Love Is Not Abuse
The Relationship That Put Me “Back in the Closet” and How I Got Out
By: Timothy McLemore, founder of Essential Haus, author, “Love Is Not Abuse”
The stakes are high for the LGBTQ+ community on the issue of domestic violence – so why don’t we know that much about it or how to find help?
This was a question I was asking myself when I was finally finding my way out of an abusive relationship. It’s also what prompted me to write a book about it called, “Love Is Not Abuse.” My hope is that the LGBTQ+ community hears and embraces what I have to share so that they can help others who may be in a similar situation or help themselves. Abuse is not love and that there is a way out.
Going Back in the Closet
Being in an abusive relationship felt like going “back in the closet” because I was hiding it from my friends and family. As a couple, we were even concealing it from our Instagram community by posting as if everything was “peaches and roses,” but in reality there was a dark side to the relationship. Once I hit the breaking point and felt enough was enough, I knew I had to get out. I realized that I should not have stayed in the relationship for as long as I did and I did not want to be an example to my peers that this type of relationship was acceptable. Sharing my story in, “Love Is Not Abuse,” was cathartic to my recovery from domestic violence and although it is hard to talk about, I hope it will inspire others to become more aware of domestic violence issues in the LGBTQ+ community and join me in doing something about it.
The Stats Tell The Facts
Statistics are clear that domestic violence is more frequent and complicated in LGBTQ+ relationships than in heterosexual relationships. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV):
- 45% of victims do not report the violence they experience to police because they believe it will not help them.
- Members of the LGBTQ+ community may be denied assistance and domestic violence services as a result of homophobia, transphobia and biphobia.
- Fewer than 5% of LGBTQ+ domestic violence victims ever seek protective orders from the court.
- 11% of reported LGBTQ+ intimate violence cases involved the use of a weapon.
- Only 26% of men who experienced near-lethal partner violence called the police.
- 43.8% of lesbian women and 61.1% of bisexual women are raped, the recipient of physical violence, and/or stalked by a partner at some point; this is true of only 35% of heterosexual women.
Anyone can be at risk for domestic violence, but there are specific groups of LGBTQ+ people who are at the most vulnerable for intimate partner violence, including Trans, Black, Bisexual and individuals who do not have access to financial resources.
Hopeless Romantics and Red Flags
I also think that a lot of us in the gay community are “hopeful romantics” and things tend to move very quickly. I always say that one year in a gay relationship is like five years in a heterosexual one. While this can be exciting, it can also be a major red flag.
As queer individuals, we don’t have many relationship standards to look up to. Heteronormative relationships tend to have “gender roles” and other stipulations that may not work well in LGBTQ+ relationships so it doesn’t feel like a genuine form of representation. From my experience, queer couples are more open minded in regards to how we build relationships and start our foundations. Far from cookie cutter.
Heteronormative domestic violence is already an uncomfortable subject itself, but queer relationship domestic violence is a subject that is not spoken of enough. We see all sorts of movies, TV shows and social media depicting the perfect heterosexual relationship. The hurdles they face and the families they build. There is a lack of healthy queer love representation. LGBTQ+ love stories help bring insight and normalcy to society. They give the examples we need.
Why We Don’t Leave An Abusive Relationship
There are some very unique barriers that members of the LGBTQ+ community face when trying to seek help when leaving an abusive relationship.
Outing is a big issue. An abuser in an LGBTQ+ relationship may threaten to out their partner if their partner seeks help and hasn’t come out to everyone in their life. This could affect everything from their relationship with their parents or other family members, to their careers.
There is also a fear of social impact as LGBTQ+ communities can be small and tight-knit. When a person is experiencing violence from their partner, they may be afraid of the social impact of reporting it. If they and their partner share a group of friends or are members of the same community, they risk alienating and losing many, if not all, of their closest social relationships. Unfortunately, this can cause victims to be quiet about the abuse, putting their personal safety at risk.
It is important to seek out resources specifically for the LGBTQ+ community to get proper support. I personally had difficulty finding resources when I was trying to get out of my abusive relationship, which is why I started a nonprofit called Essential Haus where we will provide a safe place and resources for individuals in the LGBTQ+ community who have been affected by domestic violence and homelessness.
Do not hesitate to contact your local authorities and even seek a protective order if the abuse gets out of hand. It is important to have the abuse documented on an official police record even if you are not ready to leave, otherwise it could negatively affect your case later when you do decide to leave.
Do your best to cut all ties with the abuser. Block the person on all your devices so you are not tempted to be pulled back in. If possible, change your physical location. Start fresh somewhere new. Finally, learn to love yourself. Don’t jump right into another relationship. Take the time to learn about yourself, and discover what you like and don’t like. This will make you stronger and more independent before you step into another relationship. It’s important to know yourself fully and love yourself fully to avoid repeating the relationship abuse cycle.
For more tips on leaving abusive relationships and for details on, “Love Is Not Abuse,” join the Essential Haus community at Essential Haus Facebook and Essential Haus Instagram pages or connect with Timothy McLemore directly @essentiallytim.
Timothy McLemore is the founder of Essential Haus, a non-profit organization in Miami, Florida, that provides a safe place for individuals in the LGBTQ+ community who have been affected by domestic violence and homelessness. His new book, “Love Is Not Abuse,” speaks about his own personal experiences with domestic abuse in a gay relationship and provides resources and hope for others who find themselves trapped in similar relationships. McLemore is a community organizer, social media influencer and creator of “Gays with Stories,” a popular Instagram page that shares the positive stories of gay men around the world. His mission is to bring awareness to LGBTQ+ relationship issues, and provide a safe space for anyone living a truth not widely accepted by mainstream society. His dedication to the LGBTQ+ community is inspired by his own struggles of growing up biracial and gay. His vision for future generations is to have a better experience, and that fuels his motivation to inspire self-acceptance and self-expression for all.