The Ultimatum: Queer Love and the ugly truth about domestic violence in LGBTQIA+ couples
Updated: Sep 21
When I found out there was going to be a queer reality dating show I was so excited. We talk a lot about how important representation is for folx, and frankly we’ve been seriously lacking in some good reality TV content that amplifies queer relationships – especially when you consider that the bachelor/bachelorette has two seasons a year (for over 20 years) of cis-het couples.
Was I expecting The Ultimatum: Queer Love to be any different than any other reality dating show? Not really. A production is a production, but I was happy to see some variety in gender identity and expression demonstrated in the couples selected. The show was dramatic, at times cringeworthy, and often heartfelt (what can I say? I’m a sucker for love). It was a reality dating show, and while it had a twist given the “ultimatum” aspect of it, it’s still at its core a reality dating show.
All in, the show wasn’t that surprising. It had all the usual trappings of a reality dating show: the villain (Vanessa), the drama (*insert any moment between any of the cast here*), the “aww” worthy moments (especially those between Yoly and Xander), and plenty of cringe (anytime that Aussie ran away or someone was confronted). In terms of good content, the show really lived up to expectations.
What was surprising to me was how triggering the show's reunion was. The dynamic between one of the couples, Tiff and Mildred, appeared to be tumultuous from the beginning of the show, but the toxicity reached a head during the reunion when it was revealed that Mildred was arrested for domestic violence perpetrated against Tiff.
You know what was missing? Trigger warnings. Domestic violence hotline information. Any sort of requests for accountability from the perpetrator by the show’s host.
It was pretty rough to watch.
Did you know that according to research done by the human rights campaign (HRC) LGBTQIA+ people are more likely to be victims of interpersonal violence than straight people? Does that surprise you? Let’s examine why.
When most people think of domestic violence, they imagine cis-male people perpetrating violence against cis-female people. If you were to find out that a cis-woman was arrested for DV against a cis-man, you’d probably be surprised and even skeptical. Why? Because misogyny.
Misogyny profoundly affects the understanding and recognition of domestic violence within LGBTQ couples. This deeply ingrained prejudice perpetuates the notion that violence primarily occurs in heterosexual relationships, rendering LGBTQ relationships invisible in discussions and research on domestic abuse. Consequently, the experiences of LGBTQ individuals, particularly women and gender-nonconforming people, are often overlooked or dismissed, leading to a lack of appropriate support and resources. Moreover, misogynistic stereotypes further stigmatize survivors, undermining their credibility and reinforcing harmful societal norms that downplay the seriousness of abuse in non-heteronormative relationships.
Misogyny teaches that women are weak, inferior and smaller than men. Women, especially hyper feminine women, are portrayed as and expected to be less powerful than big, strong men. They are delicate and demure, dainty and petite. Women aren’t expected to be violent or aggressive, because that’s how we're shown or taught.
This can be confusing when the couple is not composed of a person who is assumed male and assumed female. It’s been reported that when police are called to respond to domestic violence situations between queer couples, they often get it wrong when they are trying to determine the perpetrator. Most often, police officers who respond identify those that are more masculine presenting as the perpetrators, which can be incredibly traumatizing when that person is in fact the victim.
When Mildred was revealed to have been arrested for domestic violence against Tiff, the show went on as usual. It wasn’t acknowledged that Tiff’s experience was valid or that their experience of being abused or gaslit was true. For simplicity sake, Tiff was the more “masculine” presenting partner, and because of that, their experience of being abused was invalidated because how could Mildred, a hyper feminine, cis woman, have possibly done that to Tiff?
It happens. And it happens in queer couples regardless of who looks or presents more masculinely.
Tiff’s experience on the reunion was tough to watch, and it should have never happened the way that it did. Mildred was abusive and Tiff deserved to have safety in the space around processing their experience that likely didn’t involve Mildred attending the reunion at all. If the “winner” of the bachelorette was revealed to have been abusive towards the bachelorette, do you think he would have been invited to the reunion after being arrested for domestic violence? I doubt it.
Addressing domestic violence in LGBTQ couples necessitates dismantling misogynistic beliefs, amplifying marginalized voices, and fostering inclusive spaces that acknowledge the diverse dynamics of intimate partner violence. Tiff, and queer folx like Tiff, deserve to be seen and have their experiences validated just as much as the cis-het women we most often think of as being victims of domestic violence.