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Students who faced homophobic abuse at Seven Stars pub no longer feel safe in Canterbury

By Lydia Chantler-Hicks

A student who experienced sexist, homophobic, and transphobic abuse at a Canterbury pub says she no longer feels the city is safe for LGBTQ+ people.

Alexandra Clifford, 21, and her friends were left "utterly terrified" following the fracas at the Seven Stars in Orange Street.

The Canterbury Christ Church masters student, who lives in Wincheap, said: "As a group of mostly queer people, it was incredibly scary."

Alexandra Clifford describes her ordeal

Alexandra and three other young women were approached at the bar by a young man, who was part of a larger group.

He began "squeakily shuffling his feet" and moving into their personal space.

Alexandra and her friend, who are autistic and suffer from sensory issues, found the noise distressing and asked him to stop, prompting him to make "sexist" remarks.

Moments later, the women - on a pub crawl to celebrate a friends birthday - were approached by another man from the same group.

"I assumed to apologise," said Alexandra.

"He instead told me, 'my mate wants you to know he rates all of you one out of 10'."

Alexandra Clifford outside the Seven Stars pub in Canterbury (15107981)
Alexandra Clifford outside the Seven Stars pub in Canterbury (15107981)

Another man began shouting abusive homophobic slurs at the group, many of whom are LGBTQ+.

"People like that have a way of saying something that makes you react, so you seem like the hysterical one," said Alexandra.

"And I'm sorry to say we took the bait."

Spotting the rumpus, bar staff intervened. Alexandra and her friends where shocked and frustrated when they were ejected from the pub first while the men remained.

"As we were walked out, two other customers outside began yelling homophobic and transphobic remarks," she said.

"We walked away utterly terrified. It felt so unfair."

She says this is the worst incident of abuse she has endured since moving to Canterbury in 2016.

"I'll get homophobic abuse mainly if I'm out with my friends who are more visibly queer - my trans friends and my girlfriend, who is trans," says Alexandra.

"Some of my friends have not been as lucky. Even earlier that night, in another pub, my friend who is a trans man was yelled at by a customer for being in the men's bathroom.

Alexandra hopes bars and pubs will do more to make LGBTQ people feel safe (15162744)
Alexandra hopes bars and pubs will do more to make LGBTQ people feel safe (15162744)

"Things like this are getting more and more common."

Alexandra says it will be "a long time" before she feels safe enough to go on another night out.

"She even decided to stay in on her 21st birthday, following the incident.

"I worry about my LGBT friends a lot," she says.

"Lots of girls say, 'text me when you're home', but we've now taken to saying 'text the whole way home'.

"I come from Gravesend and that doesn't feel as safe for queer people. When I was living there, I did feel I couldn't go out looking gay.

"When I came to live in Canterbury one of the main things the university said is how the city is one of the safest places to live in the country.

"But is it safe for gay and trans people? This is my home, and I don't feel safe here."

Alexandra hopes to see pubs and bars in the city doing more to make customers feel secure - particularly the LGBTQ+ community.

The Seven Stars pub in Sun Street, Canterbury
The Seven Stars pub in Sun Street, Canterbury

Alexandra penned an open letter to the Seven Stars about her experience on August 1, questioning the way in which they were removed.

Owner Charles Smythe defended his staff's actions, saying: "A group of small-minded idiots made comments and the girls quite rightly reacted.

"When you get two groups of people in a situation like that, the way to diffuse it is to get rid of one of the groups first."

"In this case it was the girls. They were outside for about 10 minutes and once they had left, we ejected the other guys.

"Putting both groups out in the street may have resulted in it escalating.

"In hindsight, perhaps we should have ejected the group of men first, but they were not being very vocal and the girls were, quite rightly, being vocal about someone who had threatened them so in that moment a decision was made to ask them to leave first."

He says the men have now been barred from the pub.

Margate Pride Rock night creates safe space for LGBTQ+ community.

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