General

Domestic abuse in LGBT relationships: why aren’t we talking about it?

I was tortured for two years.

Not in the conventional sense. My tormentor wasn’t fond of physical restraints. Her fits of rage never left me with cuts, bruises or broken bones. In fact, there wasn’t a single visible sign of the pain she inflicted…and that’s the way she preferred it.

To an observer, I was completely free and yet I lived in utter captivity.

It’s no secret that domestic abuse is a pervasive problem in our society. Nearly half of all women and men in the US have experienced psychological aggression, or emotional abuse, by “an intimate partner” in their lifetime and emotional abuse is largely considered to be the most common form of abuse. 

And yet, after enduring two years of torment, I couldn’t help but wonder: how did I miss it? If it’s so common, then why wasn’t I able to recognize the signs?

They had been drilled into me since I was a child. “Don’t date a man who tells you what to wear, where to go or who to hang out with.” “Don’t let a man pressure you into sex when you want to say no.” “Find a nice guy, someone who respects you and treats you well.” 

And that’s when I realized it.

I was only prepared to recognize the hallmarks of heterosexual abuse. As a lesbian woman, who was raised by two heterosexual parents in an exceedingly heterosexual community, I had no reference for a healthy lesbian relationship. My knowledge of queer romances stemmed solely from fleeting displays of affection on TV. [Hands up if you remember Alex and Marissa on the OC]. 

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While these teen dramas were on the forefront of pushing LGBTQ representation in media, many inadvertently normalized toxic behavior. They depicted women as innately more emotional than men, so two women together was just a powder keg of uncontrollable emotion. As a result, intensity and obsession was considered to be romantic or desirable in lesbian relationships. The lack of positive, realistic and healthy queer romances left me with no idea of what abusive behavior actually looked like between two women.

It’s estimated that 1 in 4 LGBTQ people experience domestic abuse and yet it’s rarely discussed or reported. And I can understand why.

I didn’t discuss it myself. Not even when I was a crumpled mess, sobbing on the kitchen floor unable to trust my own thoughts. I didn’t tell anyone. I even made up lies about how well she was treating me.

Why it’s not discussed:

Growing up in a conservative Catholic environment, I was taught to believe that homosexuality was inherently sinful. Gay people, when acting upon their disordered nature, were “tearing their souls” from God. I even had a woman tell me that, “gay relationships only result in depression, drug addiction and suicide.”

When I came out, I vowed to prove them wrong. I wanted everyone to see how much happier I was being open and confident in my sexuality. I wouldn’t settle for anything less than perfect.

So, when my first serious relationship with a woman turned toxic, I refused to admit it. lgbt-4Despite desperately needing help and slowly drowning in a situation I couldn’t control, the thought of admitting the abused I experienced seemed so much worse. To me, it meant that I had failed. I was nothing more than another disordered, suicidal lesbian who got what she deserved.

Many months later, I discovered that this is actually one of the reasons LGBTQ people don’t report abuse. We’re afraid to show a “lack of solidarity” with other LGBTQ people. We view discussing this topic as a betrayal of our community because we think it’ll confirm society’s assumption that same-sex relationships are inherently dysfunctional.

But that isn’t true.

I wish I could scream it from the mountaintops. If you are being abused, then please seek help. It doesn’t matter if you’re straight, gay, queer, trans, cis, asexual, etc. You do not deserve to endure abuse.  You are not betraying your community by coming forward and ending abuse. Being controlled by an abuser is just another closet that you don’t deserve to be in. There is bravery in admitting that you need help.

My story:

I met my abuser shortly after graduating from college. I had a job I loved, lived in a gorgeous place and was finally comfortable with my sexuality.

And then I met her.

(For the sake of privacy, I’ll just refer to her as Grace.) She was everything I thought I wanted: interesting, kind, charming, bold and beautiful. She had been out since she was a teenager and I admired her ability to be so brazenly gay. Grace spent her days caring for those with severe physical handicaps, occasionally volunteered with the food insecure and planned on spending her life tending to the sick. She seemed perfect… right?  Continue reading “Domestic abuse in LGBT relationships: why aren’t we talking about it?”

General

21 best LGBT quotes in honor of pride

June is the best month of the year because it’s also the gayest. In honor of pride month, I’ve compiled 21 of my favorite quotes about being queer/the gay community. Even if you don’t feel accepted by loved ones, the LGBTQIA+ community will always be there for you. Be proud and realize that tons of people love you exactly as you 🙂

1) “Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it’s a good place to start.”

Jason Collins, a retired professional basketball player. In 2014, he became the first openly gay male athlete to play in U.S. professional sports.

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2) “All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.”

Harvey Milk, an American politician and the first openly gay elected official in the history of California, where he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. After serving only 11 months in office, Milk was assassinated on November 27, 1978. He was acutely aware of this possibility and is even quoted as saying, “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.”

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3) “It takes some intelligence and insight to figure out you’re gay and then a tremendous amount of balls to live it and live it proudly.”

Jason Bateman, actor and gay rights activist.
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4) “It is revolutionary for any trans person to choose to be seen and visible in a world that tells us we should not exist.”

Laverne Cox, a transgender woman, actress and LGBT advocate who became famous for her role of Sophia Burset in Netflix series, Orange is the New Black.

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5) “I very much want to inject gay culture into the mainstream. It’s not an underground tool for me. It’s my whole life.”

Lady Gaga. In 2009, the singer and gay rights activist came out as bisexual. However, in recent years, it’s possible that her sexuality has changed.

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6) “I think being gay is a blessing, and it’s something I am thankful for every single day.”

Anderson Cooper, award-winning journalist, television personality and author. In 2012, Cooper publicly came out as gay. 37c89873397dd3b2c9f49de5d278d16c.jpg

Continue reading “21 best LGBT quotes in honor of pride”

TV Shows

Mental Illness and Lesbian Love in Once Upon a Time

In media, mental illness and romance pair just as well as strawberries and beans…a disjointed mixture that just ends up stinking.

Too frequently, people with mental illnesses are depicted as either 1) incapable of having healthy, positive and affirming relationships or 2) tantalizing their partners with the beauty of their pain. Make that love story involve two women and you have the perfect recipe for a thriller that results in a lot of awkward sex followed by unnecessary death. (The movie Chloe with Amanda Seyfried ring any bells?)

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No, Amanda, it doesn’t.

This terrible representation of mentally ill people in love is why the relationship between Alice and Robin (also known as Tilly and Margot) on ABC’s Once Upon a Time is such a breath of fresh air. For those not familiar with the show, Once reimagines classic fairytales by bringing them into modern contexts. For instance, Tilly, the quirky daughter of the town’s detective, is actually Alice from Alice in Wonderland/Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland while Margot, the world traveling bohemian, is Robin Hood.

Prior to falling victim to a curse that forced them to forget their true identities, Alice and Robin were deeply in love. I’m talking literal wifey status. (Just look at how domestically adorable they were)

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Watching them rekindle their forgotten love, as Tilly and Margot, has been my favorite part of this season. Their love story is depicted as genuine, honest and pure. Unlike the show’s prior attempts at portraying a same-sex relationship, which just came across as rushed and sloppy, Alice’s and Robin’s love is given the consideration it deserves.

However, their relationship isn’t all heart shaped beignets and intensely lingering eye contact. It’s complicated, it’s messy and it’s real. Alice, like her namesake’s character in the Disney classic, struggles with some unspecified form of mental illness.  This makes her feel isolated and frequently unable to trust her own mind.

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As someone who struggles with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), I couldn’t relate more to Alice’s feelings. I’ve had OCD as long as I can remember. In fact, some of my earliest memories consist of me repeatedly doing the sign of the cross until it felt “right” (…can you tell I was raised Catholic?) or absolutely losing my mind if someone disturbed the pillows I spent 20 minutes arranging. However, I was only officially diagnosed about two and a half years ago.

When you have a mental health issue, it sometimes forces you to act in ways that make absolutely no sense to other people. Why did I have to walk in a half circle, touch the door knob and then double back before I finally went into my house? Why did I have to constantly check my heart rate after the most minimal movement to ensure it’s “okay”?

It’s incredibly difficult to turn to a perfect stranger and say, “I’m so sorry, I have OCD so I have to do these ten rituals before I can get to what you asked me to do. Could you wait?” It’s always been easier for me to just come up with excuses to avoid admitting the truth. This has made forming romantic relationships ridiculously dramatic and, like Alice, I felt entirely alone.

For this reason, watching Robin lovingly interact with Alice after she had an episode during the “The Guardian” (7×18) brought me to tears. The pair was on a date, exploring the town and enjoying quality time together, when Alice suddenly begins hearing voices. Frustrated at their appearance, Alice hits herself in the head.

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Continue reading “Mental Illness and Lesbian Love in Once Upon a Time”

Movies

Love, Simon & my struggle with internalized homophobia

A few days before Christmas my mom asked if I wanted to go watch “The Greatest SNOWMAN” with her and some friends. Me, assuming this was some new animated, holiday movie, agreed excitedly! (Imagine my shock when I realized I was actually watching a movie about P.T. Barnum and there was no loveable snowman in sight!)

Regardless, I settled comfortably into my seat and began sorting the snacks I had smuggled into the theater. (I’m not trying to pay three dollars for a water.) Right as I was opening my chocolate s’more bar, a familiar scene filled my screen. I had seen it before, the awkward somewhat nerdy boy lying next to the typical girl next door in a very Fault in Our Stars way.

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I just couldn’t quite recall why it seemed so familiar. Was this actor in a TV show I had watched? (Technically yes, he played Ryder Scanlon in my girlfriend Melissa Joan Hart’s sitcom “Melissa & Joey”) But that wasn’t it. I knew I had seen the preview before and that’s when my stomach dropped.

The movie, Love, Simon follows the life of a gay teenager as he navigates the difficulties of friendship and love. It’s one of the first gay coming-of-age movies produced by a major Hollywood studio.  Simply put, it’s the movie I’ve been waiting my entire life to see. I just didn’t realize how afraid I actually was of seeing it.

The second I heard Nick Robinson, who plays Simon, say “nobody knows I’m gay”, I nearly had a panic attack.

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It took me back to the first time I had seen the promo. It was during a commercial break for CW’s Riverdale. I happened to be watching with (lets call him Dan for privacy.) Now Dan has known I’m a lesbian for the last four years. However, he still reacted viscerally to the promo. “Oh god,” he scoffed. “It grosses me out to see two guys together, sorry it just does. I think there’s something weird about it.”

Continue reading “Love, Simon & my struggle with internalized homophobia”