by Sydney Carter, Community Engagement Coordinator
What does it mean to exist? Does it mean to be free? Does it mean to have safety? Does it mean to just be? We all carry ourselves in this beautiful world so differently and hold many identities that are near and dear to our hearts. We would not be who we are without our identities.
I am writing this at a time when I and the people I love are being attacked, silenced, and killed because of those identities. Queer kids are being told not to read books because “they are making them queer.” Drag queens are being labeled and targeted in horrific ways. Gender non-conforming and non-binary people are being told they are lying about who they are. Black trans women are being harmed. To exist as a queer person too often means being labeled, doubted, fearful, and even physically harmed.
Nobody deserves that.
All of this is because the experiences of queer people are not believed. Even our very existence is questioned. The experience was real for Ashley Burton, a trans woman from Atlanta who was killed for just being her. The experience is real for internet-famous Dylan Mulvaney, a trans woman who received hate after a Bud Light campaign. The experience is real for actor Elliot Page who is harassed online for his identity and public transition. The experience is real for Dwayne Wade and Gabrielle Union's family, who are shamed for accepting and supporting their trans daughter. The list goes on.
It is important to note that these names and experiences are very publicly known, and the folks involved are receiving support. There are also many people who are facing these experiences alone, with no support from family, friends, and loved ones. And there are people who are facing this homophobic hatred from their loved ones who may not have anywhere to turn to, all because of the identities they hold.
For survivors of domestic violence, these challenges become further compounded. Domestic violence occurs at equal, if not higher, rates in queer relationships as in heterosexual relationships. Domestic violence does not discriminate; it affects people of all identities, and we need to talk about it more. Folks who are part of the trans community are facing violence of all forms at higher rates. We need to talk about the violence that queer and trans folks are facing so all people who face these forms of violence know they are not alone and there are people here to support them.
Yet we know folks with queer identities are less likely to name their experience and reach out for help. Folks who are in queer relationships may not be out to their loved ones, so seeking support becomes more challenging and isolating. While there are support systems available like here at REACH Beyond Domestic Violence that are here to support all survivors of domestic violence, there are always fears that queer people can have when connecting with support. Since we are living in a world where organizations like the Human Rights Campaign are issuing a “state of emergency” for queer people, it is hard to go anywhere without the fear of facing blatant homophobia.
Organizations like REACH are here for you, no matter how you identify. We understand the importance of all of your identities and the pain that can be felt when suppressing them. And we are not unique in this way. Other resources like The Network/LA Red, The Agly Network, and Greater Boston PFLAG exist to support the existence of queer people and the experiences queer folks have.
Love is love, and queer folks are in danger. It is hard to hold both realities, especially when the people we love are being targeted. Just know that having one person who believes in and supports someone is the strongest indicator of healing. We hope you can be that person for someone else. We hope you can listen, support, and validate the queer experience because it is very real.
This Pride month, we hope that folks can show love and support to queer-owned businesses. We hope that you can show love to queer youth and adults in your life because, at a time like this, it is needed by many. We hope you can validate the queer experience, even if it differs from your own. We hope that you can use your voice to advocate for queer folks who are so tired of defending their life experience. Most importantly, we hope you can center the voices of people impacted by harmful transphobic, homophobic, and biphobic ideologies and behaviors.