Sexual abuse and the threat thereof greatly colors the lives of LGBTQ+ folks, particularly those who fall into additional socioeconomic margins. Every day both around the world and in our backyards, LGBTQ+ people struggle to find the community to help them cope with this and numerous other stressors. Quite literally, finding community and building a network can save the lives of LGBTQ+ individuals.
According to recent studies, 26% of gay men, 37% of bisexual men, 44% of gay women, and 61% of bisexual women have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking. 47% of transgender individuals have experienced sexual assault. Of those LGBTQ+ survivors, nearly 1 in 10 have experienced this violence at the hands of an intimate partner.
LGBTQ+ people additionally may receive subpar care following these traumatic instances. Victim advocates report that 85% of them have worked with LGBTQ+ survivors who have been denied services because of their gender or sexuality. Lesbian, gay, or bisexual adults are also twice as likely to experience mental health conditions, and transgender adults are four times as likely to experience a mental health condition.
Community helps fight these feelings of isolation, stigma, and loneliness. In general, finding a community of people with similar lived experiences and opinions can create peace of mind; in the LGBTQ+ community, support also eases the sting of rejection and bigotry, fights homelessness, and promotes self-growth. LGBTQ+ people with a healthy network of peers are able to learn about resources that they might not have otherwise, whether that comes in the form of social events or in the form of services like healthcare.
To me, personally, community means finding the people who become your chosen family and who will be in your corner when you need help. 40% of LGBTQ+ adults have experienced rejection from family members or close friends (NAMI). Finding community can help heal from those kinds of wounds.
In regard to sexual abuse, my LGBTQ+ family has changed my life in my own healing journey. It saddens me that a large majority of my friends have had their lives impacted by the same abuse that I have experienced. This knowledge sometimes makes me feel like we’re just another unfortunate statistic. But the silver lining is that we all don’t feel alone in carrying our burdens. The very first person I opened up to about my assault was a gay woman who would soon become one of my best friends. We share and cry with one another when old demons come up. I know that if I feel like I’m falling, my LGBTQ+ community will be there to catch me.
There is reassurance in finding this community. Community means freedom, the opportunity to open yourself wholly and relieve your heart of the shame and loneliness you might be carrying. It is a privilege that is hard-won but is absolutely worth fighting for. The LGBTQ+ community has emboldened me and encouraged me to continue to tell my story, to ensure that myself and my peers don’t get lost in those discouraging statistics. This community has strengthened my empathy and helped me grow into a person that I am proud of.
LGBTQ+ stories are not monolithic, so I wanted to interview a couple of my dear friends to get their thoughts on what the LGBTQ+ community means to them in a few words.
Friend 1 had this to say: “[The LGBTQ+ community] is a huge part of me. Once I found that community, my confidence skyrocketed. It’s a community where you feel like finally have something in common, but there’s so many different people, too, from different backgrounds. I wish I had… what I have now because I feel that it would have made things easier to come to terms with.” She also added that having this community and support system has given her a better sense of understanding other people and a mutual love for those both similar and different to her.
And friend 2 added upon our thoughts with this: “I feel like community really goes with authenticity. Other people are like you. Without community, it’s a really isolating place to be. If I had a community like I have now, I feel like my experience coming out would have been vastly different. I definitely feel like the community changed my life. It’s something that is so special. You get to learn a lot about other people, but also about yourself and your perspectives.”
The LGBTQ+ community is life-changing. If you are struggling to find community, or if you are struggling with experiences of sexual abuse, check out some of the resources below and know that you are not alone.
- The Trevor Project
- The LGBT National Help Center
- Love is Respect Hotline
- The Anti-Violence Project
- Northwest Network
- Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network