Two Speeches on Domestic Violence

This past week has been a very busy, but very productive week for me. On Thursday, I gave a full-staff LGBT Sensitivity training to Turning Point, the local domestic violence shelter, and on Friday, I returned to Millersville University, my alma matar, to give a presentation on the fight for equality. I noticed several commonalities across my two presentations; even though they were on different themes with very different audiences.
Speaking at Turning Point was an amazing experience; I spoke to nearly every staff member who works at the shelter, as well as their therapists and administrators. Many in the audience were already well versed and very comfortable discussing queer issues, and even those for whom, this was their first exposure to LGBT issues had no trouble understanding that LGBT rights are human rights, that we are fighting for the equal right to live without being the subject of verbal, physical, and sexual violence. I had an amazing discussion with the staff of Turning Point focusing around labeling the abuse LGBT youth especially suffer at the hands of family. The next night when I spoke to a group of students at Millersville, we had a very similar discussion about a new shift in how society is beginning to view queer people, and how we as a movement are responding to the treatment we have received.
For some reason, I have seen a great deal of hesitation in the LGBT community to label what we go through as abuse. If a straight child was screamed at by their parents, told they are going to hell, that they will suffer for eternity, we would call that parent a bad parent. If a straight child was thrown on the streets by their parents and told never to come home, that they have no family, we would as a society call them bad parents. If someone’s religion dictates that their children are their slaves and make their kids do back-breaking, dangerous work, we would call that abuse. If a man is a chauvinistic bigot and believes his daughter is ‘lesser’ than him, that she will always be less of a person because of her gender, we call that abuse. If someone’s faith says its okay for them to rape their children, we call that abuse. We give a lot of value to freedom of religion in America, but there is a line, and that line is called domestic abuse. You cannot commit violence, be it verbal, physical, or sexual, upon your child in our country; we call that abuse, and you will lose your children if it is discovered. And I think its time the queer movement recognizes that it is NOT acceptable for parents to attack their children, no matter what their religion says. The bible was once used to protect slavery, we cannot allow it to be the safeguard for homophobia and hatred, especially not when it is committed against vulnerable LGBT youth.
I believe labeling this behavior as abusive will do many things for the LGBT movement and for our culture at large. First, there are MANY resources available for the victims of domestic abuse; there are shelters, there is empowerment training, there are resources allocated for giving supplies to victims, and so, so much more. This also presents a change in the way society views queer youth. It has already become very well known that LGBT youth suffer extreme amounts of bullying at school, but not many realize many of these kids are going home to environments that are just as negative and dangerous, if not worse, than the bullying they face at school. Even when an LGBT youth expresses concerns about their parent’s homophobic/transphobic behavior, they are told to ‘just be patient,’ ‘maybe they just need more time,’ ‘give them a chance’, even if they go home every night and are physically attacked for their gender variance. Labeling that behavior as abuse makes it clear that it is NOT the child who is the problem because they are queer, it is the parent who is the problem, because they are attacking their child. So many queer youth who lose their families blame themselves, “if only I hadn’t been gay, I would still have a family.” “If only I hid being trans better, I wouldn’t have destroyed my family.” Putting the blame on the attacker, not the victim, will allow us victims to heal from the attacks we endured.
I should clarify that it is not my opinion that a lack of acceptance of your queer child is abuse; it can be hard to accept your child is gay or trans, and it can take some time to adjust. What I am saying is, when you attack your child, when you intentionally inflict harm by openly rejecting them, making it clear they are less of a person because of who they are, when you throw them out and make them feel like garbage, you are a bad parent. Parents should love and support their children, and no justification warrants hurting your own child.

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