How homophobic transphobic is Congleton? A tale of two surveys

By Tom Avery

10th Feb 2021 | Opinion

Congleton Pride has highlighted a mismatch between the tolerance expressed by many people in Congleton towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and other non-confirming genders/sexualities (LGBTQ+ for short), and the actual experience of LGBTQ+ people who live here.

The charity ran two online surveys. The first one asked the general public questions about LGBTQ+ people to determine the level of prejudice and understanding.

The second asked LGBTQ+ people for their own views about living in Congleton and how they have been treated.

The vast majority of the general public expressed tolerance and little or no prejudice towards LGBTQ+ people.

Overall, respondents (n=133) came up with a 91% 'LGBTQ+ friendliness' score.

However, the public did express concern that other people in Congleton might be less tolerant, although 84% thought Congleton was a good place for LGBTQ+ people to live overall.

Comments from the public on what they think it is like for LGBTQ+ people in Congleton included:

"It is a warm, friendly and welcoming town. In all my years I have never seen or heard any anti LGBTQ+ comments or behaviour."

"I have found many people discriminate and hold old fashioned views in their comments with regards to people's sexual orientation in Congleton."

"Congleton is a great place for anyone to live but compared to more metropolitan areas many people hold narrow viewpoints."

"A lot better than some other places but still has a way to go I think!"

The questions around LGBTQ+ in general got more 'tolerant' responses than those specifically about gender identity.

For example, 94% of people agreed that "I would not mind having an LGBTQ+ friend" but only 64% agreed "there should be an 'x' option on forms for people who do not identify as male or female".

The LGBTQ+ people's own survey (n=38) gave a slightly different perspective from the general public.

Only 47% of respondents said they felt comfortable living in Congleton.

Sixty-three percent of LGBTQ+ respondents reported experiencing some harassment or abuse in Congleton.

Of these, a small number (8%) had been excluded in some way, a fifth (21%) said they had been subjected to some sort of violence, more than a third (38%) had been 'outed' without their permission, and three-quarters had received verbal harassment or abuse.

LGBTQ+ people reported fearing harassment and abuse in many different places including school, work, in public, and most often (52%) in pubs and clubs.

Many LGBTQ+ people in Congleton choose not to report harassment and abuse when it occurs, even though Cheshire Police do treat this as a 'hate crime'.

The reasons they gave for not reporting included not knowing where or how to report it (21%) or the fear that nothing will be done (25%).

Of the minority (quarter) of respondents who had reported harassment or abuse, 70% were not happy with the outcome.

Comments from LGBTQ+ respondents included:

"Feels like a very conservative town."

"General day-to-day transphobic comments and micro aggressions. Only one larger issue this year."

"[Pride should] Get support from local churches. We know Christianity in general is against, but they play a huge part in the local community. I feel like an outcast because I was once part of a local church."

"Police weren't willing to take case further due to apparent lack of proof."

Eighty percent of both groups were supportive of an annual pride event and the survey also asked LGBTQ+ people to make suggestions of how Congleton Pride could support them in addition to the event.

Ideas ranged from informal social nights (70%) to a 'buddy system' (47%) or 'support group' (40%).

Thirty-seven percent of respondents asked for 'more web-based resources' from the group.

Ronan Clayton, Chair of Congleton Pride, commented: "Thank you to all those who completed our surveys, the results of which will help us plan how we can support LGBTQ+ people in future.

"We are keen to offer the social and support opportunities people have asked for, and also signpost people to how they can report harassment or abuse and get the help and protection they are entitled to."

Congleton Town Councillor and Congleton Pride Trustee, Kay Wesley, added: "The results are encouraging in many ways, but also highlight ways in which we can step up to support LGBTQ+ people more.

"The pride team is continuing to work with Cheshire Police, the local churches, the Town and Borough Councils and the PubWatch team to make sure that Congleton is safe and welcoming for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity."

Cheshire Police said: "Cheshire Police does not tolerate incidents of hate. We work with our partners to support victims in the LGBTQ+ community and bring offenders to justice.

"If you have been a victim of Hate Crime, we encourage you to report it on our website, on 101 or 999 in an emergency."

The pride group is organising a social event in the form of a quiz night on 24th February at 7.30pm, to celebrate LGBT History Month.

All are welcome to join this free event and can access it by searching for 'Congleton Pride Quiz' on Facebook.


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