything outside of the white, cisgender, heterosexual, male. It’s increased recently, but it’s increased the fear that was already there, because of the way Black people have always been treated. When you add the LGBTQ on top of that, it’s worse.”

Saint, 27, queer

“Personally, as a cis Latin man who is also gay and queer, I don’t personally feel threatened. I feel empowered and charged to take a stance against the opposing side. Because we are stronger in numbers. But also, those who are less fortunate and targeted specifically because of the representation they are getting, I feel like I have a duty to stand on the frontlines. For those that are nonbinary, for those that are genderfluid, I feel like I have a duty to fight and fend for them.”

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