Coercive Control in LGBTQIA+ Relationships

Find out more below about different types of domestic abuse in LGBTQIA+ relationships.

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Young people in an LGBTQIA+ relationship are more likely to experience domestic abuse in their first relationship than their non-LGBTQIA+ peers. This can sometimes be due to age differences or power imbalances because one person has more experience or knowledge. 

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What is coercive control in LGBTQIA+ relationships?

Coercive control can be threatening someone, making them scared and/or forcing them to do something they feel uncomfortable with, which is abusive behaviour. This type of abuse can happen in all relationships, young or old people, married or not married, heterosexual or couples who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. 

There are forms of abuse that are specific to members of the LGBTQIA+ community, including your partner either threatening to or forcibly outing you and telling other people what your sexuality or gender identity is when you aren’t ready to do so. Some other examples include: 

  • stopping you from seeing your friends within the LGBTQIA+ community
  • using your sexuality as an excuse to be controlling
  • telling you that you are not a real lesbian/ gay man / bisexual person if you do not fit stereotypical ideals
  • controlling how you express your identity, for example, by commenting on your appearance
  • misgendering (this is when someone uses a word, like a pronoun that the other person doesn’t identify with) or deadnaming (when someone uses a persons birth name rather than the name the person now uses) you. This can happen in a relationship where one of the partners is transgender, nonbinary, or gender nonconforming.
  • preventing you from expressing your gender identity, this could include withholding hormones, preventing you from accessing a Gender Identity Clinic, controlling what you wear or enforcing gender stereotypes.

There is more information about some of these types of coercive control below. The graphic below by LGBT Youth Scotland, explains more about different types of coercive control too.

Graphic by LGBTYS explaining coercive control - although 52% of LGBT young people identified having experienced some form of abusive behaviour from a partner or ex-partner, only 37% recognised it as domestic abuse.

Outing is particularly harmful because coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is a personal choice for an individual to make. By forcing someone to come out, or telling someone else their sexuality or gender identity when they didn’t want them to know, they are invading their privacy and potentially putting that person in danger depending on how other people may react to finding out this news. 

If your partner uses coercive control to stop you from seeing anyone, that is abusive. They might stop you from seeing your friends in the LGBTQIA+ community which can be isolating. They might use your gender or sexual identity or your friend’s gender or sexual identity as a reason to control who you see. This kind of behaviour can be considered coercive control, which is illegal in Scotland. Find out more about coercive control.

This video from LGBT Youth Scotland and Scottish Women’s Aid also explains a bit more about coercive control in LGBTQIA+ relationships.

Or your partner might call you horrible names that mock your gender identity, which isn’t okay either. Find out more about verbal abuse. 

Where can you get help and support?

If confidentiality is a worry for you because you aren’t out yet, you can discuss any issues with support workers who are skilled in working with members of the LGBT community and those who experience domestic abuse.

The following organisations can help:

Find out where to get more general support too.

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Visit the That’s Not OK campaign page for more information.

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