Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Domestic Abuse and Homophobia

There are things I think we need to change to make it easier for GBLTQ people to feel they can seek help in the first place which is as important as broadcasting the help that is out there.

 I'm putting the rest of this under a cut (damn you html, why do you hate meeeee?!) but I have avoided detailed or graphic description simply because I'm not comfortable with doing so myself.

We need to acknowledge that abuse and rape against GBLTQ people happens. We need to banish the idea that a woman can’t possible abuse another woman or a man another man. We need to throw out the idea that domestic abuse case between a same-sex couple isn’t just a fight or an argument or a common assault. We need to banish the idea that a woman cannot rape another woman or that a gay man always wants sex so can’t possibly be raped. Domestic abuse happens in same-sex households and it is just as severe and just as wrong as when it happens in opposite sex households.

It’s not just assault. It’s not just an argument. It’s certainly not just sex. It deserves attention and it deserves to be treated every bit as severely as it is.

We also need to ditch the homophobic blaming. Yes domestic abuse happens in same-sex relationships – but it isn’t happening BECAUSE the relationship is same-sex. We still live in a society that constantly demonises same-sex relationships. You can pick up a major national newspaper and easily see columnists and news stories blaming everything from child-abuse to premature death on being gay. Same-sex relationships are still seen as perverse, wrong and even evil.  For me, these were major factors in making me tolerate abuse – because I was told repeatedly that I couldn’t expect better and it was my fault for being gay.

Our society has extremely strong messages that GBLTQ relationships are less than straight ones. After all, the whole reason we can’t get married is based on that very premise! It’s a premise that is supported by law, that is supported by major religions and that we can find pushed in our media time after time after time. Our relationships are less.

And we’re repeatedly told that we’re predators. How many times is the spectre of the GBLTQ sex predation used to justify attacks or exclusion? That we’re after the children? That kids need to be protected from us? How often are our relationships compared to paedophilia? It’s hardly an uncommon meme! You can hardly talk about anything about us without these slurs being raised at some point, it’s inevitable.

We have an overwhelming message that GBLTQ relationships are sick, wrong, perverse, predatory and abusive. Which, for me as a gay man, meant I got the message that abuse was normal and an inherent part of a gay relationship.

Related to that, we need to combat the whole idea of GBLTQ person as sex predator so we can talk about abuse without giving ammunition to the homophobes and their supporters who are constantly attacking us. Part of my discomfort of writing these post is that these are things I am deeply uncomfortable talking about with anyone other than GBQ men. Anything I say, I feel, can and will be used against us – every time we talk about domestic abuse or rape will then be turned round to attack gay people as a whole. I’ve said before about the pressure of having to have an utterly perfect relationship – and this applies tenfold here. I feel I can’t talk about a being abused without someone deciding to make that a sweeping statement about the gay community. I can’t talk about domestic abuse, or being preyed upon while vulnerable, without someone deciding that this applies to gay men as a whole, or is part of how gay men live or what we as a gay male community done.

This isn’t an isolated thing – nor is it even just a thing of the religious right. This slurring all of us at the slightest excuse is so common and is one of the building blocks of the dehumanisation that leads to hate crimes. How many times is this used as an excuse to deny us rights and protections? How many times is it used as an excuse for the hate crimes we face (it’s the basis for the entire gay panic defence after all). Every time this is perpetuated, more of our blood is spilled.

And people who are like I was, who can’t even recognise a situation is abusive because of all the homophobes and bigots who have drilled into me that abuse is all I can expect for being a gay man, don’t get out. The message is “what do you expect? This is what you get for being gay!” The message is “you don’t get better, you don’t deserve better. This is who and what you are for being gay.” The message is that this is part of being gay, part of gay life, part of gay culture, part of living your life as a gay man. Not that you’re with an abusive arsehole. Not that there are predators everywhere. Not that you’re worthy of love, that you can find respect and kindness and equality. No, because this is an inherent gay thing.

Attacking all gay men, making gross sweeping statements about GBLTQ sex predators in general (because I think something similar happens in other letters in the umbrella, but this is what I know from my own experience) or somehow deciding that being a sex predator is part of “gay culture”  made me – and continues to make me – leery about speaking out. I don’t want to hand a club to my enemies. I don’t want to talk about something that cuts to the core of my vulnerability and have people then use that to hit me with.

It’s not a miracle cure by any stretch – but for me and many young people like me – part of the path out of abuse means recognising our own value. And that means combatting homophobia – the societal homophobia that constantly tells us that we are sick, perverse and diseased; the messages that says our relationships are inherently lesser and prone to abusive and predation; all the bigotry that makes us normalise and accept abuse.

We need to learn we deserve better. We need to learn we can have better. We need to learn that abuse  and predation and rape are not just things that go with being gay, they are not things we have to tolerate. And to do that we need to combat homophobia as well – for people to get out they need to know there is an out to go to and that their lives are not standard.

Probably even less coherent than the last one. But they’re finally out of my draft’s folder now I’ve been spurred into finally finishing it.