A rugby captain was punched in the jaw after being subjected to homophobic abuse while holding hands with his boyfriend.
Connor McKnight was walking with his partner when he sustained a facial injury after confronting a group that hurled homophobic slurs at the couple on Waverley Bridge in Edinburgh.
After the incident turned physical, the 28-year-old decided to walk away before things got “out of hand”.
“I’m a confident, 5ft 11in rugby forward, and I wasn’t going to have someone speak to us like that.
“But I was worried things would get out of hand if I retaliated physically, instead I decided to walk away after telling them exactly what I thought of them,” he said.
McKnight confirmed that he reported the incident but no charges came from it, he added: “I’m an adult and I can look after myself, but what if it had happened to a queer youth who is less secure in their identity?
“Hate crime is on the rise and I think people need to report it, because if we don’t, nothing will ever change.
McKnight stated that he “fortunately” has the support of his Glasgow Raptors teammates to fall back on.
The vice-captain of the club – the city’s only inclusive rugby side – is now fronting a campaign with Glasgow council to raise awareness for National Hate Crime Week.
It aims to highlight exactly what a hate crime is and encourage victims to report it instead of suffering in silence.
There are five characteristics currently protected under Scottish hate crime legislation which include disability, race, religious identity, sexual orientation and transgender identity.
Megan, captain of Camp Hellcats Football Club, a Glasgow sports team made up of women, and non-binary people, has also gotten involved with the campaign.
The 32-year-old shared that they had experienced verbal abuse while walking with their partner during pride when a man shouted “you’ll never get to heavy carrying on like that”.
“I’m a confident person and gave him a few choice words in return, but incidents like that can make you feel that you have to hide who you are or that you may not be accepted or approved of if you show affection in public and are openly gay,” Megan said.
The football captain shared that Camp Hellcats FC support each other through homophobic incidents but expressed the need for a place to report hate crimes.
“I hope that within the next few years, the LGBTQI+ communities can look back and say – remember when we just put up with that – well not anymore!”
Glasgow City Council works to raise awareness of hate crime year-round and is the only local authority in Scotland to employ a dedicated hate crime awareness officer.
To support victims of hate crimes, the council has created a new website offering advice and support.
Councillor Elaine McSporran, chair of Glasgow’s Hate Crime Awareness Working Group, thanked Connor and Megan for sharing their experiences of physical and verbal abuse.
Ms McSporran said that any hate crime is “abhorrent” and would not be tolerated in Glasgow.
“Only by speaking up, can we call out those who break the law by verbally or physically attacking people for their race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity or disability,” she added.
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