Domestic Violence Within the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community:An Exploration of Myths and Misconceptions Florida Dispute Resolution Center Annual Conference “Twenty in Transition” John B. Dorris, Esq.
Identity Terminology• Different groups may use different acronyms to represent similar ideas or identities• What is most important for the mediator is to mirror the language used by the client• An individual may “look” a certain way, but identify differently• To maintain impartiality and fairness the mediator should be aware of his or her bias and use appropriate language
Identity Terminology• LGBTQ – Umbrella term meaning Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer• GLBT, LGBT, LGBTIQ, LGBTTSIQ, GBLTQQA, LGBTA, etc. – Intersex, Questioning, Allies, and Two-Spirit• The terms include both sexuality and gender (these are not the same thing)
Sexuality & Gender• Sexuality – Orientation: who you want, who you love – Behavior: what you do – Identity: what you call yourself• These 3 may not be in alignment as one expects• Important is to respect people’s identities• Offensive terms to avoid: Homosexual, Queer
Gender v. Sex• Sex: biological characteristic of being male, female, and/or intersex (chromosomal, hormones, genitalia, etc.)• Sex is assigned at birth by a doctor based on the physical anatomy of genitalia• Sex can be changed through medical assistance such as surgeries and hormones
Gender• Gender is also assigned at birth based on sex• It refers to self-expression, performance, actions, behavior, dress, and grooming based on cultural norms of masculinity and femininity
Gender Assignment• Born female: assigned gender of girl• Born male: assigned gender of boy• Intersex: genitalia considered “non-standard” at birth and are assigned a gender by the doctor and parents
Cisgender & Transgender• Cisgender: term for individuals whose gender identities are the same as the gender assigned at birth• Transgender: umbrella term for people whose gender identity does not fit within the traditional gender model, or for someone whose assigned gender does not match their gender identity.
Transgender• Gender non-conforming: terms for someone who does not conform to society’s expectations of their assigned gender. – Tomboys – Feminine men – Butch women• Not all gender non-conforming people identify as transgender
Transgender• Gender performance at Play: live as the gender they were assigned, but occasionally dress up in another gender for performance, comfort, pleasure, or fun – Crossdresser: person who enjoys wearing clothes of the “opposite” gender for comfort, pleasure, or fun – Drag King/Drag Queen: Drag King is a woman who dresses in men’s clothes for performance or enjoyment. A Drag Queen is a man who dresses in women’s clothing for enjoyment
Transgender• Choosing to Transition full time• Transgender woman: a person whose assigned gender at birth was male/boy who transitions to live full time as female/woman. • Appropriate language: male to female [MTF] transsexual, transsexual woman, and trans woman using the pronouns “she”, “her” and “hers • Inappropriate language: “woman who is really a man”, “shemale”, “he-she” or “shim”
Transgender• Transgender Man: person whose assigned gender at birth was female/girl who transitions to live full time as male/man. • Appropriate language: female to male [FTM] transsexual, transgender man, transsexual man, trans man with the pronouns “he”, “his”, and “him.” • Inappropriate language: “man who is really a woman”, “he-she”, “shim”, or “shemale”.
Transgender• Genderqueer: person assigned at birth male or female who transitions to live full time as genderqueer. – Their gender identity, expression, and presentation may be fluid, and/or non-conforming. – They may identify as both male and female or neither male nor female. – They may use pronouns “he” and “she” or “He” or “she”, or even “ze” and “hirs”.
Transition may include….• Cutting or growing hair; wearing wigs• Dressing in clothing of the gender one identifies with• Changing names legally or through common usage• Changing the pronouns they use for themselves• Hair removal• Hormone replacement therapy• Voice lessons
Transition may also include….• Facial feminization surgeries• Using breast forms or binding chest• Packing or tucking• Top surgeries (breast augmentation or reduction)• Bottom surgeries (sex reassignment surgeries)• Changing gender markers on identification such as driver’s license or passport
Medical Transitioning• Medically transitioning with the aid of hormones and surgeries so that the physical appearance matches their gender identity – May make them feel more comfortable – Easier to “pass” in society and avoid discrimination and harassment – Cost to medically transition varies between $30,000 to $110,000, and usually not covered by insurance – Surgery may also require doctor’s letter patient suffers from gender identity disorder
Medical Transitioning• Many transgendered people chose not to medically transition for a variety of reasons – Financial cost – Religious reasons – Immigration status – Personal reasons – Health reasons: HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or other health issues that could interfere with hormone therapies or surgery
A word about Intersex• Intersex is not a gender identity but often confused with transgender• Intersex people develop primary and secondary sex characteristics outside of society’s conceptions of male and female.• At birth doctors attempt to alter the genitalia to conform to traditional norms
Discrimination• Heterosexism: belief that heterosexuality and heterosexual relationships are the only acceptable norm• Homophobia/biphobia/transphobia – Irrational hatred, fear, discrimination or belief in stereotypes about: • Gay and lesbian people = homophobia • Bisexual people = biphobia • Transgender people = transphobia
Examples of Discrimination• Ideological level – Belief that everyone should be straight and cisgender and the LGBT people are inherently abnormal, sick, or evil• Institutional level – The Defense of Marriage Ac; lack of legal protection against LGBT discrimination; not allowing LGBT people to adopt children, sodomy laws, police harassment and brutality
Examples of Discrimination• Interpersonal level – Bulling; name-calling; harassment; denying service; firing or not hiring someone because they are perceived to be LGBT-identified; hate crimes such as vandalism, arson, stalking, physical attack, rape, and murder• Internalized level – Self-harm; addiction; eating disorders; suicide; shame
Myths and Misconceptions Intimate partner abuse in the community
Intimate Partner Abuse• Physical abuse• Emotional/verbal abuse• Financial dependency• Social isolation• Sexual abuse• Minimizing/denying• Coercion/threats/intimidation• Murder
Sources of Myths• Socialization• Victim blaming• Misunderstandings• Lack of Awareness – Lack of self-reporting – Minimal media coverage
Prevalence Data• Researchers estimate at least 25% of LGBT relationships are abusive.• Analysis of different case studies suggest 25-33% of LGBT people experience partner abuse in their lifetime.• This percentage is in line with estimates of the general population
Prevalence Data• Some studies point to as high as 50% of transgender persons report being raped or assaulted by their intimate partner.• Estimation is understandably difficult.
Commonalities• GLBT survivors experience many of the same psychological affects of abuse as heterosexual survivors• Cyclical fashion of intensifying abuse over time• Issues of power and control
The Power andControl Wheel• Similarities • Social isolation (friends and family) • Minimizing the abuse • Experiencing victim blame • Believing they can change the abuser• Differences • External homophobia • Social norms • Barriers to service
Commonality: Power and Control• Power dynamics in same-sex relationships are down-played since power and control is traditionally defined in the context of a man versus a woman.• Power is based on social dynamics between the couple aside from gender, such as relative personal power, socioeconomic status, level of education, disabilities, and race.
How is it Different?• Greater stress from living in a homophobic environment (minority stress)• Gender role socialization effecting whether survivor will be believed• Inexperience among service providers and law enforcement in handling and investigating same-sex intimate partner violence
Myths and Misconceptions• Some people ask for it• If the abuse isn’t physical then it’s not that bad• All abuse is caused by drinking or drugs• It’s only a working class problem• Victim could just leave• All abuse is perpetrated by males against females• The abuse must be mutual
Myths and Misconceptions• The abuse is really just sadomasochism• Florida domestic violence statutes are not applicable, and therefore do not protect, same-sex relationships.• Immigration concerns are not an issue• Federal laws such as VAWA do not apply to the LGBT population
Patrick Letellier“SAN FRANCISCO (AP)—Even thoughhis scalp would be bloodied fromgetting slammed against a door or hisneck splotched with fingerprint-shaped bruises, Patrick Letellier’sinjuries were often dismissed asnothing more than rough sex play.”“I got really good at hiding things andwore long pants and long-sleeveshirts,” said Letellier, a 43-year-oldjournalist from San Francisco.The Gay Men’s Domestic ViolenceProject began in 1993 when a gay manwas denied access to multiplemainstream domestic violence shelterssimply because he was gay.
LGBT Domestic Violence is Different• LGBT community often does not identify partner abuse as a community issue• The survivor is likely to have the same support systems, such as friends and social spaces, as the abuser. Leaving the partner may mean leaving the community.• Internalized homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia increase the self-blame of the survivor.
LGBT Domestic Violence is Different• The abuser and/or others may blame the survivor’s sexual and/or gender identity for the abuse• Lack of visibility of LGBT individuals means that there are few role models for relationships.• With little societal validation of LGBT individuals, people in survivor’s life may not even recognize the survivor is in a relationship, much less that he or she is being abused.
LGBT Domestic Violence is Different• Many are closeted and cannot turn to friends, family, faith communities, or employers for support• Discrimination does some of the work for the abuser by isolating the survivor, destroying their self-esteem, and convincing them that no one will help them because of their orientation and/or gender identity
LGBT Domestic Violence is Different• There is a greater likelihood of no arrest, wrongful arrest, or dual arrest when calling the police, and no restraining order or dual restraining orders given by judges.• There are fewer resources available for LGBT survivors• There may be LGBT community pressure not to air dirty laundry about partner abuse or to use the legal system.
Additional Differences• Greater threat of social isolation• Fear of being “outed” by their partner to friends, employers, and family members• Fear of job termination• Threats to limit involvement in gay community• Discourage reporting from fear of shaming GLBT community• Withholding of medication could create life threatening situations (HIV meds, hormone therapy, etc.)
Things Abusers Might Say• You’re not a real man.• If you were really gay you’d let me tie you up.• Real women dress like this.• No one is going to help you because you’re a trans.• We’re lesbians, we don’t need to use protection. We can’t catch STD’s.
Things Abusers Might Say• You are the butch, you have to pay for everything.• All lesbians have sex this way.• I know I can’t trust you alone with your friends because you’re bisexual and you’ll sleep with anyone.• Even with that wig on, you still look like a man.• If you leave me, I’ll tell your boss you’re a tranny.
Things Abusers Might Say• You need to stop acting so queer. I’m embarrassed by you.• If you don’t have sex with me I’ll tell everyone at school that you’re a faggot.• What do you think your father will do when I tell him we’re together? If you want to find out, keep pushing me.
Effects on Transgender Survivors• Withholding hormones may put the survivor’s body in disarray.• Secondary sex characteristics such as voice, location of fat, and body hair may be effected by hormone withdrawal.• Mood and mental health may also be effected putting the survivor at greater risk of harassment or discrimination.
Effects on Transgender Survivors• Refusing to use the survivor’s chosen name and pronoun can impact the survivor’s self- esteem and may also confuse mutual friends and family members.• Calling a transgender man’s chest “breasts” undermines his gender identity and is a form of sexual abuse.
Minority Stress• “Multiple layers of victimization in the lives of many battered GBLT(s) compound the experience of trauma and its impact on mental health and well-being.”• A person can leave an abusive relationship, but they may not be able to leave a homophobic society and culture.• Need to trust they will not be discriminated against, which is often counter to past experiences.
Minority Stress• Research indicates stress from discrimination, hate crimes, external and internal homophobia, coming out, or hiding one’s sexual orientation takes a toll on intimate relationships.• Greater instances of minority stress associated with lower relationship quality and both intimate partner abuse perpetration and victimization.
Gender-Role Socialization & Misconceptions• Traditional view: only men can be the abuser, and women are the victims• Same-sex couples presumed to be physically and socially equally matched in terms of power• Men wouldn’t let themselves be battered• Women are egalitarian and nurturing, so lesbians couldn’t be batterers• Women aren’t really strong enough to hurt each other anyway.
Gender-Role Socialization & Misconceptions• For many lesbians, these assumptions lead to victim blaming and invisibility• Gay men may not want to discuss being battered for fear they will be feminized• Video: ABC News “what would you do”
Gender-Role Socialization & Misconceptions• Expectations lead to inaccurate conclusions: – Gay male intimate partner abuse is logical since all men are prone to violence – Gay men who are raped “wanted it” – Lesbians cannot rape one another – Lesbian partner violence does not occur since women are not violent – Same-sex partner abuse is not as severe as a heterosexual battering – Is really mutual abuse with each partner perpetrating and receiving equally – Perpetrator must be the larger ‘man’ or the ‘butch’ and the victim is the smaller ‘woman’ or the ‘femme’
Gender-Role Socialization• Seriousness of situation may be trivialized• The abuse may be disregarded as a tiff or argument• Trivializing the abuse may create even greater danger in the future; removes responsibility from the abuser
Why haven’t they sought help?• Fear of service providers violating their trust and confidentiality listed as top reason preventing lesbian survivors from seeking help.• Lack of adequate LGBT-specific support groups, shelters, and treatment programs other reasons cited for not seeking assistance.• Have sought help but encountered discrimination and disbelief.• The role of shame, both for the individual outed and shame to the gay community as a whole.
Seeking Help• Many report shelters have been unhelpful and unwelcoming• Faith based organizations may condemn homosexuality, or require acceptance of Jesus in order to stay at the shelter• Some women’s shelters may not adequately screen abusers meaning the abusive partner can gain access to the surviving partner attempting to find help• Some turned away stating their experiences did not constitute domestic violence
Seeking Help• Many indicate they cannot go to family since family does not know about them or the relationship.• Many are afraid to call the police out of fear both will be arrested because the police cannot “sort out” which one is the abusive partner.• Survivor may mistakenly believe self-defense constitutes being abusive
Importance of First Contact• Research indicates if the survivor is met with a supportive response he or she is more likely to escape future acts of violence.• If the survivor is met with blame or non-belief this causes him or her to become isolated and more vulnerable to future attacks.
Are the Statutes Applicable?• Belief that same-sex couples are not protected by domestic violence statutes.• “Judge: Gay Marriage Ban Prohibits Some Domestic Violence Charges”, Akron Beacon Journal, March 23, 2005.• Ohio constitution amended to prohibit any state or local that would “create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals.”• Florida constitution amended with similar language.
Florida Ban on Gay Marriage• “no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.”• Proposition 2, November 4, 2008.• Florida Stat. Section 741.212 (Defense of Marriage Act) in 1997
Same-Sex Couples Are Protected• State v. Carswell, 114 Ohio St.3d 210 (2007). – Statute did not conflict with amendment• Peterman v. Meeker, 855 So.2d 690 (2nd D.C.A. 2003). – Statute does not require person seeking protection to be a “spouse” – No other case law post-Proposition 2
Same-Sex Immigrant Couples• Misconception that immigration is not an issue for same-sex couples• Misconception that Immigrant survivors do not have the same protections available to married couples under Federal Regulations
Immigrant Protections• The Defense of Marriage Act has limited the protections available under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) such as the VAWA Self-Petition.
Immigrant Protections• However, U-Visas are an option for immigrant survivors in same-sex relationships – Immigrants can obtain lawful status if help in investigation or prosecution of the crime – These crimes include domestic violence, child abuse, stalking, and sexual assault• Political Asylum is an option if fear anti-LGBT hate-motivated violence in country of origin
Restraining Orders• GPS monitoring system announced in March of 2012 that will soon be used in domestic violence cases.• A judge will decide the parameters on a case-by-case basis.• The state just approved $300,000 for the purchase of these devices. This is just a pilot program that will run for one year, but if it works it could expand• Florida has an injunction registry available to law enforcement statewide.
Registering Out-of-State Protective Orders• One can register a protection order by presenting two certified copies to any state sheriff and requesting that it be entered in the Florida injunction registry, which is a database available to all Florida law enforcement officers.• He or she will likely have to sign an affidavit that to the best of their knowledge, the protection order is currently in effect, has not been replaced by another order, and that the abuser has been given a copy of the order.• The sheriff will assign a case number and give the person a receipt showing registration of the foreign order in Florida. There will be no fee for registration of a foreign order.
Safety Plan• Important to know what to do the next time the partner becomes physically, emotionally or verbally abusive.• Put personal items such as your birth certificate, credit cards and medications all in one place so that you can quickly leave if you need to.
Action Plans• Survivors are encouraged to draft a personalized safety plan to assist in either finding temporary safety or a plan to permanently escape an abuser• The handouts include a sample personalized safety plan• Specificity allows the survivor to recognize critical steps and importance of assistance
In Conclusion• Important for mediators to be aware of their language usage and respect for the individual’s identity.• Increasing recognition of same-sex couples and legalization of adoption for same-sex couples requires greater awareness of domestic violence within the community.