Toxic Relationships in Kent State’s LGBTQ Community

Photo illustration by Alyssa Keown.

The fabric of the community is tightly woven and it’s no different at . Due to LGBTQ students’ closeness, people often know anything and everything about anyone; who’s in your friend group, who your enemies are and who’s in your bed.

According to a 2010 CDC survey, the prevalence of intimate partner violence is “43.8 percent for lesbians, 61.1 percent for bisexual women, 26 percent for gay men and 37.3 percent for bisexual men.” Statistically, the LGBTQ community seems vulnerable to toxic amorous . However, not much is discussed about toxic friendships. To shed light on these topics, six students shared their experiences. They wished to remain anonymous and have been given aliases.

CM: “I identified as a lesbian at the time and I was a girl that I met. And I didn’t know a lot about her, it was pretty casual at first. It developed into a very abusive relationship. I would say anything and she would just call me stupid and be like, ‘at least you’re cute.’ I used to think I was smart when I came to college. I developed an inferiority complex since she was an honors student. I stopped going to class. I was at a really fragile time during the coming out process and questioning my gender.

She spammed [my new girlfriend] on social media, that I was a cheater and my girlfriend was a horrible friend. It developed into a really bad situation. It was a nightmare. It affected all of us, not just the girl I was dating.”

Photo illustration by Alyssa Keown.

BK: “One of my ex-lovers definitely stalked me. They kept looking at my Grindr profile and how active I was, my distance. They were at my dorm waiting for me and just started talking about our hook up in front of everyone.”

AM: “I’ve seen [toxic relationships], I’ve tried to keep an eye on the person who’s the victim of the relationship and I tried to give them information, but there wasn’t much I could do from a bystander point.”

EJ: “I have had my fair share of toxic relationships – the worst of it being with someone who tried to manipulate and micromanage my entire life. They were extremely emotionally and verbally abusive and, like a lot of people in these situations, I was too insecure to get out of it alone. It wasn’t only the abuse that made it toxic, but also my lack of ability to acknowledge it and remove myself from said relationship. It wasn’t until my friends stepped up and helped me understand that what was happening wasn’t good for me – they gave me strength.

As for on campus, I’ve only had one relationship, and it was toxic for different reasons. We both rushed into it so quickly- it wasn’t organic. I had just started here at Kent and I was looking for some kind of support and comfort. I noticed he had extreme double standards (he wanted me to accept his past mistakes but was unable to accept mine). In the end, he told me it was due to his insecurity. He explained that he was looking for my faults to justify being in a relationship with me. Luckily, at this point in time, I have a sense of self-worth and quickly left the relationship.”

Photo illustration by Alyssa Keown.

RL: “I was actually in a [toxic] lesbian relationship for 3 years. It was totally secret. Only her mom and my mom knew. I recently just got out of that actually, last year.”

KF:  “I have experienced toxic relationships in my past, prior to becoming more self-aware.

It was with a friend of mine who came out to me as bisexual in middle school. She manipulated me emotionally and mentally by basically making me believe the whole world was against me because I wasn’t “black enough” (she was a white-passing person of color). It was mostly done by gas-lighting because whenever I called her out for her abusive behavior, she would derail the conversation and make it out to seem like I was the bad guy instead of taking accountability and learning. She used her abusive relationship with her mom as an excuse for ‘taking everything out on me’ and gave half-assed apologies.”

“How did the community react?”

KF: “Being a witness to toxic relationships or friendships and seeing the reactions other people have is kind of mind-boggling sometimes. When you’re in a marginalized group, we have this idea that we have to stick together singing ‘Kumbaya’ if we’re going do what we need to do to get basic human rights. However, that’s extremely problematic because the toxic person isn’t being held accountable for their actions, for the sake of ‘keeping the community together.’

I get that it’s hard for us to get by in our daily lives, especially in today’s trying times, and emotional support is very much needed, but if you’re sowing seeds of toxic behaviors and using your current circumstances as an excuse to treat the people around you badly, what you may sow won’t be pretty.”

Photo illustration by Alyssa Keown.

EJ: “I have never really been a part of the community when I lived back home, so there was never really a reaction. Even on campus there wasn’t much reaction from the community. My friends in the community obviously supported me, though.”

RL: “Because it was so secretive, they had no idea about it. The people I did tell about it were very supportive and helpful. I think within the gay community, before my relationship, I had never heard about two girls being abusive. I feel like there needs to be more dialogue about gay people.”

CM: “Everyone kind of gathered around me and the girl I was dating. They always said, ‘you guys should date.’ They thought we were good together. Our social group was messed up. Someone Snapchatted a picture of me laying on my girlfriend’s lap to everyone, and that’s how everyone found out that we were together.”

BK: “They were informative and helpful. The perpetrator was shunned, but they were accepted once everything had calmed down. I had two really good friends who stepped up to the plate for me. They defended me and tried to make sure I was safe. They remind me of my parents.”

From grade school and even into adulthood, everyone wants to fit in. However, not everyone wants to feel excluded like in something reminiscent of Heathers, or to appear in something like the “Burn Book” in Mean Girls. While communities can feel welcoming and uplifting, gossip and cliques can be toxic.

“What is your opinion on cliques?”

Photo illustration by Alyssa Keown.

AM: “Ew! I personally don’t like them. It’s always good to have a close friend, but when it excludes others that’s when it becomes a problem.”

EJ: “I think close knit friend groups are super important. I think they provide a lot of support to the other people in the group. However, I do think it’s important to keep that group open to letting other people into their group.”

RL: “I think they have different connotations. Close knit groups are comforting. Cliques have a negative connotation. It depends on the group itself. Cliques can be a negative thing, it’s hard to get inside of them.”

KF: “I’ve never really been in a clique, but in all honesty, they’re really sketchy in my opinion. Mostly because they don’t allow anyone in, but once someone gets out then they do everything they can to make that person look like the bad guy by everybody around them.

A close-knit friend group is something everyone needs. Sometimes you’ve got to keep your circle small because not everyone is trustworthy or have the intentions they say they do. It’s a matter of learning the process of weeding people out and when it’s okay to let people in. You may not get it perfect, but it’s a learning process everyone goes through, no matter which walk of life they’re in.”

Finding one’s niche in a marginalized group like the LGBTQ community can be easier said than done. The community is diverse and widespread. In the long run, the most important thing is that a friend group can be like a family. They can care for and look after you but they can also hurt or abandon you. Being in the LGBTQ community is like having a quilt, and your quilt should be made of fabric that always keeps you warm, even in the harshest, coldest and most unforgiving tempests that you may come across in life.

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