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Doc@DrIrene.com

Open Letter to Gays and Lesbians

An open letter to gays and lesbians seeking information about abuse

by Brian

"She lacks confidence, she craves admiration insatiably. She 
lives on the reflections of herself in the eyes of others. 
She does not care to be herself." -Anais Nin

April 12, 2001

Dear Readers,

I "met" Brian, the author of the following open letter, in The Catbox, posting about his gay relationship. He evidenced the trepidation gays often feel treading in straight territory - so, I asked him if he was homophobic! (Giggle!) Anyway, we took it from there. My goal is to welcome All individuals interested in abuse information. This includes YOU, whether you suspect you are a victim, an abuser, or whatever else you fancy. Welcome to the site; I hope you find the info useful. Don't forget to join us in The Catbox!

Brian, thank you for your thoughtful and informative letter. I owe you.  Dr. Irene

You are on the right course.

 
By checking out Dr. Irene's site and reading this, you are taking the necessary steps in coming to terms with the abuse in your relationship. You are gathering information - searching the web for anything you can access that will help clarify the sense that you are or have been mistreated in your relationship. In so doing, you are in a far better place than when you were simply wondering whether there is anything seriously wrong with the way you've been treated, and whether there's anything you can do about it.
 
I don't need to tell you that most of what you will uncover searching the web for abuse topics will be couched in a heterosexual context. But you should also know that this is changing. A thorough search will reveal that many abuse sites now include information that address gay and lesbian relationships specifically. 
 
I am not an expert on abuse. Like you, I am in the process of understanding the abuses I experienced in my relationship. Many months have passed since I first began to suspect that I had been critically mistreated by my partner, and as I am gaining insight through the time spent in research at my computer, I can speak with some authority on the journey you have also undertaken.
 
You've probably already figured out that the underlying principles of abuse are not dependent on one's sex -- it's a dynamic that knows no gender boundaries. The growing acceptance that both men and women are vulnerable to abuse neutralizes the need to assign "he" or "she," rendering all discussion on the subject more accessible to everyone.
 
Follow your intuition. If you read something that feels like it applies to your situation, it probably does. For me, I did not set out to discover the nature of abuse, but to find out why my relationship had been "dysfunctional." Eventually, I connected with abuse topics -- and had my eyes opened considerably. You know what you've been through, even if you can't articulate it yet. Reading and researching will help you define and address what's going on -- and there's tons of great information out there.
 
So the help you're looking for is readily available online. It's a fantastic place to gain knowledge and some comfort that you are not alone in this.
 
Now, even though the sites that discuss abuse in a general way can provide much of what you need to know, there are aspects to same-sex domestic abuse that are unique to homosexual unions. I had not considered these until I narrowed my research to focus on gay-specific topics. Only then did I learn that gays and lesbians face challenges that do not come into play when examining the heterosexual counterpoint of abuse.
 
Though awareness of same-sex abuse is growing, the phenomenon remains largely invisible and unexplored. The gay community itself contributes as much to this as society at large. To the extent that gay relationships remain culturally unsanctioned, the abusive aspects of these relationships are even more obscured. However, even among the gay community there has been a marked unwillingness to confront this issue, until recently. In part, this has been a by-product of the important fight to gain acceptance, whereby an exploration of abuse within a same-sex context has been viewed as undesirable from a public relations perspective.
 
But there is another factor at work in our community -- one that impacts the ability of gays and lesbians to perceive abuse personally, even when their own partners manifest such behaviors. And that is the tendency to think of gay relationships as the vanguard of all that is contemporary and progressive. That inasmuch as we have overcome cultural roadblocks in forming our relationships, then clearly we will remain untouched by the dysfunctions that crop up among more conventional (heterosexual) couples.
 
While this and other myths may make it harder for a gay person to recognize abuse when it occurs, the reality of homophobia exerts additional strain on a gay person's ability to resolve the problem.
 
Particularly vulnerable are gays and lesbians who have remained somewhat closeted -- whose risk of being ousted increases when seeking help in addressing the abuse in their relationships, and whose partners may use the threat of exposure as an abusive strategy.
 
Moreover, gays and lesbians find in their relationships confirmation and celebration or who they are -- a joint proclamation of individual identity. As a result, the self-esteem problems that any victim of abuse will suffer take on additional weight in gay and lesbian relationships -- not only when the most satisfying manifestation of their gayness dissolves in abuse, but also because of internalized homophobia lurking under the surface, which serves to undermine self-esteem with or without the additional stress of domestic abuse.
 
Homophobia presents additional barriers when a gay or lesbian individual turns to others for help. Sometimes, family members cannot be relied on to support or even acknowledge a gay relationship -- another example of how an abused partner can be estranged from support systems commonly available to heterosexuals. This further increases a feeling of insulation, and a propensity to rely on and preserve a gay "family of choice" when one's biological family turns away. The sense of dependency that keeps a target of abuse within a destructive relationship thereby intensifies -- compounding the difficulties such an individual must surmount in protecting himself or herself from abuse.
 
All of these issues, combined with a limited amount of services specific to same-sex abuse, can make leaving an abusive relationship more difficult for gays and lesbians. Perhaps this is one reason why reports of gay domestic abuse are rising.
 
But another reason reports of same-sex abuse are increasing is awareness. And because of this, a person seeking information about this problem is better served than ever before.
 
Simply typing into a search engine the phrases same-sex abuse, gay / lesbian domestic violence, or variations thereof, will uncover information and support specific to the homosexual community, connecting you to a list of sites that is frequently changing and growing.
 
While you have arrived at Dr. Irene's site addressing verbal (and emotional) abuse, elsewhere on the web, you will find that this topic is incorporated within larger discussions of same-sex domestic violence and abuse. In reviewing these, you will learn that the dynamics of abuse, whether verbal, emotional or physical, amount to much the same thing -- your partner's need to exert control over you. (Or, trying to control your partner.)
 
The information above has been distilled from the reading I've done to understand the emotional toll extracted from me by my partner. With time, you'll gain deeper knowledge of what's been happening to you, too. While Dr. Irene's words of wisdom remain among the more accessible I've found on the topic of verbal abuse, the more you investigate, the stronger you'll become.
 
Below is a sampling of sites I've found that delve into same-sex abuse issues. This list is not exhaustive by any means, nor does it represent the "best" sites -- these are simply representative of information available on abuse as it occurs in our relationships. Most of the sites listed provide additional links.
 
 
    The STOP Partner Abuse / Domestic Violence Program
          www.gay-lesbian-center.org/lambda/domestic_index.php
-- An overview, addressing myths that cloud the issue of same-sex abuse and listing types of abuse.
   
    Gay Partners Abuse Project
          www.gaypartnerabuseproject.org
-- Resource for abused and abusing men. Addresses male socialization factors that impact relationships between men.
   
    Abuse in Same-Sex Relationships
          www.womanabuseprevention.com/html/same_sex_partner_abuse.php
 
    Outing Same Sex Partner Abuse: Where are the Services for
    Gay and Bisexual Men?
          www.womanabuseprevention.com/html/gay_men.php
-- Overviews of the issue, delving into myths and challenges surrounding gay and lesbian domestic abuse. Part of a site provided by Education Wife Assault, Toronto.
 
    The Power and Control Wheel for Lesbians and Gays
          www.metrobatteredwomen.org/lesbians.php
-- Diagram of same-sex abuse dynamic, incorporating the relationship of homophobia, both external and internal.
 
    Life on Brian's Beat -- Gay-on-Gay Violence
          www.web.apc.org/~jharnick/violence.php
-- Extensive list of links, articles and information. Part of a voluminous site on gay and lesbian stuff. (No, I am not the Brian for whom this site is named.)
During your research, you may want to consider covering your tracks by deleting references to abuse sites you've visited that may be stored in your computer's "history." Do this by viewing the History pull-down list of your web browser (clicking the site name with the right mouse button allows me to delete a site from the History list on my computer). Some sites provide additional instructions.
 
I wish you strength and courage in assessing the impact of abuse in your life. With awareness, you will discover how best to address your individual circumstances. Though it may seem that abuse could not possibly lead to anything positive, recovery from abuse can bring about changes in your life you may not have otherwise pursued. I know what I'm talking about -- and I invite you to read my story.
 
My best to you,            -- Brian
 

I want to read the posts.