LGBTQ+ Rights & Relationship Abuse: Bringing Discrimination Home

Every June, we celebrate the LGBTQ+ community with rainbow displays, parties, and parades. During Pride Month, we honor the beauty of queer lives by telling our stories and showing off our joy. But this month isn't all about joy. Pride marks the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which began when police tried to raid the Stonewall Inn, a New York City gay bar. The patrons fought back against being arrested for who they were, kicking off days of rioting. The organized movement for LGBTQ+ rights grew out of those riots.

Queer and transgender activists have fought and won huge political battles in the 54 years since, but LGBTQ+ rights are still under attack.

A graphic reading LGBTQ + rights are still under attack with a rainbow in the bottom right corner.

LGBTQ+ Rights Under Attack

In 2023 alone, state legislatures across the United States introduced more than 500 anti-LGBTQ+ laws. This coordinated legal assault has mostly targeted transgender people, especially those under 18 who are already the most vulnerable members of the community.

Many of the laws threaten transgender people's access to life-saving gender-affirming medical care. They ban transgender people from appropriate public restrooms and school sports. Some forbid teachers from discussing gender and sexuality or using chosen pronouns. Others force teachers to out transgender and non-binary students to their parents, even when that could be dangerous. (Transgender youth are approximately twice as likely as cisgender youth to be abused by their parents, often because of their gender identities.)

In response to these record-breaking legislative attacks, the Human Rights Campaign has declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the United States.

Discrimination and Relationship Abuse

At Safe Passage, we understand that living through this kind of political hatred has an impact on intimate relationships. Oppression of any part of who we are—race, gender, class, sexual orientation, etc.—is often reflected in our personal lives. People in oppressed groups experience higher rates of relationship abuse and domestic violence, and when political violence increases, intimate violence also increases.

This connection between oppression and domestic violence holds true in the LGBTQ+ community:

  • 32-50% of transgender people experience relationship abuse or domestic violence in their lifetimes as compared to 27% for all U.S. women and 11% for all U.S. men1
  • 44% of lesbian women and 61% of bisexual women experienced domestic or sexual violence in their lifetime as compared to 35% of heterosexual women
  • 26% of gay men and 37% of bisexual men experienced domestic or sexual violence in their lifetime as compared to 29% of heterosexual men2
  • LGBTQ+ people of color experience even higher rates of domestic violence because of the intersections between their race, gender, and sexuality3

A graphic that reads When political violence increases, intimate partner violence increases. A rainbow is in the lower right corner.

These statistics show the result of what researchers call minority stress: an increase in mental health issues due to the discrimination in an environment.4 

Living in a society that mistreats you because of who you are is inherently stressful, and that affects LGBTQ+ relationships in specific ways. Those who have experienced and internalized more discrimination based on their identity are more likely to use tactics of abuse in their relationships.5

With homophobia and transphobia on the rise, it’s more important than ever to support LGBTQ+ survivors of relationship abuse and domestic violence.

What We Can Do

Stand up for LGBTQ+ rights.

While Massachusetts already has some of the most robust legal protections for transgender and queer residents, there are still things you can do to support the fight against these anti-LGBTQ+ laws. The Human Rights Campaign has published a guidebook for action with many ways to get involved in opposing these injustices.

Stay connected.

Check in on your LGBTQ+ friends, loved ones, and community members, especially if you think they might be experiencing abuse. Staying in touch can give someone a lifeline if they need help. Whether or not an LGBTQ+ person is experiencing abuse right now, it can still be incredibly challenging to witness our current political climate.

Learn about the experiences of LGBTQ+ survivors.

Seek out information that will help you understand domestic and sexual violence in the LGBTQ+ community. The Revolution Starts at Home and Written on the Body: Letters from Trans and Non-Binary Survivors of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence are good places to start.

Reach out to providers.

There are many local programs offering support to LGBTQ+ survivors and their loved ones. Many of these programs offer confidential hotlines and web chat that are available 24 hours a day. Most are looking for help from passionate volunteers.

  • Safe Passage: We provide support to all survivors of domestic violence and relationship abuse (helpline, safety planning, counseling, legal, and more). We also have an LGBTQ+ Counselor/Advocate on staff. 
  • NELCWIT: In addition to providing crisis intervention services, NELCWIT offers support for survivors who are recovering from recent or past incidents of domestic and sexual violence.  Located in the Franklin County-North Quabbin area.
  • Alianza: Alianza empowers survivors of domestic violence to stay safe and achieve greater independence. Based in Holyoke, they help survivors find shelter and navigate the legal system; offer support groups; and provide 24-hour hotline and chat services.
  • Fenway Health Violence Recovery Program: Fenway Health’s Violence Recovery Program (VRP) provides counseling, support groups, advocacy, and referral services to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and anti-LGBTQIA+ hate violence. 
  • Survivor Arts Collective: Located in Easthampton, the Survivor Arts Collective offers peer-led, art-infused support groups, and peer-to-peer counseling for survivors of sexual and relationship violence and trauma.
  • Elizabeth Freeman Center: Offers hope, help, and healing to all experiencing or affected by domestic and sexual violence through free, accessible, and confidential services in Berkshire County. 
  • The Network/La Red: Based in Boston, The Network/La Red is a survivor-led social justice organization that works to end partner abuse in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, SM, polyamorous, and queer communities.
  • National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs for LGBTQ Communities Member Programs: A searchable collection of programs organized by state.

If you are or know someone who is looking for support around relationship abuse, please call our helpline (M-F, 9am-5pm) at (413) 586-5066, toll-free at (888) 345-5282, or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233.

1Finding Safety: A Report About LGBTQ Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

22010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, CDC

3Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and HIV-Affected Hate Violence in 2016

4Prejudice, Social Stress, and Mental Health in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Populations

5Intimate Partner Violence in Same Sex Relationships and the Role of Minority Stressors