“With fear there is no freedom”

Such was the cry that brought together hundreds of demonstrators in Madrid last Saturday, following a week when the news of yet another homophobic attack, which turned out to be untrue, both incensed the LGBTI community and was seized by the far right as an opportunity to criticise and demobilise the fight against homophobia.

The incident that sparked the outrage was the report filed with the police by a 20-year-old who claimed he’d been assaulted in a particularly gruesome way by a a group of eight in broad daylight. The news only added to the social alarm stirred by a chain of homophobic  attacks that have taken place all over Spain in recent months —in the worst of which the life of a young man was taken in A Coruña on 3 July—; it prompted widespread social and media condemnation, and even the Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez convened an emergency meeting of the national Hate Crimes Committee.

The alleged victim backtracked a few days later; he confessed to the police it was an infidelity cover-up story.

Protests went ahead as planned, nevertheless.

But it was only a matter of hours before attempts to capitalise on this case began.

The far right —one of whose leaders had earlier drawn an explicit connection between the rise in gender- and homophobic violence to “uncontrolled immigration”— resorted to its by-now familiar claims that much of this violence is fake, and reports and statistics are driven ideologically by feminist and LGBTI “lobbies”.

For her part, the conservative leader of the Madrid regional government pledged that she will work to “not let homosexuals and transsexuals be collectivised”.

Denial, political opportunism, calls for demobilisation fester in spite of the stubborn data that a 43% increase in homophobic violence has been reported in Spain during the first semester of 2021.

As this article puts it, Spain lives in the paradox that a society that sees itself as tolerant toward diversity has nevertheless witnessed an upsurge in attacks perpetrated by individuals strained and emboldened by a minority discourse of hatred and indifference.

After one such attack that proved false, should we feel embarrassed or, worse, give in to demoralisation? We for one thing believe that this story has proved that it is not difficult to assert the truthfulness of the vast majority of reported cases of violence; as one of the messages that circulated this week said, one lie does in no way diminish the very ugly reality of LGTBIphobia.

What’s more, as this writer puts it, “we are right to take sides with women, LGTBI people, and immigrants who are the victims of hate speech (…) We mobilised because it was necessary and the [Madrid] story, sadly, credible (…) That we reacted like we did only makes us a healthier society”.

One which, hopefully, will never return to living in fear.

This post created by the Spanish team of Asunción, Guadalupe, Rosa and Rafael.

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