If you are a transition house worker, no doubt you have heard stories from battered women that when they were being attacked they were called a “lesbian”.  You yourself have likely, at some point, been accused of working in a “lesbian place”.  These are not attempts to identify our sexuality. They are, instead, attempts to prevent us from connecting with and loving the company of other women, being independent, going our way, insisting, being self-assertive, taking control of our bodies and reproduction, insisting upon our own authority, making changes, living alone, and accumulating power by grouping with other women.  Women are “accused” of being lesbians because we refuse to be servile.  Feminists are “accused” of being lesbians because we refuse to stay silent about the violence committed against us.

In our society being perceived as a lesbian can mean the possible loss of family, community, religious group, employment, and sometimes in extreme cases it can mean the loss of our lives.  All women know this on some level, including battered women, and fear these losses. In an attempt to avoid these losses some women will refuse to recognize and support lesbians.  They may refuse to live in a shelter or to associate and bond with other women in the house.  Women working in shelters sometimes agree to only provide services and not talk about the work of creating lasting social change out of fear.  They may sometimes avoid working with lesbian women for fear they might cause trouble in the shelter or the community and might cost the organization funding or public approval.

And so it is that part of work as a transition house worker has been to interfere with homophobia.  An important part of our work is to make it safe to talk about the self-negating behaviours we all do to maintain male approval and protection.  Our agreements to create and foster this safety help us all to live out our lives with as much freedom as possible.  We do this in a variety of ways, from the pictures we choose to hang on the transition house walls, to the hiring practices of transition house workers.

Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centers Policy

"...All women who do not fit the "approved" female stereotype suffer severe consequences, especially those who are seen as deviating the furthest, that is lesbians. We recognize that men learn to be perpetrators of sexual assault and violence against women and that change is possible on an individual and societal level." Read more

Adriene Rich, Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence, 1980
In this article Rich argues the bias toward compulsory heterosexuality is mostly ignored, and that in doing so, silences the experiencesof lesbians. She calls for a feminist analysis of lesbianism, which she deems important in understanding the broad spectrum of a woman's sexuality. Rich provides a feminist analysis of compulsory heterosexuality, suggesting male power not only perpetuates and maintains heterosexuality, but also further enslaves women and by rejecting the norm invites violence against women. Read more

Suzanne Pharr, Homophobia a Weapon of Sexism, 1997
"The battered women’s movement has seen this kind of attack: the pressure has been to provide services only, without analysis of the causes of violence against women and strategies for ending it. To provide only services without political analysis or direct action is to be in an approved “helping”role; to analyze the causes of violence against women is to begin the work toward changing an entire system of power and control. It is when we do the latter that we are threatened with the label of man-hater or lesbian. For my politics, if a women’s social change organization has not been labeled lesbian or communist, it is probably not doing significant work; it is only “making nice.” Read More