By: Ana M. Sancho Sama, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist
In the month of June we celebrate PRIDE to stand in solidarity with LGBTQ+ individuals in their fight for fundamental rights and to combat injustices, violence, or discrimination. This year on June 1st, the White House issued a Proclamation on LGBTQ+ Pride month to recognize and support the struggles of this marginalized group (A Proclamation on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Month, 2021 | The White House)
The focus for this month’s blog is on a particular type of struggle that LGBTQ+ individuals are facing today: Domestic and Family Violence (DFV). According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) the following statistics about domestic violence affect the LGBTQ+ community:
1. 43.8 % of lesbian women and 61% of bisexual women have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lives, as opposed to 35% of heterosexual women.
2. 26% of gay men and 37% of bisexual men have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime, in comparison to 29% of heterosexual men.
3. Only 26% of gay men called the police for assistance after experiencing near-lethal violence.
4. In 2012, fewer than 5% of LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence sought orders of protection.
5. Transgender victims are more likely to experience intimate partner violence in public, compared to those who do not identify as transgender.
6. Bisexual victims are more likely to experience sexual violence, compared to people who do not identify as bisexual.
7. LGBTQ members who are Black/African American are more likely to experience physical intimate partner violence, compared to those who do not identify as Black/African American.
8. LGBTQ White victims are more likely to experience sexual violence, compared to those who do not identify as white.
9. LGBTQ Victims on public assistance are more likely to experience intimate partner violence compared to those who are not on public assistance.
In addition, the LGBTQ+ community faces harm from a different kind of: ostracism which creates a significant risks for psychological and physical harm such as depression, increased suicidality and symptoms that negatively impact physical health.
There are three main types of ostracism, and these are:
1. Legal/Political. Examples include when state laws restrict the definition of civil marriage to “one man and one woman” thus, effectively excluding the LGBTQ community from the benefits, protections, rights and responsibilities of the civil institution of marriage. Other examples of legal ostracism are evident in the areas of defining parental rights, voter identification requirements, immigration and asylum, definition of hate crimes, and state legislation or local ordinances prohibiting transgender individuals the use of public bathrooms in a manner consistent with one’s gender identity.
2. Institutional. Common examples include public or private schools that reject LGBTQ affirmative educational materials and topics as well as private schools whose policies exclude LGBTQ children or LGBTQ parents, or prohibit the employment of LGBTQ staff or teachers. In the arena of domestic violence, this would include DV shelters who reject transgender victims on the basis of their biological gender.
3. Social. This type encompasses interpersonal interactions with family members, peers, co-workers, or individual business who refuse service to members of the LGBTQ community. Just among families, social ostracism can involve family acts of denial and rejection of one’s sexual preference or gender identity, or pressures to conform to heterosexual norms. Ellen Riggle at the University of Kentucky provides a thorough examination of this topic in this article (PDF) Ostracism as a framework for understanding LGBT well-being and risk (researchgate.net) .
What Can We Do In Our Community To Reduce Or Eliminate Domestic And Family Violence Towards LGBTQ Individuals
As with most things, change at any level begins with you. An excellent short video created by OutRight Action International explores five simple ways to fight homophobia and transphobia (#LGBTSpeakOut: Fight Back Against Homophobia and Transphobia - YouTube)
In addition, the Safe Zone at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte recommends the following action steps that would significantly contribute to reducing and eliminating violence targeted at LGBTQ members in the future.
1. Organize discussion groups at organizations/groups you belong to (a community o faith, education associations, social justice activist groups, etc.) to talk about LGBTQ issues. Create Safe Zones in schools.
2. Use neutral labels like “partner” or “significant other” instead of “boyfriend,” “girlfriend,” etc.
3. Bring up current LGBTQ issues in conversations with friends, at work, in class, and in your community.
4. Interrupt anti-LGBTQ jokes, comments, bullying, or any other behaviors that make homophobia and transphobia appear OK.
5. Put LGBTQ-positive posters at your work, community of faith, etc., and/or wear shirts, buttons, etc. that promote LGBTQ equality and straight ally visibility.
6. Don't make assumptions about peoples' sexual orientations or gender identities. Assume there are LGBTQ people in all classes, sports, meetings, at work, daily life, etc.
7. Don't assume that "feminine-acting men" and "masculine-acting women" are transgender or not heterosexual. Equally, don't assume that "macho males" or "feminine females" are heterosexual or not transgender.
8. Use your privilege as a heterosexual/cisgender ally to speak up for LGBTQ issues and rights whenever/wherever you can. Write letters to the editor, participate in marches, lend support to LGBTQ groups at work, a community of faith, vote, etc.
9. As an ally to transgender folks, speak up when you hear slurs and attacks on people who express their gender outside of societal expectations. Educate people around you on the continuum of gender expression.
Families and friends of an LGBTQ member can express their support by attending PRIDE and PFLAG rallies, speaking to someone with homophobic/transphobic attitudes, or by helping an LGBTQ victim of domestic violence seek safety and utilize resources such as those provided by our local Rise Above Violence or at the state level by Violence Free Colorado and at the national level, by LGBT National Health Center (GLNH.ORG ); or by the National Center for Transgender Equality (transequality.org).
I strongly believe that the first step for heterosexuals is to examine our own prejudices and privileges. While you may not understand the complexities involved in the lives of LGBTQ individuals and may not even accept them, the minimum level required is one of respect for all individuals. Tolerance is not enough. Hopefully, respect and exposure to differences will in time, promote acceptance and understanding.
Rise Above Violence provides 24/7 crisis services to anyone experiencing violence.
Please call 970-264-9075
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