Israel is viewed as a safe haven for the LGBTQ community (lesbians, gay, bisexuals, transgender and queer people). Attacks such as the one that occurred on July 2015 during the Jerusalem Pride Parade are dismissed as an exception perpetuated by “bad apples”. It is also commonly assumed violence and homophobic attacks are directed more towards gay men, rather than towards women.
Our question is – how safe is the safe haven for LBTQ women in Israel? Do LBTQ women feel safe in public in Israel?
The Women’s Security Index (a coalition of six feminist organizations) took upon itself to conduct a research regarding the safety of lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer woman in Israel. We want to thank each and every participant who helped us by contributing her insights, answering our (rather long) questionnaire, sending it to friends, and supporting us in our project. Two hundred women – of various ages and geographical areas, sexual and gender identities, countries of origins and socio-economic status participated in the survey. Here is what they shared with us.
A paradise for LGBTQ? Think again.
We asked women whether they experienced attacks due to their sexual orientation\gender identity.
Even in Tel-Aviv the numbers were not much different from the rest fo the country.
Public Display of Affection
Heterosexual people mostly would not think twice about affectionately touching their romantic partners in public. This does not apply to LBTQ women. No wonder, provided how often they encounter homophobic violence.
“Can I watch?”
There is an additional variety of attacks directed towards LBTQ women – being a queer woman not only does not stop men from sexually harassing them, but actually often prompts them to do so.
69% of the women surveyed were sexually attacked or harassed due to their sexual orientation.
24% experience it several times a month or more.
Men often perceive lesbian couples as sexual props. Lesbians are frequently asked by a “ to join them” or “watch them”. Bisexual women are often proposed to join a couple “to spice things up”.
In that sense it is actually easier for gay men. We are yet to hear of a heterosexual woman inviting herself to watch two gay men having sex.
“We don’t want to know who are you sleeping with!”
Wrong. Just mentioning that you have a female partner or that you are a transgender person often leads to intrusive questions regarding your body and sex life. It is often presented as a gesture of acceptance and “trying to understand”. It is amazing how often lesbians and bisexual women are asked “How exactly do you do it?” , “Who is the man and who is the woman when you have sex?” while transgender people are asked literally what is that they have between their legs.
86% of the women in our survey were asked intrusive questions about their bodies and sex lives.
39% of them experience these questions on a regular basis, a few times a month or more often.
Children of LBTQ women – how safe they are?
On the one hand, having children often gives LBTQ women the feeling that they are somehow more accepted, seen as “more normal”. On the other hand, worrying that the children will be hurt due to the stigma attached to their non-conventional family is indeed one of the strongest fears of women belonging to LGBT community.
85% were afraid that the children in their lives would be hurt.
These fears, unfortunately, are not unestablished.
21% of children were hurt in some way, due their mothers being LBTQ, 6%of them were hurt on weekly or daily basis
As many LBTQ women know, one does not “come out” once and for all. Even if a woman is open about who she is to family and friends, she needs to constantly keep making decisions – do I feel safe to come out to this particular person?
Our daily routines include countless interaction with strangers, such as repairmen, taxi drivers, sellers in a local store, doctors etc. Needing to repeatedly access the possibility of a homophobic attack adds a constant pressure and stress to LBTQ women’s daily life
The triple marginalization
As if being a women and an LBTQ person was not enough, there is an addition lack of security for those who belong to underprivileged groups within the LGBT community
Comparison with the general population
As if it was not enough, LBTQ women tend to be have less money than heterosexual women. One of the reasons, it is safe to assume, is the discrepancy in the wages between men and women. Thus, even women living as a couple would earn less money than a heterosexual family.
Taking into account all of the above, it is not surprising that LBTQ women tend to be less satisfied with their lives than heterosexual women.
Being openly lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer in Israel is not easy. One’s sense of security is often undermined. For some women it is even more difficult than others (religion, nationality, country of origin, personal status and other factors play a role here). Our research shows that women who are out of the closet tend to be happier than those who, for various reasons, remain in the closet.
We, in the Women’s Security Index, believe that it is important that the public space becomes 100% secure for LBTQ women in Israel, as it should be for all people, regardless of gender. We believe that public space should allow us to feel safe and happy, regardless of who we are.