It started with an angry tweet. But by Wednesday, the #MeQueer hashtag had morphed into a global online storm with thousands of LGBT people taking to Twitter to detail their experiences of verbal abuse, sexual attack, and physical violence.
Comments ranged from criticism of media representation to descriptions of assault.
“Nearly crying because you saw yourself represented in a tv show for the first time,” wrote @LizKilljoy.
“Being beaten so hard that your nose bleeds like hell for just coming out as trans to your dad,” tweeted @homolordt.
Taking inspiration from the #MeToo movement’s spotlight on sexism and sexual violence, Hartmut Schrewe, a Brandenburg-based writer, first used the #MeQueer hashtag on August 13.
“My husband is my husband and not my buddy. #Homophobia#MeQueer,” he tweeted.
Schrewe told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by email on Wednesday that he had been moved to act by a telephone conversation between his husband and a colleague, in which Schrewe was described as his partner’s “buddy”.
“I had had enough,” he said. “I wrote about this on Twitter and then the hashtag went viral.”
Schrewe said he was overwhelmed by the response, with posts pouring in from around the world.
“It is wonderful that so many queer people have shared their experiences,” he said.
“We need to be more visible and loud. I hope this can reach Uganda, where being queer can kill you, or countries like Russia, Indonesia, Iran or Turkey, where being queer is so dangerous.
“I never expected #MeQueer to get so big.”
Last month, the British government published a survey of some 110,000 LGBT people, in which two in five said they had experienced verbal or physical violence in the past 12 months.
According to British LGBT rights group Stonewall, 53 percent of trans people, aged between 18 and 24, suffered some form of abuse over the same period.
Elsewhere in Europe, statistics are difficult to find as many countries, such as Ireland, do not have specific hate crime legislation.
Violence against LGBT people is still “really widespread”, said Nick Antjoule, head of hate crime services at Galop, a British LGBT anti-violence and abuse charity.
The rise of social media had acted as a catalyst, he added.
“Online hate speech is a huge problem alongside the rise of the far right,” Antjoule said.
A spokeswoman for Brussels-based LGBT rights group, ILGA-Europe, said that over the Summer there had been reports of attacks on gay communities in Northern Ireland, Greece, Armenia and Lithuania.
“This underlines why the introduction and full implementation of LGBTI-inclusive hate crime laws across the European region is so vital,” she said.
-Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh, Thomson Reuters Foundation