I would like to welcome the newest member of our writing team, Harlow. In their first post with us, they recount their struggles with discrimination, and the challenge of finding a safe home. Thanks for sharing with us, Harlow!
Eighteen months ago my partner and I moved into a new home. We both live with mental health issues and had struggled to find somewhere we felt safe and settled, and so all through our relationship we had kept moving. We had been looking around for quite some time when we finally found this place. Initially, it had all the signs of a safe place, a place we’d be happy to call home. The landlord lived below the flat, but he seemed pleasant enough, he was happy with us having our dogs and personalising the property as much as we’d like and that added to us feeling more comfortable and safe. We were thrilled at the idea of finally finding a place to settle.
Unfortunately, that didn’t last long and not long after we signed our contracts, he started making homophobic and racist comments disguised as humour. He’d comment on how our ‘lesbian phase’ was invalid, that it must have been caused by bad relationships with our fathers and/or abuse. At first we would conceal our hurt and try to excuse it as him being old and not knowing any better and try to focus on how fortunate we were to have a home, but the constant snide comments wore us down to the point where we were both in a state of complete meltdown and crisis with our mental illnesses.
Over the next 7 months his comments grew more offensive, making hateful comments about my race, about our (perceived) sexualities and even comments about our mental health and what he thought was ‘wrong’ with us. He was messaging my partner constantly, not only offensive things but just irrelevant nonsense constantly. It grew to the point that my partner was having panic attacks every time there was a notification on the phone.
In February 2014, my partner came out as transgender and started transitioning to male. We put it off for as long as we could, but eventually we told the landlord due to the fact my partner’s new name needed to be added to our contract. This just proved to increase the abuse until my partner and I were completely housebound, leaving the house only in the middle of the night when we knew we wouldn’t accidentally bump into him. We continued looking for a new place to live but no results. We were absolutely stuck.
Things with the landlord continued getting worse. Every time someone came to our home – mechanics, repairmen, post men – he would out my partner as trans. One day it finally got to the point where he threatened my partner’s life after I challenged him on his perpetual misgendering of him. That was the final straw, and we decided to reach out to a local charity who help combat hate crimes and they supported us in reporting it to the police.
That was extremely difficult for us as we were already completely worn down by everything we had been dealing with, and then during the process of reporting to the police we experienced more transphobia and ignorance. This time though, it was easier to handle because we had support and someone else by our sides fighting for us.
At the beginning of March, we were finally rehoused with support from the charity, the Police and our local authority. We have moved to a place where we didn’t know anyone, where nobody knows that my partner is trans and we finally feel safe. We are close enough to our neighbours to have people for safety but far enough away to feel safe in our own little world. We are slowly trying to rebuild and get back to a place of relative stability. My partner is now in therapy for his mental health condition and the experiences in our previous home. Even though we are still trying to recover, the happiness that has come from just being free is overwhelming.