The issue of domestic violence is well-known to YW Calgary. For decades, we have supported Calgarians impacted by violence by providing shelter, counselling, and community-based case management programs. As is the case with any issue, with time comes greater understanding and using an intersectional lens, we recognize that there are unique considerations for those from the LGBTQIA2S+ community who are impacted by violence.
Though queer relationships have gained legitimacy over time, heterosexism and other forms of bias have made it difficult for members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community to access family and relationship supports. Let’s first consider how challenging it would be for a person to disclose that they have been impacted by domestic violence. Now, add to that having to discuss your sexual orientation or gender identity with service providers when you are not sure how they will receive or react to information about your identity. Undoubtedly, domestic violence is a challenge for anybody experiencing it but there are unique considerations for the queer community.
Let’s explore a few:
- Fear of being outed
- If I call the police or go to a shelter, I’ll have to tell them I’m gay/lesbian/bisexual/trans.
- My partner has threatened to out me to friends and family if I try to leave them.
- I’m not out to others in my life. If I lose this relationship I truly will be all alone.
- If I go to a women’s specific facility, will I be treated differently by others if they know I am trans/Lesbian/Bisexual?
- Disbelief by service providers
- She can’t really be a victim of abuse if her partner is female, she’s not really under a physical threat.
- Outdated ideas about gender
- It’s not serious when women have conflict (e.g. cat fights, pillow fights etc.).
- How will we know who is the victim and who is the perpetrator if they are both women?
To the latter, there can also be concerns about being misgendered by service providers or other clients in a program. Misunderstanding (intentional or otherwise) about one’s identity can be both exhausting and invalidating, which under any circumstance would be challenging but is especially heightened if violence is present.
This is but a sampling of the considerations that make it challenging for queer and trans women to access much needed support. And we know that domestic violence support is much needed. According to the Government of Canada (2018), 67% of the queer women surveyed reported at least one incident of violence in an intimate relationship as compared to 44% of heterosexual women. Data from the Centre for Disease Control (2010) found that bisexual women have an increased risk of violence in an intimate relationship. A growing body of data tells us that the issue of domestic violence is present in the LGBTQIA2S+ community and that service providers need to be deliberate in communicating that they are safe and welcoming of the LGBTQIA2S+ community.
There is much work to be done; however, progress is being made and the network of support for those impacted by domestic violence in our community is growing.
For anybody reading this who needs support, below you will find some helpful resources. If you need help, please reach out.
Following the advice noted earlier, we wish to be deliberate in communicating that all are welcome here at YW Calgary. We welcome all women and gender diverse individuals and their families.
Wishing you a safe a Pride Month.
Calgary Queer Compass
If you are in danger and need immediate assistance, please call 9-1-1