When we read, we yearn to see our stories reflected. We hunger to read narratives that illuminate what we face and feel in our own lives, to find out how others love, how they overcome loss.
For gay, bi, and trans men who experience relationship abuse, including violence, there are very few places to see those experiences mirrored back—especially when it comes to breaking free and building a new life.
Meanwhile, the CDC reports that a staggering 26% of gay men and 37% of bi men are victims of relationship abuse.
Behind this dramatic data are millions of men. Relationship abuse is reaching epidemic proportions, and the response to it is wholly inadequate. The silence is deafening—both in terms of literature, and the lack of funding and resources needed to protect men who suffer at the hands of their partners.
Books about female victims of abuse are plentiful. And to be sure, females are also victims in disturbingly high numbers. But even in an age of numerous memoirs and personal essays, firsthand accounts that specifically depict relationship abuse in male same-sex couples are hard to come by.
To counteract the silence, I am putting together Speaking Out for Our Lives, an anthology of 25 essays that tell the stories of gay, bi, and trans men who have survived relationship abuse.
This book will speak for the millions of men who can no longer speak for themselves, and the men who feel they cannot risk sharing their truths.
If you have a personal experience to share, please contact me: [email protected]. Even if you don’t see yourself as a writer, that’s okay. At this point, I’m interested in gathering as many stories as possible—to broaden my own knowledge, as well as for possible use in the book.
If you’re hesitant to share, know that it’s fine to use a pseudonym. Sometimes, we can only begin to speak out if we don’t reveal our identity. But it’s a start.
A book of essays won’t solve the problem on its own. Still, it will show how gay, bi, and trans men who are victims of relationship abuse have survived. It will give hope and encourage more men living in abusive relationships to break their silence. The more stories we share, the more we will realize it affects all of us.
At the same time, it’s not just the scarcity of books about same-sex relationship abuse that’s troubling. There are hundreds of shelters for battered women throughout the country, but almost no safe houses where a gay, bi, or trans man can go if he feels threatened.
One gay friend told me, “I didn’t know where to go to escape.” But we can’t just blame politicians and advocacy groups for turning a blind eye and a deaf ear.
Too often, gay, bi, and trans men have been silenced not only by their abusers—the men who “love them”—but by our own community, which feels that to speak out will harm progress made in LGBTQ rights.
I have heard gay men say, “Why air our dirty laundry, especially now?” The truth is, we cannot we afford to avoid what is happening all around us.
Thus far, as I begin to compile stories for the book, I have been heartened by the response of some, and saddened by the reaction of others. For every person who says the time has come, others question this book’s value. One male publishing professional questioned whether there needs to be a book about same-sex relationship abuse, when so many books by heterosexual women who were abused already exist. He misses the point.
That’s like saying, “Why should we have gay love stories when straight love stories already crowd the literature?”
When HIV/AIDS tore through the gay community in the eighties, there was a fierce activist response among our own. Members of ACT UP protested when no one else would. Signs they held up then are relevant now for a very different epidemic: Silence = Death.
We don’t always know who’s at risk. And that’s heartbreaking.
The fact is, we probably all know someone who has experienced same-sex relationship abuse, whether it’s a brother, uncle, father, son, friend, or coworker.
One bright, successful, gay businessman I recently spoke with looked around nervously, lowered his voice, and said, “It’s happening to me.”
Readers of Speaking Out for Our Lives will finally see there are others who have endured the same nightmare … and managed to get out. And for the writers themselves, they may find that the act of getting their story out is cathartic. To quote the title of Louise DeSalvo’s seminal book on creativity—”writing is a way of healing.”
You are not alone.
If you are a victim of relationship abuse and need to seek help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE.
Previously published on Huffington Post. Republished with permission.
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