After a first open talk initiative in our LGBT Community Center in Lisbon last June, we decided to ask our lesbian themed reading community in Porto if they were willing to discuss the subject of same sex domestic violence with us. The idea was immediately welcomed, and we finally managed to have an open and much participated debate, at the usual gathering place of the reading community sessions. The starting point for the discussion was a selection of a handbook on same sex domestic violence soon to be published by CIG (Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality, the public body for equality policies in Portugal).
After a brief presentation of the theme, participants started to give some inputs on how traditional ideas about masculinity and femininity contributed to the invisibility of violence in same sex relationships, but also to the idea that violence is usually perceived more as male than a female issue and the social chock that a woman as the author of violence represents. One of the participants noted the need to instruct mediators to the specificities of these situations, in order to use them for conflicts management. Someone else mentioned also that some of the modern myths about relationships – the idea of a total and permanent state of sharing, and that ‘love’ should last forever – can also contribute to situations of violence, especially in relationships between women, wherein the victim with internalized homophobia can perceive violence as a justifiable treatment, and the difficulty to meet other women and/or friends, due to the lack of spaces and contexts of socialization, can contribute to their isolation and increased vulnerability. To put it as one of the participants did, it seems that “invisible in love, invisible in hate” pretty sums up the state of the affairs.
Another participant argued that when children are involved, they can easily be used in manipulative strategies, especially if we take into consideration the legal obstacles regarding the recognition of parental rights for same sex couples in our country. In general, everyone agreed that we need to discuss this more within our own community, but also raise awareness with the public opinion in general.