'You feel like you don't belong': LGBTQ+ activist describes how homophobic abuse made him feel 'worthless'

  • Video report from ITV Wales journalist Charanpreet Khaira

An LGBTQ+ activist who was made to feel "worthless" because of homophobic abuse, said people need to "understand the consequences" of their hateful speech and behaviour.

Adam Smith from Newport has been called derogatory names, threatened with violence and told he "doesn't deserve to be alive", all because he is gay.

He believes that "no person" should have to fall victim to abuse or a hate crime simply for being themselves.

Latest police data for 2019-20 shows there were more than 4,023 recorded hate crimes across Wales - 65% of those were race related and 19% were sexual orientation hate crimes.

There was also a 2% rise in the number of reported hate crimes overall last year compared to 2018-19, something Mr Smith claims is "just the tip of the iceberg".

It comes as Welsh Government launch a new campaign called 'Hate Hurts Wales', in a bid to raise awareness of hate crime.

Adam Smith claims there is an issue with underreporting of hate crime as victims are reluctant to come forward. Credit: ITV Wales

Mr Smith has been the victim of homophobic abuse several times before, the police even had to get involved when he was threatened with violence.

He said when you are the victim of abuse because of something like your sexuality, "it's terrifying".

He described several incidents where people have used homophobic language directly to his face.

Someone even told Mr Smith that he did not "deserve to be alive" because of his sexuality.

"That knocked my confidence," he said.

"It made me question what am I doing? What is my life worth? Lucky enough I had a nice circle of friends and work colleagues around me so I had my support.

"But there's people out there who don't have that support or that comfort, especially young LGBT+ people at the moment."

Mr Smith said when you are a victim of abuse, "it's terrifying you don't know where to look what to do, you just want the ground to open up and swallow you".

He added: "You do feel like you're worthless and like you don't belong in society. Which is wrong, no person should be feeling like that, I shouldn't be feeling like that because of my sexuality."

The activist said he does not understand why anyone would feel the need to comment on someone else's identity in that way.

"Me being gay doesn't affect anyone apart from myself," he said.

"A trans person being trans doesn't affect anyone apart from that trans person. It's no one else's life besides mine or theirs.

"Keep your nose out, if you don't agree with what I'm doing, then tough."

He explained that people often do not report hate crimes, for the fear of not being taken seriously.

Jess Rees, Wales Hate Crime Manager at the National Hate Crime Report and Support Centre Wales said hate crimes can be "particularly devastating" for victims because of the "very personal attack on part of their identity".

She added: "It is hugely underreported as victims often fear they won't be taken seriously or worry that the incident is 'too trivial' to report."

"From our experience, we've seen far too many victims seriously impacted, both emotionally and physically and it's really important that people know hate crime is a serious offence."

The Welsh Government's 'Hate Hurts Wales' campaign features scenes based on real hate crimes against people for their disability or race. Credit: Welsh Government

Welsh Government have launched a new campaign, called 'Hate Hurts Wales' to help tackle the issue and raise reporting and awareness of hate crime.

Data from the Home Office shows a 2% increase in recorded hate crimes across Wales last year compared to 2018-19.

There are five key characteristics protected by hate crime laws. They are race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity and disability.

While most hate crimes reported in Wales last year were race related (65%), almost a fifth were related to sexual orientation. 11% were classed as disability hate crimes, 10% transgender and 5% religion related.

Deputy Minister and Chief Whip Jane Hutt highlighted the need for everyone to stand together to support victims of hate crime and ensure incidents are reported to the police or Victim Support Cymru.

Jane Hutt MS said: "When one community is targeted by bigotry we must do everything we can to challenge it.

"Whether it is racism, anti-Semitism, islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, anti-disability prejudice or any other form of hate, we must unite to demonstrate that Wales will not tolerate it.

"Hate and all forms of bigotry, has no home in Wales."