Chapter 3: Trauma and grief in 2SLGBTQ+ communities

Intimate partner violence

I was stunned when I found out that a close friend had been physically hurt by their partner. It stirred up a lot of mixed feelings and, for quite a while, I didn’t want to be around them.

Both within and outside 2SLGBTQ+ communities, myths about intimate-partner violence persist. Violence and even death do happen within 2SLGBTQ+ communities, most often affecting gay men and trans people. This violence can be traumatic and usually has far-reaching effects within communities.

Trauma can be compounded by the assumptions, reactions, opinions, discrimination, or judgments made by people outside your community. If you are grieving the death of a 2SLGBTQ+ person who was a victim of intimate partner violence, you may feel that both the death and your grief are not recognized as “valid.”  You may also feel that you can’t or don’t want to talk openly about violence because this can be used to criticize or judge 2SLGBTQ+ relationships overall.

  • If you knew about the abuse or violence, you may feel guilt or regret that you did not intervene.
  • If you have experienced abuse or violence in an intimate relationship, you may revisit old feelings such as anger, fear, or powerlessness.
  • Comments or questions by police or healthcare providers may be insensitive or offensive, especially if they suggest that the victim’s 2SLGBTQ+ identity is somehow to blame for what happened.
  • Media publicity may make it difficult for you to stop thinking about the death or how the victim – and your community – are being presented.

What may help

  • If you feel regret or guilt, remember that the perpetrator is responsible for the death – not you. Consider whether you might want to use your experience to learn more or speak out about intimate-partner violence.
  • If you are feeling angry, acknowledge it. There may be ways to put it to good use, such as by working or fundraising for an organization that supports 2SLGBTQ+ people or one that supports victims of domestic violence.
  • As much as possible, avoid media and social media reports, which often sensationalize or misrepresent events and the people involved.
  • Look for ways to honour and remember the person who died, rather than how they died.
  • Keep in mind that not everyone responds to trauma or grieves in the same way. Some 2SLGBTQ+ communities can be small and close-knit, and it may take some time for people to sort out their feelings and thoughts.
  • If you or others continue to struggle with difficult feelings, reach out to a trauma-informed therapist who has experience working with 2SLGBTQ+ people.