The Supernova Project: Do you know what abuse looks like in a queer relationship?

If you go online to look for information about domestic abuse, what you find will be majorly heteronormative. Most of the content will focus on cisgendered women facing abuse and cisgendered men as their abusers.

However, relationship abuse is not confined to heterosexual, cisgendered relationships. Stonewall shares that almost 49% of all gay and bi men, and a staggering 80% of trans people have experienced some form of domestic abuse. By these numbers, relationship abuse in queer relationships is actually higher than the UK average, so why is there a gaping lack of resources for queer communities?

“And a major flag went up in my mind — if queer relationships aren’t being talked about, and no one really knows what a queer relationship looks like until they’re in one… how do they know they’re in a healthy one?” — Maryam Amjad, founder of Supernova Project

At Chayn, a number of volunteers set out to change this. Former Chayn volunteer, Maryam Amjad talks about how her own story led to the creation of Chayn’s upcoming platform, the Supernova Project, aimed at providing specialist relationship abuse support for the queer community:

“During my years with Chayn, and the years before that, I’d spent a lot of time struggling with my own sexuality. Eventually, I started being involved in the queer communities in London and embracing who I really was. I started having my own queer relationships. Soon, people I’d dated, or was friends with were telling me about ex-partners, their family, their friends.”

“There was a lot of open honesty about people’s experiences with abuse (which I was lucky not to have) and it frankly broke my heart. Queer relationships aren’t really talked about in mainstream culture, which means that information about relationships is either irrelevant or inaccessible. And a major flag went up in my mind — if queer relationships aren’t being talked about, and no one really knows what a queer relationship looks like until they’re in one… how do they know they’re in a healthy one?”

As an intersectional feminist organisation, Chayn has always strived to provide projects that take into account the numerous oppressions that intersect in relationship abuse and gender-based violence. However, as current Supernova Project lead, Michelle Parfitt, explains, Chayn too, in the past, has fallen into the heteronormative trap:

“Most of the domestic violence content out there is quite heteronormative, which alienates the queer community. There are specific things that only apply in queer relationships, which aren’t covered in the predominant narrative about domestic abuse.”

We therefore need to not only make support services ‘inclusive’ but to specifically tailor them to the service users.

In 2016, Broken Rainbows, the sole charity providing specialist support to members of the LGBTQIA+ community regarding domestic abuse, shut down due to financial difficulties. Since then, an internet search for services specific to the queer community returns very little.

Although there is a lack of funding and support for domestic abuse in the LGBTQIA+ community, Chayn is fortunate to be a crowd-funded, volunteer-led organisation that can decide exactly where and how to spend our time and resources. This puts us in a unique position to work on projects that can otherwise be sidelined, particularly projects that aim to centre ordinarily marginalised people.

And hence, the idea for the Supernova Project was born:

“The name Supernova came to me when I was watching a Brian Cox documentary on the cosmos. Something flashed in my head when I learned that Supernovas (i.e. the last stage of the death of a star) are the only place in the entire universe that are hot enough to produce complex molecules such as Carbon. And carbon forms the basis of all known life,” Maryam, who came up with concept and the name explains.

“It was quite beautiful that this seemingly awful thing is happening as a star dies, but it’s only through that can we truly gain life. And as a victim of familial abuse myself, it resonated a lot with me — the idea of life beginning at the end of something.”

The Supernova Project, which is launching on 25th July, is a website hosting guidance and resources specifically for the queer community. As Michelle explains,

“Our dream is to host content for all members of the LGBTQIA+ community. We aren’t there yet, but we’re off to a pretty good start. We want to encourage visitors of the site to engage with the content and site by submitting suggestions of how we can improve it, telling us their own personal story of abuse, or coming on board as a volunteer to help us grow and improve the platform even more. We are 100% volunteer run and so we want this to be something everyone can influence and get involved in.”

Primarily, we hope that Supernova will begin a well-overdue conversation on how we can work to better support each other in developing healthy relationships. As Maryam shares:

“Supernova is designed as an entity to evolve to the needs of queer people who are facing abuse in their relationships — it’s the start of a movement, a conversation, a database, a hub, a library, a gathering.”

This blog post was written by Chayn volunteer, Olivia Jardine. You can reach Olivia on twitter @olivia_jardine.

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