June is Pride Month! What began as a day to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City, a tipping point for the LGBTQ rights movement in the United States, has grown into a month-long celebration of equality, visibility, and diversity.
This month, we are honoring pride by highlighting the specific issues and challenges those in LGBTQ relationships may experience. A healthy relationship is a healthy relationship regardless of your sexual orientation or gender identity. No matter who you love, everyone deserves a safe and healthy relationship.
Healthy LGBTQ Relationships
While every healthy relationship should have things in common like equality and respect, no relationship is exactly the same. The same goes for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) relationships. Relationships are as different as the people in them, so there could be other things to consider when looking for signs of a healthy relationship. Things like:
- Feeling comfortable talking about boundaries (ex: physical, sexual, emotional)
- Giving space to hang out with friends and family without thinking your partner is cheating
- Respecting gender pronouns and name
- Respect gender identity and expression
Abuse in LGBTQ Relationships
It can be challenging for anyone to seek help during or after an abusive relationship, but there can be additional obstacles for people who identify as LGBTQ. Shame, homophobia/transphobia, or the fear of being outed may keep someone from seeking support. There may be a fear of not being taken seriously because of the belief that dating/domestic violence does not occur in LGBTQ relationships or that the relationship isn’t a “real” relationship.
One in three young people — straight, gay and everyone in between — experience some form of dating abuse. There may be warning signs present that indicate that a relationship is unhealthy or abusive:
- Pressuring someone to be “out” or threatening to “out” them to other people
- Telling someone their identity isn’t real because of the way they express themselves
- Restricting a person’s access to medication (ex: hormones, birth control, PrEP/PEP)
- Defining abusive behaviors as a normal part of LGBTQ relationships
How You Can Be an Ally
There a number of ways you can be an ally to the LGBTQ community (and other communities) year-round!
- Listen. The best way to learn about important issues and the personal experiences of a community is to listen to the many people who have firsthand experience. By listening to the voices of underrepresented groups, we all gain a better understanding of different issues.
- Educate yourself. Get online! Read blogs, articles, and stories. Watch videos. Learn history and current events. One of the best ways to grow as an ally is to challenge your own assumptions and continue learning.
- Speak up. Use what you’ve learned! Speak up when you hear offensive or oppressive jokes, comments, and language. Share stories and experiences, but remember to give credit to those who have shared their experiences with you. As allies, we help amplify the voices of the communities we support.
If you are wanting to support someone you care about that is LGBTQ and in an abusive relationship, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Empower them. Let them know that abuse is never their fault and support them in making decisions about what their next steps will be in getting help. Connect them with resources.
- Be open. LGBTQ people can face a lot of judgment and discrimination. You can create a safer space simply by being willing to talk and not passing judgment. While some identities or language can be new to you, try to be open to other definitions and see where it takes you.
- Challenge assumptions. The more we challenge our own assumptions, and think about how they influence our words and actions, the better allies we can be.
- Love is Respect – Love is Respect’s mission is to engage, educate, and empower youth to prevent and end dating abuse.
- LGBTQ Power & Control Wheel
- FORGE – FORGE is a national transgender and SOFFA (Significant Others, Family, Friends and Allies) organization that focuses on empowering, healing, and connecting victims and survivors of violence.
- The Trevor Project – The Trevor Project is a crisis line for LGBTQ Youth. The hotline number is 866-488-7386
- PFLAG – PFLAG is the extended family of the LGBTQ community. They’re made up of LGBTQ individuals, family members and allies. “Because together, we’re stronger.”
If you or someone you know is in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, and is seeking help or support, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or chat with an advocate through Love is Respect by texting LOVEIS to 22522. If you are in the Hays/Caldwell county area, call HCWC at 512-396-HELP(4357)