Emerging Issues

IPV in 2SLGBTQIA+ Communities

June 12, 2023

Part one of this blog series noted that while rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) are above 50% in 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, IPV prevention and survivor support programs are predominantly geared towards heterosexual, cisgender people (people who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth). A lack of intentionality in supporting 2SLGBTQIA+ survivors results in service providers being unable to recognize and respond to 2SLGBTQIA+ targeted abuse tactics and to adequately support 2SLGBTQIA+ survivors without causing further gender-based violence (GBV).

Part two discussed the fact that 2SLGBTQIA+ populations in Canada and around the world have a long history of experiencing violence and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, whether from individuals, service providers or the state. Some specific examples of state violence were touched on, and it was noted that 2SLGBTQIA+ people face risks of further violence, incarceration, and deportation if they choose to report GBV including hate crimes to the police. The risk is further amplified when intersecting identities are present. For example, the risk of experiencing further violence is significantly higher for 2SLGBTQIA+ people who are also Indigenous, racialized, newcomers or refugees as these are populations that are highly susceptible to state violence from police.

Additionally, 2SLGBTQIA+ people face every day insidious trauma through microaggressive behaviours and statements (cis-heteronormative assumptions, being visibly uncomfortable in the presence of 2SLGBTQIA+ people, misgendering, making comments that invalidate a person’s identity etc.).

The prevalence of IPV, lack of knowledge and understanding of 2SLGBTQIA+ targeted abuse tactics and needs in terms of accessing GBV services, as well as the historical and ongoing trauma faced through discrimination, everyday microaggressions and state violence, speak to the need for trauma-informed care when providing services to 2SLGBTQIA+ populations.

Trauma-informed care is understanding and considering the pervasive nature of trauma and promoting environments of healing and recovery. Public Health Ontario defines a trauma-informed practice as realizingthe widespread impact of trauma related to homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and cis-heteronormativity, which are assumptions and the normalization of the idea that there are only two genders, man and woman and that everyone is or should be heterosexual. Trauma-informed care concerning 2SLGBTQIA+ populations is recognizing the signs and symptoms of trauma from having to navigate systems, families, services and communities that often exclude them, impacting their life chances. It requires a response that fully integrates knowledge about 2SLGBTQIA+ identities and trauma into policies, procedures, practices, and spaces. It means resisting re-traumatization by providing knowledgeable and competent support to 2SLGBTQIA+ populations.

Below are six principles of trauma-informed care:


  • When providing services to 2SLGBTQIA+ populations, ensuring physical and emotional safety requires understanding the history of the 2SLGBTQIA+ movement and how systems oppressed and continue to oppress 2SLGBTQIA+ people, as well as understanding the ongoing impacts of violence and discrimination experienced in everyday life. It means creating an organization that takes an affirming stance, honouring and celebrating sexual and gender diversity through language, visual, signals, and having 2SLGBTQIA+ competent staff at all levels. Providing a safer environment and service experience requires taking the burden of education, advocacy, and awareness off of those accessing services by organizations educating themselves on an ongoing basis while also being open to being corrected by 2SLGBTQIA+ people accessing services.


Trustworthiness and Transparency:

  • Ensure that organizational operations and decisions are made with transparency. The goal should be building and maintaining trust among service providers, those accessing services, staff, family members and others within the organization. Trustworthiness requires honesty, time, clear communication, and accountability. It requires creating a culture of connection in relationships. Service provision can replicate power and authority dynamics that may be original sites of trauma due to historical pathologizing and/or criminalizing of 2SLGBTQIA+ identities. Trustworthiness can be gained by organizations investing in ongoing education, minimizing power imbalances, respecting privacy and confidentiality, informed consent, holding clear boundaries and being committed to accountability and repair when harm is done.


Peer Support:

  • Understand the value and importance of peer support and chosen family for many 2SLGBTQIA+ people. 2SLGBTQIA+ peer groups and chosen families provide mutual aid to one another. Shared or similar experiences provide external validation and hope to challenge negative self-beliefs. For many, peer support groups and chosen family may be connection to 2SLGBTQIA+ community, love, mutual aid, information about sexual gender identity and transitioning and ultimately a lifeline. 


Empowerment/Strengths, Voice, Choice:

  • Working from a strengths-based approach is important for 2SLGBTQIA+ people because societal messages have often framed these populations in pathological or deviant ways. Rather than risking replicating these harms, provide support in ways that further develop resiliency and coping skills. It’s up to 2SLGBTQIA+ people to decide what is important for service providers to know. Service providers do not need to know every aspect of a person’s experience and identity to provide trauma-informed care. Create opportunities for 2SLGBTQIA+ people to take the lead in framing their own life stories and believe them. Ensure that 2SLGBTQIA+ people accessing services have choice and control fostering self-determination. 


Collaboration and Mutuality:

  • Make decisions with 2SLGBTQIA+ people accessing services and share power. There is an inherent power imbalance between those accessing a service and service providers, which is often amplified when those accessing services are marginalized by identity and other social factors, such as socio-economic status. Ask for feedback, work at their pace, and collaboratively assess for needs, barriers, challenges, readiness, and strengths to ensure that the environment being offered is appropriate to support 2SLGBTQIA+ people and their specific needs. Trauma-informed care can include requesting, accepting, and implementing feedback from 2SLGBTQIA+ people accessing services.


Cultural and Historical Perspectives:

  • Work to make services culturally relevant, and responsive to 2SLGBTQIA+ populations. Ensure that all staff are knowledgeable about 2SLGBTQIA+ culture and history and are responsive to the unique needs of 2SLGBTQIA+ populations and particularly the needs of trans people. Understand that 2SLGBTQIA+ populations may have unique needs and treatment plans designed by and for cis-gender and heterosexual people may not be relevant to the needs of 2SLGBTQIA+ populations.


Putting 2SLGBTQIA+ Trauma Informed Care into Practice:


  • Positionality and Reflexivity:


  • Think about your worldview and what you bring to the table, your beliefs about gender, sexuality, and trauma. How does your identity influence your biases and your worldview?
  • Take time to explore your identity and recognize how it impacts your daily interactions. Commit to seeing others as equal partners in the work that you are doing together.


  • Commit to Ongoing Knowledge Development:


  • Commit resources (time and money) to ongoing training for knowledge and skills development.
  • Ensure that foundational and ongoing training is provided to staff at all levels, including leadership to build capacity in offering competent care to 2SLGBTQIA+ people.
  • Be aware of historical and current events affecting 2SLGBTQIA+ populations.
  • Ensure that all staff have Knowledge of diverse relationship structures and always hold a non-judgmental stance.


  • Inclusive Language and Intake:


  • Use open and inclusive language (they/them until you know otherwise, partner, spouse, significant other, parent, caregiver siblings, niblings, folks, guests, people, everyone).
  • Ask clients their pronouns and when, where and in front of whom it is okay to use their pronouns.
  • Intake and consent forms and any other information provided should use accessible and inclusive language.
  • On intake forms, ensure that your organization is differentiating between “gender” and “sex assigned at birth” and are only asking when it is relevant to the service being accessed, for example, in medical settings. If intake and consent forms are standardized and you are unable to change them, go through them with the client using gender-neutral terms and explain the form, asking them what they want you to put on paper.


  • Policies, Procedures and Hiring:


  • Publish clear policies and a position statement asserting a commitment to inclusive and affirming trauma-informed care for diverse 2SLGBTQIA+ people.
  • Have, review and update policies and procedures that are clear, inclusive, respectful, and culturally competent for clients of diverse backgrounds.
  • When interviewing potential employees, ensure questions about working with diverse people, including 2SLGBTQIA+ people are included.
  • Include a clear structure for providing feedback.


  • Space:


  • Ensure that 2SLGBTQIA+ people are represented in your waiting rooms and offices, including 2SLGBTQIA+ resources and displaying images that affirm 2SLGBTQIA+ identities.
  • Create welcoming spaces for 2SLGBTQIA+ people to feel safer and able to bring their whole selves to their sessions/meetings, not just the 2SLGBTQIA+ aspects of their identity but all parts (race, class, ability etc.).
  • Ensure gender-neutral washrooms are available for both clients and staff.
  • Remember that creating safer spaces for 2SLGBTQIA+ people also means creating spaces where staff feel safer, more comfortable and competent.


The above principles of trauma informed care, when put into practice, are helpful in better supporting 2SLGBTQIA+ victims/survivors of IPV.

(If you would like to review this blog with citations included, please email us at nff@uwo.ca)