Trauma in the LGBTQ Community
Trauma in the LGBTQ+ community is unique and often underestimated or misunderstood.
One of our specializations here at Life Coaching and Therapy, LLC is trauma and the intersection of that experience with other identities including gender and sexuality.
Systemic trauma is a different experience that other types of trauma. A variety of communities experience systemic trauma (i.e people of color, black people, people with disabilities, women, etc.). Systemic trauma, in my eyes, is trauma that comes from being a part of an identity that our greater culture does not support through social systems in place.
Systemic Trauma: Heteronormativity
In the LGBTQ community, this looks like heteronormativity. Heteronormativity is the dominant culture being one that supports other sex couples who are straight (presenting) and cis gender (assigned gender at birth matches gender identification and presentation).
A dominant culture of heteronormativity equates to various systems that do NOT support same sex couples, queer people, and people who are outside of “gender norms.” This can be overt through laws or can be through microaggressions (verbal or non-verbal behaviors or statements that are insensitive, discriminatory, and problematic towards a particular group). An example of a microaggression towards the queer community would be “which one of you is the man?” to a same sex female couple.
Something as simple as finding a greeting card for your partner, in a same sex couple, can be very difficult. The perceived relational make-up of couples in greeting cards is that of other-sex or gender couples. Laws around marriage, adoption, and workplace all create additional barriers to LGBTQ individuals, couples, and families.
In addition to microaggressions, dominant narratives in our culture can create layers of trauma to an individual’s identity. A common cultural narrative that creates feelings of intense shame in the queer community is religions. Many religions have outward, unsupportive language or outright hostility towards the LGBTQ/queer population.
The way pronouns are used and assumed in a heteronormative culture also lends to creating levels of microaggresions AND harm to the LGBTQ community. Specifically people in the transgender community, gender queer community, and non-binary community.
When most people consider trauma and the LGBTQ community they think of someone coming out to loved ones and being rejected. This CERTAINLY is traumatic and is common place for people within the LGBTQ community.
Coming out is the process of disclosing your sexual or gender identity to people in your life. In many cases this experience is vulnerable, challenging, and emotional. Often this results in rejection of the LGBTQ+ individual from friends, family, workplace, or the community at large.
There are devastating impacts of being rejected from those you love. Please review various resources available on GLADD, HRC, and other LGBTQ specific organizatons to learn specific impacts of being rejected. In general, from my observation in my practice and what I have read, rejection after coming out leads to higher levels of homelessness, suicide, mental health issues, and substance abuse issues.
How does this = trauma?
In my experience in specializing in trauma and the queer community, I have learned so much from my clients on how systemic trauma and interpersonal trauma has impacted them. The information is important and I want to share it with you. My hope is, in understanding this it will allow you the opportunity to learn more and imagine what this experience is like for this population.
Systemic, community, and cultural barriers create passive and intended harm in the LGBTQ community. How? Thank you for asking!
- That someone feels it is appropriate to ask you really personal questions after just meeting you because of your relationship with your partner.
- Growing up in the wrong body.
- That you are limited to celebrate certain religions due to your identity. Imagine you grow up being taught that liking or loving someone is bad.
- Growing up being told that your not dressing right.
- Having to consider where you are traveling based on how they respond to people within your identity.
- Growing up and learning that people who are like you should be punished, harmed, or go to hell.
- Watching people getting harmed or made fun of for liking who they are.
- Hearing people use your identity as synonymous with “stupid.”
- People making fun of people “dressing up” as the other gender and its “funny.”
- Being told your marriage doesn’t count.
- Having to adopt your child.
- Being told your relationship is seen differently than someone elses and you have less rights because of it.
- Having to hide who you are from your friends, family, community, or workplace.
- The only way to have children and start a family is to pay a lot of money to adopt or do fertility OR go through the state and risk having that child returned to biological parents.
- Having to come out over and over again anytime you meet someone, have a big step happen in your life, or really anything.
- People saying “it’s not like it used to be, its so confusing now” effectively dismissing your identity.
- Having to pick a place to live based on how accepting they are of you and what resources there may be for you if there becomes an issue.
- Being scared to have to share who you are often because you do not know how the other person will respond.
- Having to explain your identity all the time.
- That some of these “choices” are not even realistic for you because you live somewhere that will never allow you to come out or be safe.
If you were able to truly sit with some of these statements and reflect on it, you may be able to see how a system that supports people in feeling this way is indeed traumatic. It creates something known as internalized homophobia or internalized queerphobia. This is what happens to people in the LGBTQ community all the time, taking these systemic, dominant narratives within our culture and internalizing them to feel shame and disgust with who they are. Sometimes people are aware of it and sometimes they aren’t.
Regardless of one’s understanding and awareness of it, it has a massive impact on the individual and their relationships.
It is for this reason that I specialize in this intersection and LCAT does the work it does. There are not enough systems in place to address the intersection of trauma and identity. Here at LCAT we are committed to doing this work and providing a safe space for healing from trauma, microaggressions, and the patriarchal, heternormative, racist society we live in.
In the coming weeks, we will have further blogs to continue to address issues like this one!
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