I’m halfway through The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith by Joan Schenkar – a disturbing read.
For the record, I’m a big fan of Pat’s psychological thrillers, but her personal life was the ultimate psychological thriller.
In one disturbing passage, for example, Pat picks a fight with some “late girl callers” and comes off second best with a chest so thoroughly bruised she needs an X-ray.
Sadly, Highsmith seemed to be attracted to toxic relationships. Indeed, many of her lesbian relationships looked like ready-to-go explosives.
But what’s changed in 2014?
To be clear, in America’s polite upper-middleclass circles, gay domestic violence is the hatred that dare not speak its name. Ditto “progressive” Australia.
For the media class, at least, would prefer to talk about white picket fences, rainbow flags and same-sex wedding cakes.
The message: Think pretty things.
Still, even MSNBC can’t wish away ugliness. As one underreported UCLA study found:
Although reported incidences of intimate partner violence, or IPV, are widespread, especially among women and certain ethnic groups, reported IPV was surprisingly high among lesbians, gays and bisexuals in California, who are almost twice as likely to experience violence as heterosexual adults, researchers said.
Specifically, 27.9 percent of all lesbian or gay adults reported experiencing IPV in their adult lives. The rate of reported IPV is even higher among bisexual adults, at 40.6 percent. In contrast, only 16.7 percent of heterosexual adults reported incidences of IPV.
Yes, even in “progressive” California.
The toxicity of violent GLBT relationships can’t be ignored. As the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey also found, bisexual women are far more likely to be victimized through stalking than their heterosexual sisters too – more than double the rate, in fact.
So leaving an abusive partner is not always the solution.
Here in Australia too, I’ve observed the scars of victims of same-sex IPV and they look just as deep, just as confronting.
In one small but important study of 390 Victorian GLBT respondents, a significant minority claimed that they were abused by their partner.
Interestingly, lesbians were more likely than gay men to report such abuse (41% vs 29%).
Moreover, even when campaigning journalists recognise domestic violence in the “GLBT community”, an abuse-excuse is often just around the corner.
As one tired argument goes: If only communities were more accepting, abuse victims would be more likely to seek help. Maybe in some cases. But given that GLBT IPV is so widespread in relatively “progressive” liberal nations that’s not my central concern.
Moreover, journalists also have a duty to highlight GLBT suicides, but I believe it’s inexcusable to downplay the many ways in which domestic violence can contribute to mental health issues and even GLBT deaths.
Indeed, violent homosexuals and marriage-centric activists in denial are very much part of the IPV problem, not the solution.
In another memorable Highsmith story, the novelist recommended suicide to hurting women. As one written response concerning her friend’s suicidal roommate put it: “Let her jump!”
But don’t expect our watchdog media to take up the cause. After all, physical and emotional female-on-female violence is problematic for campaigning journalists bent on portraying domestic violence as a symptom of patriarchy.
Even today, journalists aren’t ready to acknowledge that the greatest threats facing GLBT folks aren’t conservative commentators, religious leaders with politically-incorrect views on sexuality, or even Chick-fil-A family restaurant menus.
The real threats: domestic violence and community silence.
As Highsmith’s psychological thrillers and chaotic life taught us, sometimes our greatest threats are living with us.