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On Sunday May 4, we will gather in Palmer Park in Detroit for a Candlelight Vigil Against Violence on Women in the LGBTQ Community. This vigil will also honor the lives of Britney Crosby and Crystal Jackson who were murdered in Texas on March 6. Crosby’s father is in custody awaiting trial for the duel murders.
As the LGBTQ community becomes more visible, attacks and murders of lesbians are being reported and making headlines. One of the benchmarks of the 2013 reauthorization of Violence Against Women’s Act were new provisions to help more victims of domestic violence, including those in the LGBTQ community.
It is important to report these crimes and get more protections under the law, but it is also important to remember that violence against women is systemic and affects us long before we may or may not come out. It is a scourge affecting every female child from birth.
To stand against violence against women in the LGBTQ community, we must talk about the implied danger in being born female and what we must do to change this culture.
As a woman, even as a little girl, I’ve always been aware of the danger – the danger of being female. We don’t come right out and tell our daughters about it. We dance around it, hint about it, give some veiled and even outright warnings about it, but we don’t really talk about it so it continues to fester and perpetuate generation after generation.
When that female child is born, we wrap her in pink, tell her she’s precious, saddle her with those unspoken expectations of femininity but we don’t warn her of the shadow of violence lurking, waiting to rear its ugly head.
We all know of the danger from strangers – the fiends waiting in dark places, the invading forces who use sexual assault as weapons – but violence against women often isn’t about sex.
It can be physical, psychological and emotional, leaving scars that not only hurt us but affect behaviors that we pass on to our children. The perpetrators may be a stranger, but too often it is the very person who is supposed to love and protect us.
No woman asks to be a victim, but we’re prepared for it from childhood. Women are taught, often by our mothers, how to dance that fine line, how to pick the right words, how to avoid that argument that could end in verbal – even physical abuse.
Little girls, who do not conform to the sugar, spice and everything nice genre have been hit, spanked, slapped and verbally abused into conformity. Those who identify as, or are perceived as butch/stud/tomboys, have been subjected to corrective rape to restore their “femininity.”
Walking in the world female – a woman, I am acutely aware that there are those who perceive me not only as victim but feel my gender makes me particularly vulnerable and a target not just for crime, but rage. That not conforming to societal expectations will leave me exposed just because I am not being the woman “they” think I should be.
And you don’t have to be hit upside the head to be a victim of violence; sometimes the blows take place inside your head, rendered by abusive words and remarks. “Bitch, slut, whore, stupid, ugly,” words that beat down the spirit often to the point where the physical blow is a relief.
We must do better. We can no longer tolerate a society where some in our community, in our law enforcement agencies, even in our churches, feel that girls and women who live authentically, refusing to conform to outdated societal mores “Had it coming.”
We can no longer tolerate a society that does not value the individual, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
We must say no to violence in words, actions and deeds. Mothers must teach a new dance – not how to walk the line but how to live authentically with respect. Our daughters and our sons are watching.
And within our own LGBTQ community, we must do better because not all violence against us is perpetrated by non-gays. We are hurting each other too.
Let’s stop living our relationships using flawed heterosexual roles/relationships as models. We have taught the world a lesson about love in our fight for marriage equality, now let’s teach them about providing a loving/nurturing world for our children.
At the vigil on May 4, we will also be remembering Britney Crosby and Crystal Jackson. Britney’s father, James Crosby, who lived with Crosby and her grandmother was arrested for the killings reportedly because he disapproved of his daughter’s “lifestyle.”
Their story hit close to home. I too experienced intolerance from a place I least expected it – at home, when my father’s reaction to my “life style” resulted in his brandishing a loaded shotgun and my escape into a life on the street.
It saddens me that we, members of the LGBTQ community and especially lesbians, are still facing violence from strangers and family in 2014.
We must do better. We must love, protect and empower our daughters and strive to build a world where they will be loved, protected and empowered so they can live authentically – whether LGBTQ or straight.