The sad fact is that any minority is at risk on public transport. The confinement of these carriages is a unique kind of public space; everyone is there out of necessity, no one really wants to be there and everyone is forced into close encounters with people they'd rather not be anywhere near. If this includes people with diametrically opposed beliefs, lifestyles and opinions, there is a sad possibility that a clash could ensue. When I was at school, the worst and most painful homophobic bullying I received was on my school bus, because once in the confined space that I had to go to twice a day, there was nowhere I could go. Nowhere to hide.
Just like the 'I <3 MCR' campaign after the riots, Manchester's response has been to react with positivity. The Manchester Lesbian and Gay Chorus (MLGC) were joined by choirs from all over the Northwest last week in their 'Safe To Sing' demonstration, which saw singers flashmob scores of trams with show tunes before meeting hundreds at a specially erected stage in Piccadilly Gardens. With the support of Manchester City Council, Metrolink and the musical Wicked itself, the event was a united show of defiance in the face of homophobia. But while this show of support was a moment of triumphant solidarity, the crusade for the wider cause shouldn't distract from the very human ordeal that sparked it.
So what can be done to make our public transport safer? Aside from making them less public, or policing them, or putting marshals on each and every bus or tram, I don't know. That's not for me to figure out, but something must be done. And while preventing individual cases is obviously important, it's stamping out their root that will actually change things in the long run. And that can't come from us; it must happen from within.