Transgender PCSO based in Mold speaks out in video to combat hate crime
A transgender Police Community Support Officer who suffered vile taunts when he was growing up is urging all victims of hate crime to come forward.
According to Connor Freel, 24, who is based in Mold, it’s vitally important that people don’t suffer in silence but report the abuse to the police.
PCSO Freel enthusiastically backed the Hate Crime Awareness Week launched by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones.
People are singled out for abuse because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, disability, body shape, age or a host of other personal characteristics
Mr Jones wants to throw a spotlight on the issue which causes untold misery to victims.
The plea came as it was revealed there has been a 27∞ increase in the number of reports of hate crimes in North Wales over the past 12 months.
The number of cases reported to North Wales Police went up from 358 to 455, with incidents involving race and religion featuring prominently.
One of the main reasons for the increase, according to Mr Jones, is that people now have more confidence their plight will be taken seriously but he wants even more victims to contact the police or the Victim Help Centre in St Asaph.
It was a sentiment echoed by PCSO Freel who spoke movingly about his personal journey and the abuse he suffered along the way in a video funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner to get the anti-hate crime message out.
Among the other people who took part in the video are Maria Smith, a 47-year-old project worker who lives in the county of Conwy, who suffered a torrent of racial abuse via text from a woman she barely knew.
PCSO Freel said:
“I was born female but from my earliest memories and before I could even talk I knew I was a boy in the wrong body. I told my parents when I was a small child that I was a boy.
“However, I was brought up as a girl and began to transition to male when I was around 15. I went to my parents and explained to them how I felt and they couldn’t have been more supportive. In fact they basically knew had been waiting for me to tell them.”
The first steps for PCSO Freel were to have his hair cut and begin wearing masculine clothing.
“I changed my name to Connor and felt free. I was no longer acting and not trying to fit into some sort of box I didn’t belong in.
“The problems soon started though. I was in the sixth form and as fellow students didn’t know whether I was male or female they basically lashed out.
“One day, as I was walking home someone shouted vile abuse at me from a car window. I turned around and was hit in the face by a rock. I didn’t respond or report it and had a real shiner for a few weeks.”
He added: “I couldn’t stand it anymore after a year. I’d walk down a corridor and someone would smack the back of my head and call me names. So I left sixth form and started at college instead.
“I got a job at McDonalds to finance my studies. Someone found out I was transgender and they started going through the drive through on an almost daily basis shouting insults and calling me names through the serving hatches.
“I did report these incidents and the police dealt with it. But I felt horrendous and almost that it was my own fault which I knew wasn’t really true.
“I went on to study criminology and criminal justice at Wrexham’s Glyndwr University and completed my dissertation on transgender hate crime.
“I want to go back to university and do a PhD in transgender hate crime with a view of becoming a lecturer.”
According to PCSO Freel, his North Wales Police colleagues have been massively supportive since he joined the service.
He added: “It’s been amazing, everyone has been great. I don’t have any issues with the public as I now look totally masculine.
“Hormones have given me facial hair and I’ve had two operations on my chest. I have now got a male body shape and no one suspects I was born female.
“We need to raise awareness. I go into school and talk to students about hate crime and the LGBT community. My parents and two brothers are totally supportive..
“I’m now engaged to be married and life couldn’t be better. If my experience can help others that’s great, that’s what drives me on.
“That’s why I agreed to come forward and appear in the video that has been produced about hate crime in North Wales and to tell my story publicly.”
The commissioner said: “North Wales Police takes hate crimes very seriously and anyone who wants to report a crime but doesn’t want to go to the police can always turn to the Victim Health Centre at St Asaph.
“I’m pleased some hate crime victims have had the strength to come forward and tell their stories. They have done so in the hope it will encourage other victims to speak out and not to suffer in silence.
“North Wales Police will always investigate complaints sensitively and I’m determined that we will see offenders dealt with. We must stamp it out as there are countless victims suffering in silence.”
Rich Ward is a hate crime victim support officer based in the North Wales Police’s divisional HQ in St Asaph.
He said: “We have had hate crimes that go from attempted murder to verbal abuse – and social media is a growing issue. It can lead to all sorts of issues such as mental health problems, social isolation, and depression and even people who simply withdraw from society.
“We want people to report hate crimes and tell us what has happened. Please don’t suffer in silence, contact the police or the Victim Support Unit and seek help. And if you witness hate crime please be prepared to report it and tell us what you have seen.
“Hate crime is ruining and devastating lives. It’s something we, as a society, need to stop. Victims need to know that they can and will be supported.”
To find out more about the North Wales Victim Support Centre please visit www.victimhelpcentrenorthwales.org.uk
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