Domestic Violence is fundamentally different in LGBT relationships for numerous reasons. There are many causal and contributory factors that make domestic violence in the LGBT community uniquely different than male-to-female or female-to-male battering. To understand these differences one must recognize domestic violence beyond the stereotypical heterosexual manifestation. According to A Professional Guide to Understanding Gay and Lesbian Domestic Violence, same-sex battering mirrors heterosexual battering, but same-sex victims have fewer resources and are less protected. Seven states define domestic violence in a way that excludes same-gender victims. Making matters worse is the fact that in some states sodomy is still considered a crime which forces a victim to confess to a crime in order to prove a domestic relationship. Many women’s shelters refuse services or safety to same-sex victims. Since same-sex marriage is not legal, many families are not considered “real families” in the eyes of the law, making it more difficult for these victims to get help. Perhaps one of the most compelling reasons LGBT domestic violence is so different is found in the unique communities of LGBT people. LGBT communities “provide social forums, rites of passage, rituals for celebration, and bodies of art and literature that combat isolation and allow us to explore our full potentials (Bartlet, 1993).” Because many LGBT people feel shunned and excluded from the American ideal, they have forged their own communities as refuge from the inequalities and persecution of mainstream America. The tools a batterer uses to maintain control, like power and control, cut across all lines of gender identity and sexual orientation, but a batterer’s behavior is always peppered with community influences. Batterers play on their victim’s vulnerabilities and community values to maintain control. The volumes of hate, hostility, and condemnation directed at LGBT people from mainstream America encourage self-loathing and internalized homophobia. It covertly forces isolation and creates a false sense of safety from within the community. And LGBT batterers manipulate those difficult realities to employ highly effective weapons against their partners. So community is a strong contributing factor to domestic violence in the LGBT community.
The Frustration-Aggression theory of domestic violence adds another distinction to LGBT domestic violence. In essence, this theory opines that human beings can become violent when their goals are blocked. For gay male and female abusers, this theory is painfully true. Throughout childhood, before sexuality begins to develop, gay youngsters, like everyone else, think about and plan their future selves. They negotiate a life path within the frames of family, community, society, and the culture in which they live. In early adolescence, when sexuality comes to the fore and one’s homosexuality is questioned, those dreams of family and community begin to feel too exclusionary. This can be a time of tremendous stress; the sense of being inherently different and “bad” can be overwhelming. All the evils about homosexuals one has likely heard in the media and around the family can be internalized, and begin a pattern of self-hate and destruction.
All adolescents ask the question, “Who am I?”, but for the adolescent homosexual it becomes increasingly more difficult to recognize that one is not necessarily growing up to be the person he originally imagined. And the person he is becoming is reduced to villainy by mainstream America. He begins to realize that many of his life goals are blocked, like marriage and basic human rights. Without a strong support system to negotiate and redefine his identity, this can be a traumatic and damaging experience. But family support is often lacking and positive gay role models are scarce.
Coming out in adolescence is often a terrifyingly alone experience that can...