Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Domestic Violence: Not Just For Straights Anymore (Still)

...An unlikely couple in California is writing the next chapter of the LGBT marriage movement. Clay M. Greene, 78, and his partner Harold Scull, deceased, are at the center of a legal battle gaining national attention. Two months ago Greene filed a civil action lawsuit against Sonoma County for placing him and his partner in separate nursing homes after Scull suffered injuries from a fall at the couple's home in April 2008. The County claims the decision, which resulted in the auctioning of Greene and Scull's possessions, as well as two homeless kitties, was in response to domestic violence charges against Greene reported by Scull during his hospitalization. Greene's lawsuit charges the county with willful neglect of legal documents naming Scull and Greene as each others estate executors. Of course, the legal recognition of same-sex couples in California is nebulous at best. Activists are using Greene's case to help galvanize support for same-sex marriage.

What I find most fascinating about this case is not its potential as a benchmark for the LGBT marriage movement, but the lack of attention we give to the very serious problem of same-sex domestic violence-the double closet. To establish what little authority I have on this subject, I'd like to point out that, from a purely mathematical standpoint, I've slept with more black women than black men. I am therefore part lesbian, even if I don't always admit it. Nevertheless, I shall use this experience to illustrate myths about same-sex abuse. For example, who do you think would kick whose ass here? My money's on Rosie, but it's a tough call. Unlike heterosexual relationships where the victim is usually female, it's difficult to know who the abuser is in homosexual couples. I learned this the hard way.

Imagine my surprise when, after a handful of casual and fun dates with a woman half my size, I was 86'd from a bar because my new "girlfriend" discovered me there with a male friend, accused me of "cheating," pushed me and began to demonstrate frighteningly authentic UFC sparring techniques. I was in total disbelief. Lesbians don't fight other lesbians! Purebred or not, we should all still stick together, right? The next thing I knew two burly black men were escorting me to the door while she was being coddled by a gaggle of dykes. I looked through the bar's foggy glass windowpanes and wondered to myself why I was outside in the cold and she was still inside sipping Dewar's. More importantly, why did I still care to be near someone who would do such a thing?

But I did. I did care to be near her and I forgave her because, well, that's how these things go, right? Naturally, there was more to the story. She had been abused, unloved, unwanted, undone, uneverythinged all her life. Parents? None. Friends? Few. Education? Little. Purpose? Ill-defined. Goals? JUST MAKE IT THROUGH THE FUCKING DAY! Every morning she would open iTunes and listen to her daily affirmations; the kind of self-help hokum that makes you-the functioning, well adjusted if jaded and cynical human being-want to stick wire hangers in your ears. She believed in its power to help her. She believed in my power to help her and was capable of convincing me that I possessed that power.

Only a ninny would think that after what happened on Ludlow Street things would get better. Judge me. I'm a sucker for a good cook. It's the simple things, after all. We fell into a new routine, distanced ourselves from others. Stayed in, cooked dinner and watched movies. She would sing and dance, I would drink and laugh. It was nice. It was short-lived. It was only a matter of time before our domestic bliss was over and we found ourselves at another familiar bar getting drunk and stoned, making our way through the blurry hours of a twisted night. It happened again. I felt like Ellen Ripley: I had the best intentions but somehow I still deserved all the bad shit that was coming my way.

She accused me of not "paying enough attention to her" and started getting more aggressive. I offered to take it outside hoping she wasn't too far gone to think I wanted to fight instead of talk. If only she were "more beautiful" I would like her more, she said. If only she could make me see. I wanted to point out that I was desperately trying to be supportive and make her happy, that she was the one hampering the entire process, but I realized that there was nothing I could do to help this person. She believed the only way for us to be together was for me to share her suffering, to be mutual victims. I calmed her down in the outdoor vestibule of a dingy apartment doorway, placated her to avoid further conflict that evening, and severed all ties with her thereafter.

This was my first skirt in a physically abusive relationship. I'm hoping Yahweh makes it my last. Even to a discerning eye, it is not always possible to know if a person is violent. More importantly, abusive relationships are most certainly not limited to heterosexuals and no relationship is easy peasie.

The case of Greene and Scull is particularly interesting because on the one hand it could mark a great achievement for the legitimization of same sex couples in America. On the other hand, if Greene was indeed abusing Scull, could manipulating the case to suit the purposes of the LGBT marriage movement be indirectly interpreted as the negation of same sex domestic violence? Shouldn't we use this case to call attention to alarming statistics that show domestic violence among same sex couples may occur just as often or more so than it does in heterosexual relationships? The reality of same sex domestic violence deserves a more prominent place in LGBT discourse.

"People feel, 'Why should we air our dirty laundry? People feel so negatively about us already, the last thing we should do is contribute to negative stereotypes of us,'" LGBT advocate Dave Shannon pointed out in the Times. Although the article was printed almost a decade ago, it seems gays are still fearful and reluctant to address this type of abuse. But if the gays won't do it, no one else will. The problem is only exacerbated by silence.

Marriage equality is a major battle we deserve to win, but not at the expense of ignoring the chance to bring to light one of the many issues that concerns both heterosexual and homosexual couples. We are so bitter and bent about Proposition 8 that we're willing to overlook the death of man who may have suffered from physical abuse at the hands of his partner. We are so enraged that we would petition the Supreme Court on gay marriage when a loss is a foregone conclusion given the political leanings of our current Justices. Although I am only part lesbian I am still in favor, completely and totally, of same sex marriage. I would also like to see the gay community calling more attention to victims of violence in same sex relationships.

Charlie, whose real name is Lauretta Charlton, is a TEMP LEZ.

14 Comments / Post A Comment

HiredGoons (#603)

I had an ex-boyfriend who used to hit me when he was drunk.

The first time was a red-flag, the second time got him thrown the fuck out of my apartment in the middle of the night.

saythatscool (#101)

My soon to be ex-wife used to hit me all the time. She's little, so she couldn't do any real damage but it hurt. I come from the school that you never hit a woman, no matter what. But now that I think about it, if I was gay, there wouldn't be much to stop me if I found out some asshole was cheating on me. I can see where it would be a problem because in a way as the same sex, society at least generally views you as being physically equivalent. Although certainly not in all cases.

Kevin Knox (#4,475)

Goons, I hope there was no third time. The only man who ever raised his hand to me in anger didn't get a second chance to do so.
(btw, it's valet of the dolls here. Too lazy to log out of Facebook & into The Awl…)

HiredGoons (#603)

Ha ha – no, no third time.

Fucker got exiled BUT REAL.

Kevin (#2,559)

I was never hit but the emotional violence was just as real. After the 2nd time. I laid down the law. 3 strikes and your out. There was a 3rd time and I haven't laid eyes on the sexy mother-fucker in 5 years.

riggssm (#760)

@TwistedTexan I often wonder if emotional violence is worse. I guess they suck equally, in different ways.

My ex and I were equally responsible in playing passive-agressive mindgames with each other. That's left a mark on me.

Kevin (#2,559)

I think it can maybe be worse because you're more willing to justify the putting up w/ it. Like he's not hitting me…so it's not really abuse line of thinking. The only upside on the whole thing is that I can now spot someone who's bi-polar from about a mile off. Or in 10 words or less.

Kevin (#2,559)

@riggssm… I have been unable to even contemplate a serious relationship since.

nicole (#2,443)

@ twistedtexan. that sucks! but maybe you could start a seminar business, teaching people how to recognize emotionally abusive people in 10 words or less. I know a lot of people who'd pay for that class!

Kevin (#2,559)

I totally would be willing to do that thing. Oddly enough, I ended up having a boss that was the same way. As soon as I pointed it out to him and painfully, esp. for a guy, it completely changed the way he interacted w/ the staff. Then Madoff happened and we all got fiscally abused.

Kevin (#2,559)

Edit button please. What I meant to say up there was that when I explained how he was in fact being an abusive prick towards his employees and while doing so shared my own story it was as if I had turned a light on in a darkened room. What really made him pay attention is that I am no shrinking violet. I yell and curse at work w/ the best of them and I love a good argument, but there's a way to do that w/out being a fuck about it.

Eesh, this is awful. First of all – a litany of Amens on what has been said so far regarding same-sex domestic abuse. There is a lot more to say – which I cannot possibly write succinctly or meaningfully! – about the weird dynamics of anger and arguing in a two-man relationship – it's scary and shameful and confusing and ambiguous and more.

But then – I'm going to attempt to find a little silver lining? Forgive me? I'm not denying the awfulness and tragicness of this story, right? But . . .

When I first read about this sad fiasco, I thought "This can't be the whole story." I thought this because nobody treats some sweet, old, plaid-wearing gay uncles like that! Nobody is that callous!

And therein lies the ironic upside. People really aren't (very often) directly abusive and cruel to gay people. And that's a reason for hope! If not for the domestic violence claim – and maybe this claim was spurious, and it was used as flimsy excuse to discriminate – if not for that added factor, these gays, like most gays every day, would have been treated with at least a nominal degree of respect.

Maybe I'm settling for (far) too little (okay, I certainly am) to be grateful that health care professionals and county administrators don't destroy gay lives without any justification. Also, I'm desperately trying to salvage the reputation of Sonoma County, where I spent my gay wedding honeymoon!

Charlie (#4,250)

yay for gay marriage and your lovely honeymoon!! but those who you say aren't "directly abusive and cruel to gay people" are airing their grievances to their reps instead. i don't know which is worse.

Phillip McGaugh (#7,055)

Sometimes people aren't to blame for being in violent situations…sometimes they are. Anyone who has ever been ensnared by a sociopath would tell you how they can almost take you hostage emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Eveyone will believe them over you, and when there is violence the victim will be blamed. On the other hand when you get two idiots in a relationship…and one is drinking and the other is on board to use him for a meal ticket and raises hell every time he drinks, and suddenly finds a fist up against the face after she frustrates him enough, then I'm afraid both people are equally sick and equally at fault…no matter how well this can sometimes be disguised with pity stories…they love to pull other people into this drama. In either case, police will usually help the most violent person or the one who is most convincing. Police aren't so smart..they go for the most obvious choice….believe whatever the best liar tells them.

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