Written By: DiveThru Team

Reviewed By: Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW


Unhealthy Relationships for Queer Folks: 5 Red Flags to Watch For

PUBLISHED May 3rd, 2021 & UPDATED ON Nov 29th, 2022

Just like there are a few extra precautions for LGBTQIA+ folks to take in healthy relationships, there are also a few extra red flags. And def not the fun, circus kind — the harsh and suuuper toxic kind! Abuse can wrap its sharp talons around any relationship, but the shame, and fear of seeking support, that some queer folks experience can make those talons dig deeper and hold on for much longer.

The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey Report states that 54% of trans and non-binary people experience abuse in their relationships. And a 2016 report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs shows that, in particular, transgender women are THREE TIMES more likely to experience abuse in relationships compared to cisgender women. On top of that, the 2010 National Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Violence Survey says that 61% of bisexual women, 44% of lesbian women, 37% of bisexual men, and 26% of gay men experience abusive relationships at some point in their lives. Can we all agree that these numbers are WAY too freakin’ high?!

So, let’s talk about why queer folks experience higher rates of relationship violence, and the red flags to look for to identify unhealthy relationships.

Spotting Red Flags in a Queer Relationship

Take a minute to think about Adam and Eric from Sex Education. Adam was HELLA toxic to Eric from the start. He bullied him, shamed him over his sexuality, and even threatened to kill him. All the while, he was smoochin’ Eric on the down low and pretending like nothing was happening! 

Adam redeemed himself in Season 2…but that verbal, emotional, and physical trauma stuck with Eric and made him “lose his sparkle.” The whole situation was not at all comfy to watch, but it was an example of a gay toxic relationship that we can learn from. So, while we’re at it, let’s get into some more examples of unhealthy relationships specific to queer folks.

Pressure to Come Out 

A partner should never pressure you to come out to family, friends, coworkers…anyone! They may try to guilt you into it by saying they feel like you’re ashamed of them. And, horribly, they might even threaten to out you themself. But that is YOUR thing to come to terms with and YOUR announcement to make (when YOU are ready!). If a partner is doing this, they are most likely trying to control you and want to make you seem helpless, just so they can control you even more

Identity or Orientation Used Against You 

An abusive partner might use your sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression, against you to make you feel inferior. Rewinding back to the toxic couple in Sex Education, Adam coined the nickname “Tromboner” for Eric — along with calling him by a whole bunch of other homophobic slurs. A healthy relationship does not include bullying and oppression!     

Invalidated Gender or Identity

One step further from using your identity or orientation against you is to not even acknowledge them at all. A partner might say that you’re “just looking for attention” or that you’re “being dramatic,” which is sooo derogatory! Only YOU know how you feel and what is right for you. If a partner doesn’t take the time to get educated and use inclusive language that will make you feel supported, they don’t deserve you, honey!   

Restricted Access to Medication and Care 

A partner might do things like hold back medication (such as hormones) or not let you seek counselling. This can be downright DETRIMENTAL to trans folks who need hormonal therapy because they can go through intense withdrawal symptoms without! Just think of Sophia Burset in Orange Is The New Black. While it was not in a relationship context, she was denied her medication in prison and suffered because of it. And counselling can be vital for queer folks who are still figuring out their identity. A partner who doesn’t want you to be your best self is not one you want to have around!

Abuse Denial Because “It Doesn’t Happen for Queer Folks”

There’s a big misconception that abuse doesn’t happen in queer relationships, especially when the typical man/woman power dynamic is shifted. But that couldn’t be further from the truth! If you need another reminder, just look at allllll of the stats listed at the top of this article. Abuse and unhealthy treatment can show up in all relationship dynamics — including friendships! So, never let a partner gaslight you into thinking they’re not abusive by using this excuse. 

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Barriers to Support

When on the receiving end of these kinds of behaviours, a lot of queer folks find it difficult to seek support! And that’s because of the anticipated stigma or shame they think they will face. The fear of being outed, and sharing that incredibly sensitive side of yourself, can be terrifying! But not being treated right by someone you care about (and who’s supposed to care about you) is worse.

This article may bring up worries that toxic, unhealthy relationships are unavoidable, but that’s not true. Rest assured that you CAN have a healthy relationship with a partner who will value your identity and accept you as you are. If you are spotting these red flags (or any others!) and aren’t sure how to fix an unhealthy relationship, you may be scared right now. Take some deep breaths and try to turn to a trusted friend, a family member, or a therapist. As difficult as starting that conversation can be, people who truly want the best for you will put your safety first!


Here are some tips to minimize the risk of someone knowing that you’re researching domestic abuse-related topics (via Tech Safety):

  • If you think your devices or internet search activities are being monitored, access this information from a device that isn’t being monitored. That should be a device that the person does not or has not had physical or remote access. This is the safest thing to do if you don’t want someone to know that you are visiting these websites.
  • Sign out of other accounts, such as Google or Facebook, before visiting these sites.
  • Use your internet browser settings to increase your privacy, such as turning off browsing history or using the browser in-private mode.
  • If it is safe to do so, delete the websites URLs that you don’t want stored from the browser history.
  • Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to increase the security of your internet browsing and activity. 

If you need to exit this page quickly, click here to open a Google search for “weather.” This will not erase your browser history. 


Read More: 6 Self-Care Tips to Practice After a Gender-Affirming Surgery, 10 Self-Care Tools for Trans and Non-Binary Folks,