Every month, we facilitate ongoing education meetings in an effort to continue learning how to best support survivors and each other, and to create opportunities to build a stronger community within W.O.M.A.N., Inc. In April, we focused on supporting queer and transgender survivors of domestic violence as part of our larger effort to provide more inclusive services to these communities.
Staff members Jill, Mary, and Lily facilitated a session focused on understanding terms related to working with LGBTQ communities, some of the unique ways in which queer and transgender folks might experience abuse, and how we as advocates can be better allies. Participants helped to create a safe and supportive space for some learning and unlearning, and enriched the conversation with their diverse perspectives and experiences. Thanks to our advocates who are equally committed to our inclusion efforts!
Regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, or other cultural or community identities, there are some very fundamental things that make a relationship unhealthy or abusive. At the core, Domestic Violence consists of one person misusing power and control, exploitation, manipulation, humiliation, dehumanizing, taking away a person’s right to self-determination and loving and equitable relationships. We see these tactics used in abusive relationships in all communities. At the same, we all need to be aware that there are some specific barriers that can present in LGBTQ communities. The following lists potential similarities and differences:
Similarities to violence in cisgender, heterosexual relationships:
- One person using their power to control another person
- Same rate
- Same categories of abuse
- Same level of severity
- Same pattern of abuse
- Similar effects on the survivor
- The survivor stays for the same reasons
- Children are directly or indirectly affected by harm
Different considerations when dealing with survivors who identify as members of a LGBTQ community:
- LGBTQ communities largely don’t identify Domestic Violence as a community issue
- The survivor is likely to have the same support systems, such as friends and social spaces, as the abuser. Leaving their partner may mean they lose their community.
- Internalized homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia increase the self-blame of the survivor.
- The abuser and/or others may blame the survivor’s sexual and/or gender identity for the abuse.
- Lack of visibility of LGBTQ individuals means that there are few role models for relationships.
- Myth of mutual abuse
- Domestic Violence reinforces the idea that the survivor’s gender or sexuality is abnormal.
- If the non-biological parent is being harmed they may fear losing their children.
How to become an ally?
W.O.M.A.N., Inc. believes in the power of allyship! Many social changes (such as the Civil Rights movement, farm workers’ rights, etc) were propelled forward when allies came together with those who directly identified with a movement. The following are some steps we can all take to become an ally for groups that we may or may not personally identify with:
· Be careful with your assumptions about people and communities. Ask direct, respectful questions if you have them.
· Use correct pronouns and names (if you don’t know how someone would like to be addressed, ask!)
· Rewire your psychology about gender, community groups, cultures, etc. Recognize that beliefs can be based on assumptions and misinformation.
· Be physically present; acknowledge and respect people’s concerns– support them whenever possible.
· Remember, when dealing with relationship abuse in trans communities service providers cannot turn someone away for services or shelter because they are transgender (According to the City ordinance, any self-identified woman has the right to access shelters. They can ask their shelter about ordinances for their county/city).
· Allow yourself and others moments of contemplation—be sure that you are offering support and not demonizing someone or offering unrealistic solutions.
· Important to remember what role we play together when working to end violence or other social ills.
· Educate yourself. Are the questions you asking relevant for the survivor? Are you asking them just because you are personally curious or because the question will help you better help a survivor?
Matt Kailey has done some wonderful work on helping us all become trans-allies. Here are a few principles that speak to us:
–A trans ally speaks up for us, but doesn’t speak for us. No matter how many trans people an ally knows and no matter how long he/she/ze has been involved in the community, an ally understands that trans people need to speak for themselves and that we are the best ones to describe our own experiences.
–A trans ally acknowledges his/her/hir own power and privilege and is aware of it, but also acknowledges ours. In other words, a trans ally understands that we are not victims and don’t need rescuing, but also understands that the support of allies is beneficial to our community.
–A trans ally works for inclusion, not just diversity. In other words, adding a “T” to your organization’s name or displaying photos of trans people on your website might reflect diversity, but it does not reflect inclusion.
To see more of Matt Kailey’s work, follow this link: http://tranifesto.com/
More on domestic violence in the LGBTQ communities here: Domestic Violence Suffered by the LGBTQ Communities