Hate is rightly a hot topic in our communities right now; tweets from those who should know better expressing misogyny and homophobia; dating app ‘just-a-preference’ racism, fat-shaming, femme-antagonism and HIV stigmatisation; transphobic media witch-hunts; post-Brexit increases in hate crime; and the exposure of entrenched patterns of sexual harassment in the workplace.
What does this tell us about about the state of gay subcultures in 2017? What impact does this hatred have on us, our relationships, and the communities of which we are a part? There seems to be a continued pattern of attitudes that isolate, malign and discriminate against members of LGBTQ communities, whether from the wider public, or more disturbingly, from those who also identify as LGBTQ. Being exposed to these attitudes has an impact on individuals resulting in feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, which can often manifest in unsuccessful intimate relationships.
An area that does not seem to be discussed readily among LGBTQ communities is that of domestic abuse or intimate partner violence (IPV). Women’s Aid defines domestic abuse as
an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer
I wonder whether there is a relationship between the hatred we are surrounded by and the prevalence of similar behaviours in our intimate relationships. Stonewall’s recent research reported that one out of every four lesbian or bisexual women have experienced domestic abuse as have almost half of all gay or bisexual men. Could these disturbing figures be linked to the prevalence of hate both within and aimed at our communities?
I have experienced both emotional and sexual abuse in a relationship. My ex regularly pointed out what he didn’t like about my body; that it was too heavy, that my arse was not how he would like it. He would criticise what I ate and how I ate it. I was subjected to constant ridicule. He expected me to always be sexually available. Rather than a person to be loved and cherished, for him, my purpose was simply to facilitate his sexual desires. The ultimate demonstration of how I had merely become an object for his hate came when he forced himself on me after he had ended our relationship. He showed complete disregard and contempt for me. He had systematically dehumanised me and then felt able to subject me to physical and psychological abuse.
What does this have to do with our culture of hate-tweets and misuse of dating apps? The things my abusive partner said and did were nothing new; I had experienced similar comments from others. Comments like, “what makes you think I’ll go with a fatty, why don’t you go and eat yourself to death” or “sorry I don’t do black guys they stink” (and that was from a black guy!). When comments like these become ‘normal’ they can be internalised. When someone you love and trust reinforces this language it can become unrecognisable as abuse. I am sure that, like many, my ex believes that treating people as no more than objects for their own pleasure is acceptable. I now firmly believe that no one deserves to be treated badly or made to feel inferior based on someone else’s warped ideals and gratification. Abuse is corrosive to the self; it is a systemic dismantling of the spirit.
This week saw the launch of 16 Days Of Action Against Domestic Violence aimed at organising workplaces to support those who experience domestic violence and abuse. I hope that by sharing my story, however painful, I can help readers who may currently be suffering or perpetrating intimate partner violence to seek help. I also want to break the silence about domestic abuse experienced by Black /gay/bi/SGL/queer men. The hatred that we face and perpetrate has consequences. As communities can we be more conscious of the messages we put out to others? We can make hatred and these behaviours – from hate speech, to intimate partner violence – unacceptable. The struggle for LGBTQ rights is not complete until we address the personal as well as the political – kindness and acceptance must be more common than hate in our communities or we will all continue to suffer.
For support and further information:
Galop (Phone: 020 7704 2040)
(writes under a pseudonym)