Content Warning: This newsletter discusses sexual assault.
It was eight years ago this week when I became the victim of rape, right here in my own community. While this was not the first time I was raped by someone in our community, it was the first time I sought help. In my journey to find support and treatment, I kept bumping into the lack of LGBTQ culturally competent care and information. As I began to share my story with friends, family, and community I heard from too many an ever-growing chorus of voices saying, “Me too.”
What started with a small group of queer, bisexual, and gay men grew into the LGBTQ Survivor Task Force as we attempted to bring better, more culturally competent care to our community. Nationwide, approximately 40% of gay men and half of bisexual men have experienced sexual violence, compared to 20% of heterosexual men. 75% percent of bisexual women and 44% of lesbians have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, compared to 35% of heterosexual women. 47% of our transgender siblings and 55% of all non-binary people experience sexual assault in their lifetimes.
The work of the committee grew over several years into a conference hosting over 100 people a year. Last year that conference went virtual as the committee, and all of us, adjusted to the new realities of the pandemic. The unintended consequences of the essential public health stay at home orders were LGBTQ people, youth in particular were at greater risk of sexual violence and human trafficking making the work of these incredible community members that much more vital.
Again this year, there will not be an in person conference. However, the work of the LGBTQ Survivor Task Force is expanding as they prepare to host online workshops for providers, community members, survivors, and youth beginning in summer. The committee is also diving more deeply into advocacy and policy work. I’m thrilled to see how much this committee has grown, adapted, and elevated this work in service to survivors and ending rape culture.
I can’t write about this work without mentioning one of the committee’s founding members Christopher Sheehan, who we lost last year. I know he would be inspired by our progress. We all know there is much work to do to change the climate and culture around sexual violence, especially in support of our under resourced LGBTQ community. Last night I watched our President Joe Biden speak on the need to pass the Equality Act and support our trans youth. Behind him stood two women for the first time in our Nation’s history. The moment gave me hope and reminded me, personally and as a country, we are Resilient.
Fernando Lopez is the Executive Director of San Diego Pride. Lopez’s years of LGBT advocacy, nonprofit management, public education, diversity consulting, media relations, guest lectures, and organizing have made them a consistent presence ensuring the struggles of the LGBT community are ever visible.