Violence Against LGBTQIA+
Among populations vulnerable to facing violence are those in the LGBTQIA+ community. But, who makes up this community and why are they grouped together?
What is LGBTQIA+?
For starters, sex, sexuality and gender are all different and should be thought of as unrelated. According to the American Medical Association, “Sex refers to the biological differences between males and females. Gender refers to the continuum of complex psychosocial self-perceptions, attitudes, and expectations people have about members of both sexes.” In other words, sex is biological and gender is social, as something that we as humans have chosen to define in certain ways. On the other hand, sexuality or sexual orientation is how you experience sexual and romantic attraction (if you do) (Healthline). Gender Spectrum explains this well, stating, “Gender is personal (how we see ourselves), while sexual orientation is interpersonal (who we are physically, emotionally and/or romantically attracted to)”. Both concepts are included because they represent people who differ from what is considered the majority, namely heterosexual and cisgender (defined below).
The acronym LGBTQIA+ includes many groups, and as the University of Illinois states, these are, “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Pansexual, Transgender, Genderqueer, Queer, Intersexed, Agender, Asexual, and Ally community.” One might notice that not all of these words have a letter in the acronym, and that is because groups have been identified and added to the community over time. The plus sign at the end includes others that may not fit any of these labels but still identify as something other than heterosexual and cisgender. This is a lot of vocabulary, so let’s break it down further.
Cisgender means that one feels comfortable with the gender they were assigned at birth based on their biological sex and the social expectations associated with that gender expression (University of Illinois). Someone who is cisgender may not stop to question their gender if it doesn’t seem to conflict with what they have always known and been told about themselves. However, there are also many conditions in which reproductive anatomy doesn’t fit the typical definitions of male or female, and this is what is known as intersex (Intersex Society of North America). Being intersexed is largely seen as a natural variant among biological sex in humans, but societally we have categorized it separately from male or female. For someone who is transgender, they realize that the sex they were assigned at birth does not match their gender, and are known to be a gender variant person (University of Illinois). This term, as well as many other terms, should be thought of as existing on a spectrum rather than fitting into precise ideas. Gender Spectrum states that, “The relationship between a person’s gender and their body goes beyond one’s reproductive functions, and research in neurology, endocrinology, and cellular biology even points to a broader biological basis for an individual’s experience of gender”. There are people who are gender nonconforming, nonbinary, gender fluid, and two-spirit as just some examples. These are a few of the labels used to help explain concepts of gender, but everyone has an individual experience and way to think of themself.
The other part of this community describes sexual orientation, which is how to describe the people you are attracted to, usually in the terms of that person’s gender. The definitions, as found on Healthline, are as follows:
- Lesbian is a woman or female-identified person who experiences sexual, romantic, or emotional attraction to people of the same or a similar gender
- Gay is a term that describes individuals who experience sexual, romantic, or emotional attraction to people of the same or a similar gender and is used more often by men, but may also be used by women
- Bisexual describes those who experience attraction to people of more than one gender
- Pansexual refers to people who may feel attraction to any person, regardless of that person’s gender, sex, or sexuality
- Queer acknowledges that sexuality is a spectrum as opposed to a collection of independent and mutually exclusive categories, so it can apply to anyone that is not exclusively heterosexual
- Asexual includes individuals who don’t experience sexual attraction to others of any gender.
There are other terms for sexualities as well and this is a narrow list. For a more detailed explanation of LGBTQIA+ terminology, see this Healthline article.
How are those in the LGBTQIA+ community affected by violence?
Often, when we think of violence – particularly gender-based violence (GBV) – our focus lies on violence against (cisgender) women. And although this is clearly an important issue with long-held structural social elements, problems with violence affect numerous vulnerable populations, including the LGBTQIA+ community. Individuals in these groups are often harassed, may have fewer civil rights (such as the right to marry), and can be killed over just existing as they are.
Statistics bear witness to this disproportionate situation. In the United States, for example, “The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community is estimated to comprise 4.5 percent of the U.S. population, yet according to the FBI’s newly released report, they comprise 18.5 percent of hate crime victims” (NBC). In Latin America and the Caribbean, according to Reuters, “Four LGBT+ people are murdered every day […]. At least 1,300 LGBT+ people have been murdered in the region in the past five years, with Colombia, Mexico and Honduras accounting for nearly 90 percent of all deaths. Data showed the majority of victims were young gay men aged 18 to 25, who were most likely to be murdered in their homes, followed by transgender women killed in the street.” Additionally, in a report on Brazil it was found that, “Brazil registers between 300 and 350 homophobic killings a year. Yet it is believed that there are likely an additional 500 slayings a year in which the victim’s sexuality is, erroneously, never reported as being a motive for their murder. The underreporting is often due to disinterest — and even outright hostility — among the police. Sometimes, though, bereaved relatives also choose to avoid reporting a murder as homophobic out of shame.”
In Ecuador, according to a Reutuer’s article, “There were 16 murders or violent deaths involving LGBT+ people in 2019, and most of the victims were transgender women. Rodriguez, the first trans woman elected to Ecuador’s National Assembly, said the legalization last year of same-sex marriage in the conservative, mainly Catholic country may have had ‘a negative impact.’” According to Ecuador’s National Institute of Statistics and Census (translated from Spanish), “Of the total LGBTI population interviewed, 70.9% reported that they lived some experience of discrimination in their family environment, of which 72.1% suffered some type of control experience, 74.1% experienced some type of imposition, 65.9% suffered rejection and 61.4% violence.” A study on the incidence of physical violence in the LGBT+ population in Ecuador found that, “50% of survey respondents (members of LGBT+ community) have been assaulted, focusing on transsexuals with a low education level being the most affected.”
The Pa’Arriba Foundation seeks to lessen the violence this group faces by facilitating communication between groups of different people, increasing understanding and compassion for one another, and offering resources to those facing violence. One does not need to agree with another’s lifestyle in order to respect them.
If you’d like to read more about our work and mission, click here. If you want to share your own experiences with us or read about others’ experiences, please click here. All are welcome!
For more information on violence against the LGBTQIA+ community in the US, Latin America, and Ecuador please visit…
Understanding GenderGender Spectrum
LGBT+ murders at ‘alarming’ levels in Latin America – study
Incidencia de la violencia física en la población LGBT en Ecuador
LGBTQIA+ Resources for United States (youth/ educators/ parents): LGBTQ Youth Resources | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health
¿Cómo se piensa lo “queer” en América Latina? Presentación del Dossier
Author: Victoria Guevara
Last Updated: March 2021