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Toward healthy relationships and healthy communities: domestic violence prevention in LGBTQ communities

Blog post

When addressing domestic violence in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) communities there are unique layers to address because of discrimination in the broader society. Some of the main factors affecting LGBTQ partner abuse are the homophobia and isolation that influence everything from the day-to-day realities of interpersonal relationships to whether services are responsive to LGBTQ relationships to policy issues regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.

In order to support LGBTQ youth in having violence-free relationships, we need to address homophobia and transphobia (discrimination against transgender people).Whether addressing prevention among LGBTQ youth or adults, efforts to prevent relationship violence are inextricably tied to the struggle for LGBTQ safety and equality.

“When it’s not safe for young LGBTQ people to be open about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, they may need to hide or deny who they are and lie to family and friends and people at school, work and other community settings. These survival tactics may help keep them safe. But they are not helpful for learning to negotiate honesty and intimacy in romantic relationships.” 
– Lisa Fujie Parks, California Partnership to End Domestic Violence

Some organizations may be reluctant to address the needs of the LGBTQ community because they may encounter anti-LGBTQ sentiment. In some communities, taking an inclusive and proactive approach could potentially upset a faith partner, board member or local donor. Through dialogue and ongoing work to address homophobia, support can be garnered from most community partners, especially when we remind people that everyone deserves to be safe in their relationships.

Here are some suggestions from advocates on how to better address domestic violence prevention in LGBTQ communities:

  • Include us in your prevention work. Acknowledge that LGBTQ relationships exist. Promote images of healthy same-sex relationships.
  • Be an ally – someone who actively challenges bias and discrimination against LGBTQ people.
  • Support genuine dialogue where people can sort through their feelings. Host community gatherings and foster a climate where it’s safe to talk about these issues.
  • Take a firm stand against discrimination and for inclusion, especially in the community and in legislation.
  • Make an organizational commitment to have LGBTQ-specific services developed by and for LGBTQ communities. A wonderful example of this is the Asian Women’s Shelter’s Queer Asian Women and Transgender Support.
  • Be aware that LGBTQ youth often have unique needs. Create safe spaces for all young people.

Reprinted from the Fall 2007 issue of Catalyst, a publication of Transforming Communities.