Domestic and family violence and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer communities

Same Sex Relationships

  • Domestic and family violence occur at the same rates in same sex relationships as in heterosexual relationships;
  • Despite the similar rates there is limited research available about same sex domestic violence, its dynamics, impacts for victims and appropriate responses.
  • Victims of same sex intimate partner violence may experience the same forms of abuse that heterosexual victims experience;
  • They may also be subject to additional threats and abuse related to their sexuality or gender such as ‘outing’ to family, friends and others;
  • They may experience specific challenges around getting help such as facing homophobia or a lack of services.

Browse the Australia Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse Special collection same sex domestic violence.

For more information about domestic violence in same sex relationships visit Another Closet.

Transgender Relationships

Transgender: Anyone who lives, has lived, or wants to live as a member of the opposite gender (sex) to their birth sex. Or more simply, where an individual lives and behaves as a member of the opposite gender to their birth sex.

In the 2006 study Private Lives*, 61.8% of transgender men and 36.4% of transgender women had reported that they have been in an abusive relationship.

Sadly, violence in a transgender person’s life is often the “norm” rather than an unusual and shocking experience. Transgender people may regularly experience acts of hate such as verbal abuse, harassment, and physical abuse, from simply walking down the street

This makes it harder for transgender people who are in domestic violence relationships to realise that their relationship is abusive and/or seek help. The continual experience of violence in their day to day life from people that they don’t know can make experiencing violence from an intimate partner seem normal or not worthy of help from police or support services.

*Pitts M, Smith A, Mitchell A & Patel S (2006) Private lives: a report on the health and wellbeing of gay lesbian bisexual transgender and intersex Australians: Latrobe university

For more information about transgender issues visit The Gender Centre website.

Below is a short article about domestic violence in Transgender relationships kindly reproduced with permission from the Safe Relationships Project, Inner City Legal Centre:

Domestic Violence in Trans* Relationships

For some trans people, experiencing physical violence in a relationship may not register as being abuse. This is because some trans people may experience violence on a daily basis. Some experience violence from family when they come out acknowledging their affirmed gender. Other trans people may experience transphobic violence on the street or when going to bars and pubs. This does not make violence in the lives of trans people as ‘normal’. However, it may affect those people who are in domestic violence relationships and make them feel they have fewer options or places to turn to for help.

“My boyfriend told me no one else would love me because I was a freak. He made me feel like I should be grateful that someone – anyone loved me. I didn’t think much of it when he got wasted and hit me. It wasn’t until I was at the hospital with a broken arm did I stop to think about it all.” – Cherie

Because of societal transphobia and discrimination, trans people may feel safer in an abusive relationship than alone. This isolation reinforces to trans people the need to remain in whatever relationship they establish, abusive or otherwise.

“I had been with my girlfriend for 2 years when I told her I wanted to transition. That’s when the fights started and she said I had been lying to her. I didn’t want to lose her, so I ignored it when she slapped me and pushed me around. Once I started transitioning she made me feel like I was indebted to her for staying with me, so I let her control my social life and my money. In the end I felt like I had lost everything.” – Kai

Intersex Relationships

Intersex: People who have physical sex differences, for example differences in reproductive parts like the testicles, penis, vulva, clitoris, ovaries and/or physical differences in secondary sexual characteristics such as muscle mass, hair distribution, breast development and stature. Intersex is not a sexual orientation, gender or gender identity and most intersex people with intersex differences do not know they have them.

Download the What is Intersex? Factsheet.

For more information about Intersex issues visit Organisation Intersex International Australia website.

Below is a short article about domestic violence and intersex people kindly reproduced with permission from the Safe Relationships Project, Inner City Legal Centre:

Intersex people and Domestic Violence

For intersex people, experiencing abuse in an intimate relationship can add a further layer of secrecy and shame to what may already be a secret existence.

From birth or early childhood intersex children grow up knowing that they are different to other boys and girls. Intersex children often come into families as an unexpectant event, their differences causing parents to panic, be confused and at times, reject their children because of their differences.

If families reject their intersex children, this can lead to psychological abuse in the form of ostracizing the child, shame and secrecy about the child’s differences and less favourable treatment than that given to siblings.

When intersex children have different genitals they may be subjected to surgery and gender assignments without consent. This starts a lengthy process of medical examinations through out childhood. All of which may be cloaked in secrecy to other family members and friends.

In intimate relationships perpetrators of domestic violence can use a person’s intersex as another means of power and control over them.

“My boyfriend slowly and subtly began controlling how I identified. At first he would say he liked it when I looked ‘feminine’ and always asked me to wear dresses, skirts and make up. He then started saying that he didn’t want to be seen as ‘gay’ and that if I wanted to be with him, then I would have to stop expressing myself as intersex. I didn’t know what to do. I thought he was accepting of me but then he began drawing attention to the parts of my body that were different. He would put me down and ridicule me about them. I knew I had to leave him when he demanded I have medical treatment so that I would be clearly a female.” (Laura)

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