UT LGBTQ community feels impact of Austin’s hate crimes

Peter Northfelt

Members of Austin’s LGBTQ community have reported two hate crimes this year, according to data released by the city earlier this year.

Emi Ikeda, sociology senior and member of the club Queer and Asian, said she generally feels safe in her surroundings, but she does occasionally feel the need to keep her guard up in public.

“Being out or visibly LGBTQ in Texas, even in Austin, in addition to being a person of color, is tough,” Ikeda said in an email. “It doesn’t really happen on campus, but if I walk downtown holding hands with my girlfriend, we usually get slurs yelled at us.”

The two hate crimes this year occurred in January. On UT’s campus, no hate crimes against the LGBTQ community have been reported in recent years, according to the most recent annual Clery Report. 

But Ikeda said she still hears homophobic or transphobic comments from her peers.

 



“It’s always sad to still hear things like that, and scary because what’s stopping them from saying the same about me?” Ikeda said. 

David Chambers, UTPD Threat Mitigation Unit detective and LGBTQIA+ community liaison, said the Austin community has still been open and accepting overall.

“However, incidents like the attack on Spencer Deehring and Tristan Perry remind me that no matter how caring a community may be, there are still people who have hate and bias,” Chambers said. “It is those people who create a safety challenge for the LGBTQIA community.”

Deehring and Perry were attacked by four men on Jan. 19 after leaving an Austin gay bar, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Chambers said he is a resource but understands the concern that many LGBTQ people have when interacting with law enforcement agencies, which are designed to protect and serve. 

“Many people within the LGBTQIA community do not believe law enforcement represents them or their rights due to previous interactions they have had or heard about,” Chambers said. “Again, give us a chance.”

UT offers specific resources for LGBTQ students who are victims of a hate crime, Chambers said. 

“First, call 911. Second, talk with the detective that is investigating the case,” Chambers said. “Explain to (the investigating detective) why you believe the case was a hate crime.”

Tessandra Lancaster, radio-television-film academic adviser and chair of UT’s Pride and Equity Faculty Staff Association, said she feels less safe in certain parts of Austin, such as downtown and on campus at night.

“But compared to my experiences in other cities like Houston and San Francisco, Austin has felt safe,” Lancaster said.