Beyond the Parade: Intimate Partner Violence in LGBT Relationships

Pride is the annual round of parades and other events held this time of year everywhere from New York to Sao Paulo to Tokyo. These festive gatherings--places where LGBTQ folks can celebrate who they are and how they feel—are filled with joy and rainbows. They are also one of the few times a year LGBT people can be truly visible.

By Steph Black

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Pride was born out of a vicious political movement intended to destroy, submerge, and re-closet LGBT people in the 1960s. The first Pride, held in June 1970, was inspired by a riot—the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City that challenged the harassment of and discrimination against gays. And it’s this legacy we cannot ignore.

One of the many, many issues that must be discussed beyond Pride is the prevalence of intimate partner violence—IPV—(also known as domestic violence) in LGBT relationships. While abuse is abuse is abuse, across the board LGBT folks face unique challenges and barriers when it comes to IPV.

To be clear: LGBT people are not more violent, more prone to violence, or more likely to be violent than other identity groups. People of all identities perpetuate and experience IPV. But LGBT folks are disproportionately victims of IPV by other LGBT people and non-LGBT people.

For example, for cisgender women, nearly two-thirds of bisexual women will experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner. Forty-four percent of lesbian women will experience this, and 35 percent of heterosexual women.

For cisgender men, the trend is similar: 37 percent of bisexual men will experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, 26 percent of gay men, and 29 percent of heterosexual men.

And for transgender people, 47 percent will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, and the numbers increase for transgender people of color.

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And there are significant barriers to seeking help. For LGBT folks in certain communities, there simply may not be any resources available. Hospitals, police offices, and local clinics may not have the necessary training or resources to provide care to LGBT IPV victims who need support.

And many of the places where non-LGBT people find refuge can be very dangerous to LGBT people. Police have a long history of anti-trans violence. And a proposed Ohio law would require teachers and guidance counselors to out LGBT students to their parents or face termination.

Additionally, many LGBT people worry about perpetuating stereotypes about their own communities. For this reason, it can be very challenging for a person to admit they have been victimized by another LGBT person and potentially face ostracism by their small, close-knit community.

Not all LGBT people are ‘out’, either. Coming out to others is a significant, and potentially frightening and dangerous time of a person’s life. Coming out to a parent about being abused by a person within an LGBT relationship is doubly fraught. And the threat of being outed by an abusive partner can be debilitating.

Beyond the parades, the pervasive, insidious problems faced by the LGBT community continue to march on.  

 

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Steph Black is a Senior at American University studying Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. When not talking, reading, or writing about Judaism and feminism, she's usually hanging out with her cat, Goose or with friends downtown.