June 1 marks the beginning of Pride month. While Pride “month” is every day for me, this year something feels different. So much so that even typing this blog comes with hesitation. In recognizing the hesitation, I took a few moments to go within to seek clarity and direction. After meditating I realized 2 sources of my hesitation for this post:
1. The grief in my heart for the recurrent and multi-faceted loss experienced within the LGBTQ+ community.
2. The desire to clarify my source of reference. As you read, you should know that grief is a source of inspiration for this post.
It is also important for you to know that this post is not intended to speak for the experiences of all members of the LGBTQ+ community. This post is based on my lived experience as a Black, cis-gendered, queer, female member of the LGBTQ+ community. It also draws from my experience as a Black queer therapist in Baltimore. Now, let’s get to it.
Defining Domestic Violence
There are multiple definitions of domestic violence. The term domestic violence is also used interchangeably with intimate partner violence. Considering this confusion, it is important to define what this post means when referring to “domestic violence.” At Revitalizing Inner Self Essence, we define domestic violence as an intimate dating relationship with two folks in which one person uses ways to intentionally control the other person. The person exhibiting the control uses control to elicit a specific outcome. That specific outcome is usually fostering dependency by lowering self-esteem and increasing self-doubt. It is important to note that while physical abuse can be present in domestic violence relationships, it is not the only type of control.
Domestic violence includes mental abuse, emotional abuse, financial exploitation, isolation, threats, intimidation, denying, blaming, and more. This control happens in heterosexual relationships but looks uniquely different in LGBTQ+ relationships. Let’s take a look at 3 unique manifestations of domestic violence in LGBTQ+ relationships.
3 Manifestations of Domestic Violence in LGBTQ+ Relationships
Most queer folks agree on the existence of domestic violence and that physical abuse is one way it shows up in relationships. We are also aware that queer folk fight both verbally and physically. But, within the LGBTQ+ community, there is an unconscious agreement or myth that physical abuse only happens with straight people. Time and time again, I hear statements like “we are both girls, so we can we can fight.” So, because you are both girls, both men, both trans, both non-binary, or just both queer, using fighting to control the other person isn’t domestic violence? I think not. Using the statement “we are both girls, so we can fight” does two things: 1. It waters down the presence of intimacy within LGBTQ+ relationships and 2. It pushes the heteronormative framework about relationship structure, roles, and dynamics. Here’s the bottom line: if you are in an LGBTQ+ relationship and your partner is using physical force to harm you in order to receive a desired result, this is not fighting. It is physical abuse.
It is important to note the use of physical force is often extended to sexual encounters. Many folks have adopted false narratives about sex such as “no really means yes” or “they are playing hard to get.” These narratives, along with heteronormative frameworks about rape and assault contribute to the use of exertion of force during sexual encounters. If you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community and you don’t want to have sex, but control and force are used to get you to have sex or participate in a sexual encounter, this is rape or sexual assault.
As members of the LGBTQ+ community, we all know that once you decide to come out, you risk losing important relationships. You risk the loss of your family, friends, safety, housing, finances, insurance, and spirituality. Not only do you risk these losses, but many of us have experienced the actual loss of one – if not all of these things. Again, one thing we are clear on in our community is that people may decide to separate from us because of who we love or how we identify. However, one thing we overlook is the possibility that the person we love might fuel our isolation. In case you’re wondering what I am talking about – don’t worry, I am about to explain.
Let’s use a case study with Shawn and Monica. Shawn and Monica are two Black, 17-year-old, cis-gendered females in a same-gender-loving relationship. Shawn’s family learns that she is in a relationship with Monica and tells Shawn “You can do whatever you want with whomever you want, but just not in our house.” Shawn tells this to Monica. Monica states “You don’t need them. We can leave. I can be your mother, father, sister, and brother. All you need is me.” Shawn agrees and states “You’re the only one I need.” She and Monica move in together. Shawn disconnects from her family.
You may read this and think, “Monica just wants to support Shawn, there’s nothing wrong with that.” You’re right, there is nothing wrong with Monica’s desire to be a dependable person in Shawn’s life. But, Monica doesn’t want to be a dependable person, she wants to be the only dependable person. This is isolation.
3. Self Harm and Suicide
One thing about us queer folk is that when we are done with a relationship, we are done. But often, the road to that finish line is a bumpy destination. So often, I have worked with LGBTQ+ folks that have tried to end relationships but are stopped. In response to one person trying to end the relationship, the other partner will say “I will kill myself if you leave me,” or “I will stab myself if you leave me,” or “I can’t live without you.”
Sometimes, folks don’t just say these things, but they also take action. When taking action, folks might begin to hit themselves, cut themselves, or bang their head against a wall as an act of self-harm. Other times, folks might attempt suicide by taking pills, causing a car accident, cutting their wrists, or something else.
Now, let’s be clear, many folks experience depression and as a result, experience suicidal ideation. This is a fact. Right now, I am not referring to those folks. I am referring to the folks who make these comments or take these actions as an extreme attempt to keep their partner in their partnership unwillingly. These individuals use these acts to shame and guilt their partner into staying with them. As a result, the partner is guilt-stricken and decides to stay in the relationship out of fear that their action may directly cause death. This is a form of power and control.
The Impact of Domestic Violence in LGBTQ+ relationships
Domestic violence in LGBTQ+ relationships is a big deal. Folks in the LGBTQ+ community have lost family, friends, mentors, jobs, safety, and more. Then, we get into a seemingly loving partnership and are at times intentionally controlled. As a result, we experience depression, suicidal ideation, sexual assault, low self-esteem, a decreased sense of self-worth, and more. Most importantly, we feel so lost. This loss is not two-fold or even threefold but is often at least a quadruple loss. As a result, we walk around feeling as if the only place we belong is amidst pain.
You should care about Domestic Violence in LGBTQ+ Relationships
- Gay and bisexual men experience abuse in intimate partner relationships at a rate of 2 in 5, which is comparable to the amount of domestic violence experienced by heterosexual women.3
- Approximately 50% of the lesbian population has experienced or will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes.1
- In one year, 44% of victims in LGBT domestic violence cases identified as men, while 36% identified as women.1
- 78% of lesbians report that they have either defended themselves or fought back against an abusive partner. 18% of this group described their behavior as self-defense or “trading blow for blow or insult for insult.”4
- 43.8% of lesbian women and 61.1% of bisexual women have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime, as opposed to 35% of heterosexual women.
- LGBTQ Black/African American victims are more likely to experience physical intimate partner violence compared to those who do not identify as Black/African Americans
Begin Therapy for Domestic Violence Survivors in Baltimore, MD
Writing this blog post was difficult. But reaching out for help and being misunderstood is even more difficult. The truth is: queer folk don’t have enough safe spaces, let alone safe spaces to heal from trauma. Counseling at our Baltimore, MD therapy practice is a safe space for you, created by one of you. As a Black queer therapist, I understand you. I hear you and I journey with you.
You have spent all of your life surviving. And you have survived. Now, it’s time to begin to heal. You deserve to heal and are capable of healing. Stop living your life on guard. You don’t have to do this alone. I’ve helped other folks reach healing at Revitalizing Inner Self Essence. It would be an honor to help you, too.
If you are ready to get started, follow these three steps:
- Reach out to me using the contact form.
- Connect with me, Christina, and we will schedule a consultation appointment to see if we are a good match.
- Start working through the pain and freeing yourself from the past.
Other Therapy Services in Baltimore, MD
As a Black female therapist in Baltimore, MD, I am passionate about advocating for Black and LGBTQ+ folks. I use a variety of skills in trauma therapy, including Mind-Body Medicine and EMDR therapy. And I have extensive knowledge and experience in working with survivors of homicide and domestic violence. Please feel free to get to know me better by reading my other blog or even reaching out!