LGBTQ holiday season safety guide

The holiday season is a time of fun and relaxation for many of us, but it’s also sadly a period that traditionally sees a spike in hate crimes against the LGBTQ community.

The reasons for this are not always clear but it’s a harsh reality we need to bear in mind over this time of the year. There’s often an increase in alcohol and drug use during the holidays and this may result in people who harbour homophobic or transphobic attitudes expressing these feelings violently.

Also, many of us are estranged from our families and so the festive season can be a lonely time, and we may seek out solace in risky situations. Dating apps, for example, are used by criminals to target vulnerable gay, bi and other men who have sex with men (MSM). There have also been reports of an increase in drinks being spiked at social venues in the Cape Town area, leading to sexual assaults and robbery.

While it’s unacceptable and unfair that we are forced to police our behaviour because of who we are, there is value in considering steps that may offer you a degree of protection. Here are some suggestions to bear in mind that could help you stay safer and healthier this festive season:

• If possible, avoid walking alone at night – rather walk in a group.

• Avoid walking in deserted areas / parks, especially where there is little light.

• Always tell someone where you are going to be.

• Stay away from places where you might get cornered.

• Always be alert of others and your surroundings.

• Never leave your drink unattended, it could be spiked.

• Never accept a drink from a stranger.

• Always watch your drinks being poured or made.

• When setting up online hookups remember that you could be targeted by criminals.

• If you go on a hookup try to first meet up in a public place.

• If you are a sexually active man who has sex with men (MSM), get onto PrEP to protect you from HIV.

• MSM are urged to always carry condoms and water based lube with them – just in case.

• If you feel depressed or are considering harming yourself please get help (see below).

If you are the victim of a hate crime, we urge you to report it to the police. If you are not able to or fear doing so please report it anonymously at www.report.lovenothate.org.za or contact us on speakout@lovenothate.org.za.

If you are suffering from depression and/or considering self harm, get help through one of these LGBTQ organisations: Triangle Project in Cape Town (021 712 6699), OUT in Pretoria (012 430 3272), the Gay & Lesbian Network in PMB (086 033 2331), or the Durban Lesbian & Gay Community & Health Centre (031 312 7402 / 42). Or call LifeLine’s 24 Hour Counseling Line on 011 422 4242 / 0861 322 322 or the South African Depression and Anxiety Group’s Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567.

To get free PrEP, condoms and lube, and testing and treatment, contact OUT’s TEN81 clinic in Pretoria (012 430 3272), the Ivan Toms Centre for Men’s Health in Cape Town (021 447 2844), or Health4Men at Yeoville clinic in Johannesburg (011 648 7979 or 072 654 0816). You can also ask your GP to prescribe PrEP to you.