Relationships are as different as the people in them. The same goes for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) relationships. There are qualities all healthy relationships should have and abuse is never one of them. No matter who you love or how you identify, everyone deserves a safe and healthy relationship.
Healthy LGBTQ Relationships
Your relationship should make you feel supported, respected, and equal – building you up instead of tearing you down. In a healthy relationship, you are able to enjoy your time together while being able to spend time apart, communicate about your thoughts and feelings without fear of how your partner will respond, and feel like you are able to be yourself without being pressured to change. When looking for signs of a healthy relationship, here are a few more things to look for if you are in a LGBTQ relationship:
- Respecting your partner’s name and gender pronouns
- Supporting your partner’s gender identity and expression
- Supporting your partner’s sexual orientation
- Feeling comfortable talking about boundaries (ex: physical, sexual, emotional)
Abuse in LGBTQ Relationships
Anyone can experience abuse in their relationships and LGBTQ relationships are no different. Statistics show that relationship abuse occurs at the same rates, and sometimes higher rates due to barriers to support, in LGBTQ relationships when compared to relationships that are not LGBTQ.
- Transgender women are three times more likely to experience abuse in their relationships than individuals who do not identify as transgender. (National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs)
- 61% of bisexual women, 44% of lesbian women, 37% of bisexual men, and 26% of gay men experience abuse in their relationships at some point in their lives. (The 2010 National Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Violence Survey)
- 54% of trans and non-binary people experience abuse in their relationships at some point in their lives. (2015 U.S. Transgender Survey)
- LGBTQ teens experience dating abuse more frequently than teens who do identify as LGBTQ. (Urban Institute)
In addition to common warning signs, there may be other signs present in LQBTQ relationships that indicate that a relationship is unhealthy or abusive:
- Pressuring someone to be “out” or threatening to “out” them to other people
- Using a person’s identity, orientation, expression to make them feel inferior or like they deserve the abuse
- Telling someone their identity isn’t real, or that they aren’t a “real” man or woman
- Restricting a person’s access to medication and affirming care (ex: hormones, counseling, birth control, PrEP/PEP)
- Denying abuse based on the false belief that abuse only happens between a man and a woman
Barriers to Support
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/heterosexism, 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. Abusive partners can take advantage of these additional barriers to further the abuse happening in the relationship.
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 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 expanding what you know.
- 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.
A healthy relationship is a healthy relationship regardless of your sexual orientation or gender identity. Unsure if your relationship is healthy? Take our Healthy Relationships quiz!
- LGBTQ Power & Control Wheel
- LGBTQ Survivors of Sexual Violence
- Additional resources for LGBTQ victims and survivors
- 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)
My friend is a transwoman, and she recently got out of an abusive relationship, but the trauma still has her closed off from showing emotions and getting attached to others. It was quite concerning when you provided us with the statistics saying transgender women are three times more likely to experience abuse in relationships compared to those who do not identify as such. I’ll have to help my friend find a gender-affirming therapist to help her cope with her trauma soon.