Why might members of the LGBTQ+ community be more at risk of abuse?
The following may not be true for you, it’s a theory, but I invite you to read on and see what parts of it may reflect some of your experience.
Growing up, as young people, 5 and 6 years old, us and our school mates would play at ‘dressing up’, ‘pretend’ etc, practising skills we’d be glad of later in life. We’d pretend to be the teacher, the doctor, the person on the till – everything and anything that would occur to us - it was fun, and it gave us an opportunity to ‘try things on’. But there was one significant area of difference between us and out heterosexual schoolmates. They got to ‘play’ at romance. Remember the Tuesday that the 7 year old boy and girl announced they were ‘together’? It may have ended by Friday, with tears and drama, with their friends huddling around them to offer solace, and parents looking on smiling and offering a hug to the broken hearted ‘lover’. But not to worry – they may well have had another opportunity to stretch their romantic wings when they got to 9, and 11, and 15 – experiencing relational Rupture and Repair, Break-Up and Make-Up. For the lucky ones, they got to explore and understand their own needs, their rights, and their boundaries, by playing at relationships before entering on that first big, real emotional and sexual coupling. They got to serve an apprenticeship in relationships in a sense.
But that wasn’t so true of the LGBTQ+ child. More often, we as children would keep silent, instinctively preferring to withhold our romantic achings. For the vast number of LGBTQ+ children they were right to keep silent - it wasn’t safe to express those longings. Expression risked ridicule, rejection and even violence for many. It was safer to stay in a state of ‘isolation’. Ironically, that same isolation, whilst providing partial safety, also served to magnify our longings – the longing to connect to someone else - have someone else be thinking of us, someone else reflecting ‘value’ back at us.
It was profoundly lonely and isolated for many young LGBTQ+ children growing up.
So, when those first romantic relationships are finally offered to us, we run towards them with a tremendous amount of energy as we are so parched from a lifetime of the arid desert of a ‘love life’ we’ve experienced. Without all the dry runs that others may have had. Without the testing of ours and other’s boundaries. We’re trying to navigate in very unfamiliar territory. But we’ve found someone who ‘sees’ us, and so there’s a strong determination to make this relationship work, and that determination may mean for some, that they perhaps tolerate small acts of disrespect from the other, may ignore the warning signs our friends point out to us. We value whatever ‘love’ we can nurture in the relationship and ignore, as best we can, the inconvenient and troubling behaviour which threatens the relationships survival, hoping that things will come right somehow.
Life, for almost everyone, is about forging ‘meaningful connections’ and we’re prepared to do our utmost to create, or safeguard those that are presented to us in our lives, for they have been very hard won for most LGBTQ+ people, but sometimes there may be a compromise which doesn’t serve us best.
We know that the LGBTQ+ community experience enormous challenges with their mental health, with 1 in 8 young people, and 1 in 2 in the Trans community attempting to end their lives. (Foundation, n.d.) Forging meaningful connections can be the hardest thing in life to do, and the LGBTQ+ community faces extra challenges in this quest, which may make them more vulnerable to abuse.
(Acknowledgement: Thanks to Pink Therapy and in particular their online course https://pinktherapy.org/self-study-courses/ )