A 2017 General Election candidate has claimed he was the victim of homophobic harassment in Belfast today.
Green Party activist, Malachai O’Hara, who stood in the Belfast North constituency in the 2017 General Election, 2017 Assembly Election and 2016 Assembly Election, claims he was verbally abused as he made his way to work today.
Malachai said: “This morning as I was heading to work, I was the victim of homophobic harassment.
“This was at the junction of Peter’s Hill and North Street. A young fella aged 18-20 in the back seat of a car rolled down his window to tell me I had dropped something.
“At first I thought this was pleasant and courteous and I checked my coat and bag and pockets, but didn’t seem to have misplaced something.”
Malachai, who has been a LGBTQ activist for over a decade added: “A woman, I presume his mother, rolled down the window to also inform me I had dropped something.
“After I realised that nothing of importance was missing, I dismissed it and thanked them and proceeded to cross at the lights in front of their car. The young man then shouted out the window that I had dropped my ‘Gay Card’.
“I immediately retraced my steps to ask him what he meant by this. He wound his window up to avoid my challenge. I challenged his mother, who began to apologise for his behaviour, while he mouthed in the back of the car.”
Malachai claimed that as the lights changed and the car drove off, the young man wound down the window and made a verbal threat against him.
Following the incident, Malachai reported what had happened to the LGBTQ Advocate, based at The Rainbow Project, which supports victims of homophobic or transphobic crime. He said he also intends raising the matter with the police.
Calling on other people who experience abuse to report the incidents, the Cliftonville resident added: “I have been an out LGBTQ activist for over a decade. I managed health services at Ireland’s largest LGBTQ charity and I know the damage that casual and unchallenged homophobia causes.
“I have received death threats before; I have experienced street harassment and threats of violence. This incident was water off a duck’s back in terms of my experiences as an out LGBTQ activist.”
He added: “My experience also meant I knew the importance of reporting these incidents. Too many LGBTQ people shrug off casual homophobia and transphobia because they don’t deem it important enough or they are not convinced anything will be done.
“It’s hugely important that every incident and crime is reported. It allows police and politicians to understand the true picture of everyday harassment experienced by LGBTQ people.”