LGBT+ people often experience sexual assault and rape in an intersectional way, meaning, their assault is usually associated with their gender identity or sexuality in a phobic way. My ex-boyfriend was a victim of child sex abuse and rape as a result of attempted conversion therapy. A family member had rejected his identity and used rape to overpower him and reinforce that he was ‘really a girl‘. This had lasting, horrific effects on him mentally, and he was never believed by his family.
My best friend, since coming out at university, has also been sexually assaulted because of his sexuality alongside being trans. As to his experience, he said:
Early into my first year of uni I came out as a gay trans male (ftm) [the attacker]…over the course of the night got increasingly weird with me… Then when we tried to kick him out he would resist leaving the house by rubbing himself on me laughing and saying ‘but don’t you want me’, he also started stripping off and throwing the clothes at me. He also FaceTimed me repeatedly whilst in various states of undress and various body parts showing…my friends said I’d lied and I was exaggerating… [it]has had huge effects on my mental health and the relationships with the people around me.
Studies show that 47% of transgender people will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, a statistic that could be even higher, since many trans people around the world have multiple barriers to reporting sexual assault. Mike Segalov reports that 62% of UK gay men and 47% of bisexual men have been groped without consent, compared to 21% of heterosexual men. 61% of bisexual women experience rape or sexual violence, compared to 35% of heterosexual women. Outside of the UK, LGBT+ activist Eudy Simelane, was found raped and murdered in 2008 in response to her being an out lesbian in South Africa. Her attackers were the first to be convicted of corrective rape despite multiple reports before Eudy’s.
A Brazillian trans female records her experiences in an online diary, describing her rape by 2 gangs, noting that ‘[she]was never able to report them..why? Because trans women like me are not protected in my country‘.
Sexual violence is only just beginning to come to the forefront of conversations, but it’s still very westernised, and very heteronormative and centralised. So what can allies do? The first thing to do is to be informed. 48-50% of trans people think about or attempt suicide before the age of 26, and many LGBT+ people do not have basic access to support or police protection around the world, let alone for sexual abuse. Fundamentally, it is a human rights issue.
Asking a trans person on how to be a good ally, they mentioned reasons why LGBT+ people do not report.
- Outing themselves to professionals or authorities can often be extremely dangerous, especially in countries where transgenderism and homosexuality is criminalised;
- Trans people may be less likely to come forward because they may feel the rape invalidates their gender identity and will give fuel to more anti-trans rhetoric.
LGBT+ people often have to be careful when it comes to romantic or sexual partners too, having to carry the anxiety of “could this encounter become violent”, which is where many corrective rapes manifest. So where do we start? We inform ourselves. We self-reflect on unconscious internalised trans or homophobia we may carry. We be there for our LGBT+ peers, and learn from them. Chances are you know at least one person that is LGBT+ and chances are, some of those will have been sexually assaulted.
STOPHATE UK: https://www.stophateuk.org/
Yellow Door: Helpline (Weds 4 – 7pm): 023 8063 6313
SUSU Support: https://www.susu.org/support/