Monday, January 8, 2007

Queer Domestic Violence

Today's Guardian features a brief report on domestic violence in the GLBT community. The Guardian is usually one of my favorite newspapers, but this is one strange article.

A quarter of GLBT couples fall prey to domestic violence, the article says--about the same as among straight couples.

But talking about domestic violence among gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people is, to paraphrase Rick Santorum (loosely), like talking about domestic violence among people, dogs, snakes, and supernovas. The statistics require parsing to reveal anything at all. About two-thirds of the way through, the article finally notes that domestic violence is more common among gay men than among lesbians (the picture at the top is, however, of a woman, and obviously comes from stock "domestic violence" footage). That's a start, but in an article on any other topic, statistics as murky as these would end up in the editor's blue file.

Note to MSM: GLBT is an acronym that refers to four different groups of people.

The article makes a worthy point in highlighting that domestic violence programs are so heavily geared toward heterosexual women that gay, lesbian and transgendered victims may not get the help they deserve. True enough, but Mother Jones reported in 2005 that 15 percent of domestic violence victims are male, suggesting that there are more than a few straight men who also can't access social services. (Imagine the reception they would receive at a safe space!) Our public dialogue and services surrounding same-sex domestic violence are in the larval stage, to be sure. But it's not clear that underreporting is any more of a problem in the queer community. After all, 70 percent of all domestic "incidents" go unreported, and heterosexual women, like the GLBT folks in the article, fear unsympathetic ears at the P.D. To practice what it preaches, the article should give more information about underserved populations. By lumping GLBT together, it ends up giving us less.

This article is so tongue-tied in trying to talk about queer issues that it exacerbates the problem it is trying to point out. The Guardian clearly needs a queer reporter, yo. (Wait, was that a bilingual pun? Why yes, yes it was.)

3 comments:

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June said...

Well, there are some issues unique to queer domestic violence such as:

1) the abuser using the threat of "outing" their partner as a way to maintain control in the relationship;
2) fear that the police won't take same same sex domestic violence, or transfolk complaining of domestic violence, seriously;
3) because the Right likes to portray queer relationships as inherently messed up, I think the queer community is sometimes unwilling to acknowledge that problems domestic violence exist in our relationships;
4) friends and supposed allies who understand that women might be beaten by men, but don't understand why a woman would "let" another woman attack her, a man would "let" another man attack him, etc.

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