A Horsham trans person says he feels disappointed and scared after transphobic graffiti was scrawled on a town centre sculpture.
Mike Barraclough, a trans male, spoke out after finding an abusive term daubed on Waterfall of Bereavement, a charity artwork in the Forum.
The artwork, part of the HeART to Heart trail, was installed by St Catherine’s Hospice.
He said: “First of all it was the third heart [that’s been vandalised].
“I would have had the same reaction if it had been the ‘N word’ or the ‘F word’.
“My concern is for young people in Horsham that may be struggling with gender identity.
“A target is on their back before they even speak to anyone.
“How can they walk around knowing that there are people who feel that way about them.
“You’re liable to get picked on.
“I just think it’s a real shame for them really.”
‘We need allies’
Mike called on the people of Horsham to support the trans community and become allies.
He added: “There are always going to be people who are hateful. I don’t think we can necessarily eradicate that.
“What would have been nice would have been to have seen a bit more allied support.
“We need allies. You need to know that someone is going to stop and say that’s not right [if they saw transphobic abuse].
“It didn’t feel like we would get that allied support.
“If they saw a black person or a gay person being abused they would step in. If they saw a trans person being abused it didn’t feel like they would.”
Mike said he felt disappointment and fear when he saw the graffiti.
He said that seeing the graffiti, left anonymously, made him unsure how many people in the town held transphobic views.
“We don’t know who they are - and that’s scary,” he added.
Transphobic abuse ‘not uncommon’
But it’s not the first time Mike has experienced transphobia in his lifetime.
He said trans people can face abuse doing everyday tasks and using public toilets.
Mike added: “It false to say there’s no abuse.
“It can just be merely trying to use the town [that] can be problematic.
“I got abuse off of customers when I worked in retail. It’s not uncommon.
“The discrimination that you face on a daily basis - it was abuse in your face.”
‘We’re all just people’
Mike said Horsham should work together as a community to ‘stamp out’ the ‘hateful’ graffiti.
He added: “I don’t like to pick any one out for any difference. It does not really matter. I would prefer a society where people were just that - people.
“We’re all just people.
“We don’t know who did it and as a community we’re collectively responsible for raising the young people in the area.
“[We are] a trans community who know they’re targeted but don’t know by whom.
“We have a collective responsibility to talk to those trans people and say don’t fear, we will protect you, we’re your allies.”
Tom Abbott, head of fundraising at St Catherine’s Hospice said: “This morning we were made aware of some wording that was placed on our Waterfall of Bereavement heart in the Forum.
“By the time our team visited the wording had already been removed.
“It’s great to know that our community are so vigilant around making sure our hearts remain in the best possible condition.
“This is vital because our trail is helping to raise funds so more local terminally ill people can receive expert hospice care.
“Our trail has been a hugely positive experience for many local people, and it’s been lovely to see so many enjoying the stunning hearts on display.
“We hope everyone will continue to enjoy our trail, whilst remaining mindful of why the hearts are in place; so no one has to face death and loss alone.”
To find out more and to support the HeART to Heart trail visit www.stch.org.uk/hearts