On bullying, domestic violence, homophobia, and fear #HAHAT #IDAHOT

(Please click on the above image for a list of participants in this year’s hop.)

I learned fear the year I turned fourteen.

When I came out of the bathroom at school, a boy would knock my purse just hard enough to empty its contents. When I approached a classroom, another boy would ambush me with a homemade rubber band gun.

“She flinched!” he would crow, chortling with laughter until my so-called friends joined in.

“Did you flinch?”

It became a game to see how far they could push without getting caught. I carried all of my possessions with me so I wouldn’t have to stop by a locker. I mastered changing into and out of my gym uniform fast enough to prevent salacious comments or ransacking of my bag while my back was turned. I learned to remain as still as stone, never giving away my feelings.

Who am I kidding? My feelings were easy to read as the tears escaped. Gym class and bus rides were the worst. I counted each day as I went to bed. One week. Two months. Four months. I knew I would be told to “ignore” or that I was making a big deal out of nothing, so I told no one.

I became labeled a “c*nt,” and I was too naive to know it was an insult until someone told me.

At the end of the day, however, it’s not the boys I remember. I remember my so-called friends, laughing as they joined in. I remember my father asking, “What did you do to provoke them?” I remember my mother saying, “It’s your fault for not telling anyone.” Boys would be boys, and girls were to blame for fighting back or not fighting back.

Bullying. It’s a popular word these days, as parents, teachers, and officials scramble to find a solution to a complicated problem. What is bullying, what does it look like, and what can we do to help? Specifically, what does bullying mean for the LGBT community?

Welcome to the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT)! I’m thrilled to join the Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia (HAHAT), a collective effort from authors, publishers, reviewers, cover artists, and others involved in LGBT fiction. IDAHOT has been supported by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as well as many, many others. The aim of IDAHOT is to encourage local efforts, and as an author of F/F fiction I’m grateful for the chance to participate.

We talk a great deal about homophobia, transphobia, and other fears about those deemed “different.” Too often, the response is a dismissive comment such as, “I’m not scared of anyone; I think homosexuality is wrong. I have the right to think that without anyone shoving a gay agenda down my throat.”

Today, I’d like to make a proposition:

Homophobia, domestic violence, and bullying all stem from the same fear.

What fear might that be?

Fear of the unknown. Fear of the “different.” Fear, coupled with a desire to control others.

But mostly, fear of ourselves.

That’s right, ourselves. When we are secure in our own identity, confident and happy to be who we are, we have no need to knock anyone else down (physically or emotionally). The comments people have given me about F/F fiction reveal much about their insecurities and nothing about the love between two women.

What happens to a woman caught between multiple forms of this fear? She might face homophobia at work and domestic violence from her partner at home. But if that partner is a woman, resources may not be available to her that are available to a heterosexual woman. Consider these findings from the Lesbian Partner Violence Fact Sheet :

  • Domestic violence in lesbian relationships is as common or more common (1 in 4 or 1 in 3) as domestic violence in heterosexual relationships.
  • Women in same-sex relationships may not be allowed to request a court-ordered protective order
  • A homophobic environment allows a woman to threaten her partner with forced outing (to family, work, etc.). This also means a woman who is abused cannot seek help from the police.

According to a study by Little and Terrance (2010), gender stereotypes make it difficult for lesbian women to “prove” that they were the victim of domestic violence. Men tend to dismiss all violence perpetrated by a female to a female, and women tend to blame a female victim if she did not conform with stereotypically feminine traits.

Perhaps most shocking of all, many domestic violence shelters refuse to take lesbian women. That’s right. For the 16% of lesbian domestic violence victims who seek official help, they are then re-victimized with denial of legal protection and shelter.

(For more information: Domestic Violence in the LGBT community and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s New Data on Domestic and Sexual Violence

Special thanks to Myra Swintz for providing informative links.)

Do we hear about this in the LGBT news? Nope. We hear about people outraged that someone won’t make them a wedding cake.

I understand that discrimination of any type is wrong, but what is more important? A wedding cake or protecting lives?

As the anti-homophobia movement is gaining momentum, I would like to add this plea:

Let’s focus our energies on where it matters, not on trivial issues.

How do I focus my energies? I write stories of women who love women, and I use opposite worlds to help people understand what it would be like to live in a society that blames us for our identity.

Becoming-Clissine-Cover

Click here for the Becoming Clissine book trailer

Becoming Clissine (Bastia, Book One)

What if heterosexuality were a crime?

Betrothed at birth to the daughter of one of the most prominent Houses in the totalitarian theocracy of Bastia, soon-to-be-college-graduate Clissa isn’t sure whether she is ready to undergo the Mar. Once she becomes the Nur, or the submissive partner, to her betrothed she will have to submit all major decisions of her life to the beautiful Helaine whom she has only met once. She must marry a woman, according to the decrees of Bastian law.

Caught between his desire to “get along” and the growing awareness that he is “het” and is attracted to Clissa, Destral kisses her one day as they study in their college library. Shocked at the feelings the kiss awakens, Clissa begins to question everything she has been taught. Did Basti, their deity, really decree that it was sinful for a man to be with a woman? Will her growing feelings for Destral cost her everything that her parents have worked hard to give her?

In a mad attempt to subvert Bastian authority, Clissa and Destral run away to find the Het Pride, a group that preaches tolerance, equality, and peace. Z, their leader, promises that one day hets will achieve equality and freedom. When the Bastian police capture or kills most of the Het Pride, however, Clissa is assigned to new parents for “reeducation” in the doctrine of Bastia. Her new parents are given one mandate: Bring her back to rightness with Basti.

Clissa, lost in a system that is threatened by her very identity, must make her choice. Will she be broken by Bastian authority, or will she find a way to break free? Can true love overcome a harsh regime?

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For this hop, I will offer three prizes:

How to enter: Leave your name and a working email address in the comments. Respond to one or more of the following prompts:

  • What about this post surprised you or was new to you?
  • Please share any personal experience and/or wisdom to share regarding any of the points made in this article.
  • How could we make more resources available for lesbian women who have experienced bullying and/or domestic violence?

Winners will be announced on May 25th here on the blog (governingana.wordpress.com), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/anastasiapvitsky), and Twitter (@AnastasiaVitsky). Winners must claim their prizes within 24 hours, or I will re-draw for a new winner.

Extra prize entries! If you leave a new review on Amazon and/or Blushing Books for any of my F/F books (The Way Home, Lighting the Way, Editorial Board, Simple Gifts, Desire in Any Language, Mira’s Miracle, and Becoming Clissine), you will receive an extra prize entry for each book you review! All of my books are available on Amazon and Blushing, and you will receive a prize entry for every review (two per book, if you post both on Amazon and Blushing). Please leave a note in the comments telling me which book you reviewed and where.

Best of luck, and happy International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia!