Stages of Healthy Gay Relationships
Intro To Domestic Violence
Introduction to Gay Male Domestic Violence
Treatment Of Domestic Violence
Treatment Of Domestic Violence
Domestic Violence in Gay Couples
History of Abuse
Isolation may seem to be minor concerns in this day and age of much larger cities, the internet, and at least some acknowledgment of gay and lesbian relationships. However, while gays in large cities may have access to more services and community support (though this is far from the norm), gays in in small towns and rural areas have even less support. Martin and Hetrick (1988), in their discussions of adolescent experiences, discuss 3 kinds of isolation - cognitive, social, and emotional - which are equally applicable to adult gays.
While isolation is an issue for any victim of domestic abuse, isolation is more so an issue for gays and lesbians. Gays and lesbians are far less likely to receive community support, as there are very few shelters for battered men around the country, much less for battered gay men. When a battered woman's shelter does meet a lesbian woman, staff may not know how to counsel her, she may face prejudice from other victims, or be denied services once she comes out as a lesbian (Jablow, 2000; Allen and Leventhal, 1999). Further, seeking services means being "out" about one's sexual orientation, which in some communities is dangerous.
Gays and lesbians are less likely to receive support from their families. While many are rejected by their families after coming out, some remain in contact and are exposed to continuing heterosexism. Merrill (1998) tells of one battered man who turned to his family for support after being abused, and was told, "That [abuse] comes with the lifestyle you've chosen." Gays and lesbians are less likely to receive support from their churches and synagogues. Gays and lesbians are still considered to be sinful in most churches; alternately, the church may have made the meaningless distinction of "loving" gays and lesbians while "hating" their sin.
Gays and lesbians in large metropolitan areas may have friends they can turn to. However, the batterer may have worked hard to offend and drive away, or reject and end contact with anyone the victim might be able to turn to. Some batterers do so with purposeful efforts to control their victims, while others do so due to unreasonable jealousy. However, gays and lesbians in rural areas may have few if any other gay friends nearby, and may not have come out to neighbors and coworkers. The batterer may also purposely use negative social stereotypes of gays ("No one around here is going to think anything other than 'pervert' if you look for help!"), abusive language ("Why would they care what happens to a stupid faggot?"), and blaming ("How can two guys 'batter' each other? You're just weak little sissy!") to further convince the victim that he has no options and nowhere to turn (Allen and Leventhal, 1999).
Gays and lesbians have also been less likely to receive support from the mental health field. Island and Letellier (1991) noted that many gays and lesbians were fearful of therapy and being pathologized. Mordcin and Myers (1990) reported that 40% of the gay men were unwilling to seek professional help for a problem in their relationship. While these numbers may have changed in the last 10 years, it is still not uncommon for gay and lesbian therapy clients to seek "gay affirmative" therapists advertising in gay and lesbian community newsletters.
One stress that is unique to gay and lesbian couples is that of being "hidden" lovers, or "passing" as heterosexual roommates. This has been empirically linked to relationships dissatisfaction (Berger, 1990). Some gay and lesbian couples don't have a clear word to describe their relationship and commitment to each other. Berger (1990) reported that in his sample of gay couples, 62% referred to each other as "lovers" (although many interpret this term to mean only a sexual relationships), 22.5% used the term "partners," and 15.7% used "friends." Such generic terms only increase the ambiguity of gay relationships, while straight couples have clearer terms such as boy/girlfriend, fiance, and husband/wife.
Being hidden can also be stressful in the occupational setting. Not being able to bring one's partner to work-related social functions, pressures by co-workers to couple heterosexually, pressure to transfer to other offices in other cities, gay and lesbian jokes, as well as more severe forms of discrimination in the work place... all can be stressful to the couple.