How is sexual assault different in LBGTIQ communities?

How is sexual assault different in LBGTIQ communities?

  • A sexual assault is sometimes used as a hate-crime against a LBGTIQ person. A well-known example is Brandon Teena (Boys Don't Cry). Physical and sexual assault is a very real fear for some in the community, especially if they frequent gay bars or events and can be identified as queer or trans by homophobic people targeting places looking for "queers".
  • Male victims of sexual assault may have difficulty integrating their experience due to the myth that men cannot be raped. Male rape is also often minimized based on the stereotype that gay men are overly sexual beings who invite and want sexual contact all of the time.
  • Transgender individuals are often subject to the most brutal violence because of their cross-gender or gender-bending behavior, both by strangers and intimate partners. Transgender survivors may have unique physical needs and/or be particularly vulnerable to the physical and emotional trauma of sexual assault.
  • For bisexual individuals, sexual assault can impact their identity as bisexuals, for example, a bisexual woman who is raped by a man may feel afraid to tell her lesbian friends and blame her sexual identity for her vulnerability to the assault.
  • The experience of being sexually victimized by someone from within the LGBTIQ community may also have an extreme negative impact on the survivor's self-identity. It is not uncommon for a LGBTIQ survivor of an assault by another member of the community to want to "stop being gay."
  • Sexual assault within the context of an abusive relationship can be especially devastating for LGBTIQ survivors. The survivor may blame themselves for the assault, deny that it occurred, fear that no one will believe them and/or fear hostile law enforcement or service provider response.

How is domestic violence different in LBGTIQ relationships?

How is domestic violence different in LBGTIQ relationships?

  • Those who have been abused may have much more difficulty finding sources of support.
  • The myth still exists that abuse in same-gender relationships must be "mutual." Few people assume that heterosexual battering is mutual.
  • Utilizing existing services (such as a shelter, attending support groups, or calling a crisis line) may mean lying about the gender of the batterer to gain acceptance as a heterosexual or "coming out," which is a major life decision. Coming out to service providers who are not discreet with this information could lead to losing homes, jobs, custody of children, and so on, depending on local and statewide laws, which vary.
  • Speaking out about battering in LGBTIQ relationships can reinforce the myth that these relationships are "sick."
  • Many LGBTIQ communities don't want to talk about battering, because many want to maintain that there are no problems in LGBTIQ relationships.
  • Those who are or have been abused may not know others who are LBGTIQ, meaning that leaving the abuser could mean total isolation. Batterers may use the claim that they "don't want to out someone" as way to isolate their partner. Abusive partners may also threaten to out their partner if they ever try to leave the relationship.
  • If partners are financially intertwined, they have no legal process to assist in making sure assets are evenly divided, a process which exists for married heterosexual partners.
  • LGBTIQ communities are often assumed to be small; hence survivors assume that everyone will soon know about the abuse.

LBGTIQ Definitions

Adapted from the Northwest Network of Bisexual, Trans and Lesbian Survivors of Abuse (formerly AABL), the Survivor Project, and University of Michigan Spectrum Center.


Ally: A person who is a member of the dominant or majority group who works to end oppression in her or his own personal and professional life through support of and as an advocate with and for the oppressed population. This definition can be expanded to include TBLG-identified people who are allies within their community. Although all of the different identities within "TBLG" are often lumped together, and share sexism as a common root of oppression, there are specific needs and concerns related to each individual identity.


Androgyny (also androgynous, bi-gendered, no-gendered): A person who identifies as a member of both or neither of the two culturally-defined genders, female/male, or a person who expresses merged culturally/stereotypically feminine and masculine characteristics or mainly neutral characteristics.


Asexual: A person who does not experience sexual attraction. See


BDSM or S/M: Bondage, Domination and Sadomasochism.


Biocentrism: When used in reference to the trans community, it is the widely-held belief that a person who was born as a male or a female is more "real" and more valid than the individual who has become man or woman through hormonal, surgical, and cosmetic means.


Biphobia: The systematic oppression of bisexual people specifically because they are neither gay nor straight. For example, many bisexual people feel that they are forced to choose between two identities which do not fit.


Bisexual: A person whose sexual and romantic feelings may be for people of any sex.


Butch/Stud: A person (usually a woman) who has traditionally-understood masculine traits or behavior.


Closet(ed): A term used to describe LBGTIQQ (QQ for queer or questioning) who are not out to themselves and/or others.


Cross-dresser (n): While gender identity and gender assignment match, cross-dresser indicates someone who wears clothes that social custom dictates belong to a different gender role. May/may not take on a separate name and/or set of mannerisms appropriate to the role matching current clothing. Frequently interested in matching others' gender attribution of the cross-dresser to current clothing.


Drag King/Queen (n): As a cross-dresser, but usually cross-dressing for performances and not as often interested in having gender attributed on the basis of clothing.


Fag/dyke/etc.: These are terms which some people have also chosen to reclaim for themselves, although they have a history of being used in hurtful ways. While many people may use these terms to refer to themselves and their communities, most people still find these terms oppressive if they are used by people outside of the community.


Femme: A person (usually a woman) who has stereotypically and traditionally understood feminine traits or behavior. Lesbians who are femme are sometimes called "lipstick lesbians."


FTM/F2M (Female to male): Term used variously to identify a person who was female-bodied at birth and who identifies as masculine, identifies as male, lives as a man, or (most often) may be contemplating sex-reassignment surgery.


Gay: A man or boy whose primary sexual and romantic feelings are for people of the same sex. While many people use this term only to refer to gay men, others use it as a general term to include both men and women; for example, "the gay community."


Gay Bashing/hate crimes: Violence, or the threat of violence, that is used against queers either because they are queer, or because they do not fit society's expectations of how men and women are supposed to look and act. While hate crimes can be used to reinforce and support homophobia, they can also be used to reinforce and support other kinds of oppression, such as racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, etc.


Gender Assignment: Medical personnel assign newborns to a gender, boy or girl, at birth based on a visual inspection of their genitalia, if they do not appear to be intersex, otherwise after further testing.


Gender Attribution: What someone assumes a person's gender to be when observing that person.


Gender Expression: Refers to the ways in which people communicate their gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyle, voice and emphasizing, de-emphasizing or changing their body's characteristics. Gender expression is not necessarily an indication of sexual orientation.


Gender Identity: The sense of "being" female or "being" male. For some people, gender identity is in accord with physical anatomy. For transgender people, gender identity may differ from physical anatomy or expected social roles. It is important to note that gender identity, biological sex, and sexual orientation are not necessarily linked.


Gender Role: The socially-constructed and culturally-specific expectations of behavior and appearance imposed on women ("femininity") and men ("masculinity").


Genderqueer: Genderqueers possess identities that fall outside of the widely-accepted sexual binary (female/male) system. Individuals who challenge both gender and sexual-orientation norms and see gender identity and sexual orientation as overlapping and interconnected.


Heterosexism: The belief that heterosexual (straight) relationships and people are ideal, and that they are better or more normal than queer relationships and people. Heterosexism also includes the denial that queer people even exist, and the assumption that everyone is straight unless they tell you otherwise.


Heterosexual privilege: Unearned privileges that go to heterosexual people simply because they are part of the majority. The ability to legally marry a partner, to take a date to the prom, and to talk publicly about crushes and intimate relationships are examples of heterosexual privilege.


Homophobia: The systematic oppression of gay men, lesbians and bisexuals because of their sexuality. Some people also define homophobia as the fear and hatred of queers.


Homosexual: Refers to any person, male or female, whose sexual and romantic feelings are for people of the same sex. While this term was once widely used, it is generally not preferred today. The term "homosexual" also has negative impact for a lot of people because "homosexuality" was once defined as a mental illness. Although the medical and psychiatric professions have since said that being queer is not an illness, the term still feels oppressive to many people.


"In the life"/"family": A term that refers primarily to lesbians and gay men, but may refer to anyone who identifies as living outside of heterosexual and/or gender norms.


Internalized Homophobia: A combination of pressures, fears, and hatred that come from within and are targeted toward oneself on the basis of one's sexual orientation. A process of believing negative messages from society that produces shame about one's sexuality.


Intersex: A general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy (including chromosomes and hormones) that does not appear to fit the typical definitions of female or male. See


LBGTIQ: This is an abbreviation some people use to refer to lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender, intersex, queer, and questioning people collectively. The abbreviation is seen in many different combinations (such as TBLGQ, LBGT, etc.) in order to challenge power hierarchies, and also as an indication of which identities are served.


Lesbian: A woman or girl whose primary sexual and romantic feelings are for people of the same sex.


M2F/MTF (Male to Female): Used to identify a person who was male-bodied at birth and who identifies as a female, lives as a woman, or identifies as feminine.


MSM: Men who have sex with men. They may or may not identify as gay or bisexual.


Non-op, Post-op, Mid-op, Pre-op (adj.): Referring to transsexual people, non-op indicates a person having decided against surgeries, post-op indicates a person having completed all intended surgery, mid-op indicates a person having completed some intended surgeries, and pre-op indicates a person who has not yet had any intended surgery.


Oppression: The systematic and pervasive mistreatment of individuals on the basis of their membership in a disadvantaged group. Institutional and interpersonal imbalances in power contribute to this mistreatment. Also, an abuse of power by a dominant group. Violence is a tactic of all forms of this term; where all forms of this intersect.


Pangender: A term for people who feel that they cannot be labeled as male or female in gender. Pangender people feel that they are: mixed gender, identify equally with "both" genders, are both male and female, feel that they are genderless or feel that they are some other gender all together. The term is meant by the queer community to be one that is inclusive and means "all genders."


Pansexuality (sometimes referred to as omnisexuality): A sexual orientation characterized by a potential aesthetic attraction, romantic love and/or sexual desire for anybody, including people who do not fit into the gender binary of male/female implied by bisexual attraction. Pansexuality is sometimes described as the capacity to love a person romantically irrespective of gender. Some pansexuals also assert that gender and sex are meaningless to them. The word pansexual is derived from the Greek prefix pan-, meaning "all."


Passing: The act of LBGTIQ people appearing as heterosexual. This may happen intentionally or unintentionally. It could be an adaptive or self-protective mechanism given that LBGTIQ people often experience emotional and physical threats to their safety as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity.


Polyamory: The general term used to describe all forms of multi-partner relating. For example, an open/non-monogamous relationship or marriage.


Queer: An inclusive term which many use to collectively refer to bisexual, lesbian, gay, and transgender communities, and others who may not identify with any of these categories but use it to describe a sexual orientation and/or gender identity or gender expression that does not conform to heteronormative society. While "queer" has often been used as a hurtful, oppressive term, many people have reclaimed it as an expression of power and pride. It is also preferred by many because of its inclusiveness. However, there are others who do not identify with this term, and still experience it as insulting.


Same-Gender-Loving (SGL): A term used often by the African-American LGBT community as an alternative to the terms "gay" or "lesbian." It helps provide an identity not marginalized by racism within the gay community or heterosexism in society.


Sex: The genetic or anatomical categories of male and female. Biological categories based on sperm or egg production.


Sexual fluidity: This term refers to the continuum of attractions that a person may experience in their lifetime. A person who does not feel they identify with the more rigid definitions of heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual, or that their attractions have changed over time, may describe themselves as sexually fluid.


Sexual Orientation: This term describes one's sexual, physical, emotional, and intimate attractions to other people. Individuals may choose to describe this by identifying labels such as lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, queer, heterosexual, or questioning.


Trans: This term is used as an umbrella term and can include anyone who identifies as transgender, transgenderist, or transsexual.


Transgender: This term has many definitions. It is frequently used as an "umbrella" term to refer to all people who deviate from their assigned gender at birth or from the binary gender system. This includes transsexuals, genderqueers, two-spirit people, and others. Some transgender people feel they exist not within one of the two binary-gender categories, but rather somewhere between, beyond or outside of those two genders.


Transgenderist (n): Gender identity and gender assignment do not match, but the person seeks no medical intervention to change characteristics of physical sex. A transgenderist lives a gender identity using clothing and other means to influence gender attributions.


Transphobia: The systematic oppression of transgender people because they do not fit society's expectations of how men and women are supposed to appear and act.


Transsexual (adj): Having a gender identity of man/boy or woman/girl not matching gender assignment. In the United States, transsexual people may obtain medical intervention to bring physical sex into congruence with gender identity.


Two-Spirit: A Native American person who embodies both feminine and masculine genders. Native Americans who are queer or transgender may self-identify as two-spirit. Historically, different tribes have specific titles for different kinds of two-spirit people. For example, the Lakota tribe includes Wintke, the Navajo tribe refers to some individuals as Nedleeh, and in the Cheyenne tribe some two-spirit people are known as Hee-man-eh.


Women who have Sex with Women (WSW): The term is often used when discussing sexual behavior. It is inclusive of all women who participate in this behavior regardless of how they identify their sexual orientation. The acronym WSW is conventionally used in professional literature.

LBGTIQ Mission

LBGTIQ & Allies


The purpose of the Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender, Intersex, Queer and Questioning (LBGTIQ) & Allies Task Force is to:


  • Enhance and increase access to advocacy and services for LBGTIQ individuals who are survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
  • Help develop more supportive and inclusive working environments for LBGTIQ service providers.
  • Provide education to member agencies and the public-at-large on issues related to heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia as they relate to the unique dynamics of LBGTIQ domestic and sexual violence.
  • Work to affect positive social change in the LBGTIQ community and the domestic and sexual violence movement.
  • Confront heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia and other prejudices in the movement and in member agencies.

Barriers for LBGTIQ Survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

  • Small, tight-knit communities make it difficult for most LBGTIQ victims to feel safe from their abusers if they want to leave. Fear of loss of friends or not being believed adds to the isolation.
  • Fear of being outed.
  • Fear of facing homophobia by police, shelter staff, and the criminal justice system.
  • Fear of being arrested in states where same-gender sexual acts are criminalized under sodomy laws.
  • Fear of losing children, either due to homophobia or transphobia by custody workers or child protection agencies, or due to lack of legal rights to a child that would normally be afforded if the victim were the opposite gender of their partner.
  • Fear of the assailant facing homophobia by the police or in jail (usually victims do not want their assailants to be hurt, they just want the abuse to stop).
  • Fear of being mistaken for the assailant by police and/or shelter staff, or fear of being arrested along with the assailant because the police believe it must be mutual abuse, because DV and SA occur only between people of the opposite gender.
  • Not knowing what services are available to them because there is a lack of information in the community that DV and SA occur in LBGTIQ relationships as well, and most service providers do not do specific outreach to LBGTIQ victims.
  • Lack of DV & SA services available to gay and bisexual males and transgender people.
  • Transgender people may fear being treated like a freak and of putting themselves at risk of physical harm if they seek services outside of the transgender community, since they are at greater risk of being victims of hate crimes.
  • Fear and guilt of giving the heterosexual community more ammunition against the LBGTIQ community by bringing DV and SA in the LBGTIQ community to the surface.
  • Fear of having HIV+/AIDS status revealed.
  • Inability to obtain a Personal Protection Order (PPO) because of same-gender relationship. Even in states that have added gender-neutral language, it does not mean that all victims are aware of the current laws and it also does not mean that the new laws are being enforced.
  • Inability in some states to press full DV or SA charges for same-gender survivors, therefore having to file lesser charges which means the assailant will have less consequences.
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