Walking in Two Worlds: Domestic Violence in the Native LGBTQ and Two-Spirit Community

 In Abusive Behaviors, Domestic Violence in Indian Country, Native centered advocacy, Services for Native Survivors, Trust and Respect, Unhealthy Relationships

Trainer and speaker Lenny Hayes, MA (Sisseton Wahpeton-Oyate).

Domestic violence and sexual violence do not discriminate.

While there is no accurate data that represents the rates of domestic and sexual violence that occurs within the Two-Spirit/Native LGBTQ community, it occurs all the same. Unfortunately, this lack of data creates the false idea that domestic violence and sexual violence are not experienced within this community.

Nationally, the rates of domestic violence within the LGBTQ community are unacceptably high. According to the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • 44 percent of lesbian women and 61 percent of bisexual women – compared to 35 percent of heterosexual women – experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • 26 percent of gay men and 37 percent of bisexual men – compared to 29 percent of heterosexual men – experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.

Anyone can experience domestic violence, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, tribal affiliation or status, economic status, disability, or religion. No matter the reason a person chooses to abuse, violence toward our Native LGBTQ and Two-Spirit relatives goes against our traditional life ways and beliefs. This population was once honored and respected in tribal communities before colonization.

LGBTQ Relationship Violence

When domestic violence is present in LGBTQ relationships, abusers use similar tactics as in a heterosexual relationship, though the tactics can also include threats to “out” their partner to family, friends, work colleagues, or community. Individuals who may identify as LGBTQ may not be ‘out’ to their families, friends, or in their workplaces.

There are many individuals across the country who identify as Two-Spirit or Native LGBTQ who are breaking down barriers as well as bringing light to the many issues that impact this community. Advocates are also educating and bringing awareness about the impact of Historical and Intergenerational Trauma on the Two-Spirit/Native LGBTQ community. Individually and collectively, the Two-Spirit/Native LGBTQ community is working to bring balance, beauty, and acceptance back into our tribal communities.

Our Native LGBTQ and Two Spirit people hold honorable, meaningful places in our communities, and they deserve to feel safe, loved and respected like anyone else.


Lenny Hayes, MA is an enrolled member of the Sisseton Wahpeton-Oyate in South Dakota. He is the founder and owner of Tate Topa Consulting, LLC, specializing in Historical and Intergenerational Trauma and has extensive mental and chemical health training on issues that impact the Two-Spirit/Native LGBTQ community.

*If you (or someone you know) are being hurt in your relationship, know that you can call the StrongHearts Native Helpline at 1-844-7NATIVE (1-844-762-8483) Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Central time to speak with an advocate. All calls remain anonymous and confidential. Here’s what you can expect when you call.

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