Seattle enjoys a reputation as one of the most welcoming cities for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people — so this statistic may come as an unpleasant surprise:
Seattle had the third-highest rate of hate crimes against LGBT people among large U.S. cities in 2012, according to FBI data.
For every 100,000 Seattle residents, there were three hate crimes based on sexual orientation that year, the most recent data available. Among cities with at least 200,000 residents, only Washington, D.C., and Memphis, Tenn., have higher rates of anti-LGBT hate crimes.
This flies in the face of a recent study that was reported in many news outlets — and here on FYI Guy — that named Seattle as the friendliest city in the country for LGBT people. According to that report, Seattle earned its No. 1 ranking in part because of a relatively low rate of anti-LGBT hate crimes, at slightly fewer than one for every 100,000 residents.
After reporting on the study, I began to wonder about this particular statistic, because there has been a perception among people in Seattle’s LGBT community that gay bashings have been on the rise.
Upon review, I found that the study relied on 2011 crime data, even though the 2012 numbers were available from the FBI.
Sadly, Seattle would not have scored as well had the most recent data been used because bias crimes based on sexual orientation more than tripled in one year here. In 2011, six such crimes were reported. In 2012, that number jumped to 19. (Additionally, two anti-LGBT hate crimes were reported at the University of Washington, but listed separately in FBI data).
As a result, the city’s low rate of anti-LGBT hate crimes in 2011 suddenly became one of the nation’s highest just one year later.
There is always risk in assuming that one year of data tells the whole story. Even so, it doesn’t look like Seattle’s high rate of anti-LGBT hate crimes in 2012 was a one-year spike. Statistics obtained from the Seattle Police Department, and not yet reported to the FBI, show there were 19 anti-LGBT hate crimes in Seattle in 2013 — the same number as the year before.
This is not to suggest that Seattle doesn’t deserve the accolades it’s received as a great place for LGBT people. But it is a reminder that we need to remain vigilant, even in a city as renowned for embracing diversity as Seattle.
Note: It is important to keep in mind that there are inconsistencies and omissions in hate crime statistics. For example, Boston, which had the highest rate of anti-LGBT hate crimes in 2011, declined to report any data to the FBI in 2012.