Pride, Support and Space: what are we doing for LGBTQIA+ survivors?
For LGBTQIA+ people Pride month is a time for protest, celebration, solidarity and community. It is infinitely more than the parade it has become synonymous with. It’s a time for joy, hope, history, mourning and acknowledging that we stand on the shoulders of the activists who came before us. For allies and organisations it should be a time for self-reflection; it’s a time to ask, how do we support LGBTQIA+ people – not just now, but all year round?
It is estimated that 5-7% of the UK population identify as LGBTQIA+ yet within that percentage, sexual violence rates are higher than the national average. 50% of trans people are abused or sexually assaulted in their lifetime. 44% of lesbians and 61% of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, and, although data is lacking, we know that many intersex people face sexual violence at the hands of medical professionals as children. These statistics show that LGBTQIA+ communities experience disproportionate levels of sexual violence, and yet survivors still struggle to find support that is fully inclusive and which meet their needs.
There are a myriad of ways that LGBTQIA+ people are both implicitly and explicitly told that spaces are not for them. For example, without knowledge-sharing and training, front line workers may not have the language they need in order to be respectful of people’s identities and make survivors feel safe within the service. People may make assumptions about pronouns, or the gender of any partner(s) or perpetrator(s) who might be referred to. Survivors may not have access to therapists, ISVAs and other workers who share their identities, and therefore may not feel comfortable talking about the abuse they have experienced. When an organisation employs the same kind of people again and again then it is failing survivors. Another thing that tells LGBTQIA+ people that a space isn’t for them is silence – when organisations remain silent on the oppression of LGBTQIA+ people then they are complicit. The silence speaks volumes, and that silence isn’t good enough when lives are on the line.
As with all things pertaining to marginalised survivors, we will learn most by listening to those survivors and their experiences, as well as the organisations and spaces that exist specifically to support them. We need to be reaching out to the survivors we work with to ask them what they need. How can we make sure professionals are aware and respectful of survivors who are asexual? What barriers to support are intersex people facing? Where do gender non-confirming people fit into our models of VAWG and services that are so often heavily gendered? We must also think about the intersections of sexuality and gender with other oppression’s. How do we best support homeless survivors when we know that LGBTQIA+ people experience homelessness disproportionately? How can we support LGBTQIA+ migrant survivors, who may not be able to talk about the sexual violence they’ve survived whilst their immigration status remains insecure? In order to find out these things we need to have a lot of very important conversations in our communities, as well as drawing on the extensive work that already exists. There are many things that we can all do in order to make our spaces, services, organisations and institutions inclusive and representative of and for LGBTQIA+ people.
Thinking about our history is such an important part of Pride, and the feminist, anti-racist and LGBTQIA+ movements have often stood in solidarity with each other. This makes sense when we acknowledge the inherent intersections of patriarchy, racism, homophobia and transphobia. There are very clear links between some of the struggles we are facing. For example, as Pride in London becomes ever more corporate, it reminds us just how much the political landscape has changed in the time that we’ve been building our movements. We would need a whole other article to unpick all these things and do them justice but what we do know is that both support services for survivors and Pride look very different now from when they first began.
One struggle we both face in this new landscape is funding. We see specialist services closing every day – in just the last few years we’ve seen the closure of two major LGBTQIA+ services for survivors, Broken Rainbow and PACE. How do movements survive in the face of a funding crisis? These are questions we can answer together.
To move forward in our goals of eliminating sexual violence we must focus on solidarity, creating inclusive and welcoming spaces, and our shared struggles, of which there are many. By the time Pride comes round again next year we will all have had a long time to think about how we can do more for LGBTQIA+ survivors. More importantly, we will have had time to actually get things done, make changes and be one step closer to ending sexual violence.
*LGBTQIA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer/questioning, intersex and asexual. The plus indicates other identities that may fall under this umbrella.
For information about you’re nearest support service that specialise in supporting male and LGBTQIA+ survivors please contact: