Navigating Identity-Related Trauma During Pride Month

Pride Month can be a complex time for many members of LGBTQIA+ communities. While the month of June is dedicated to the memory of the Stonewall uprising and the subsequent activism and labor that has kept the fight for gender and sexual minority rights moving ever forward, it is also often embraced as a time to loudly and proudly celebrate our queer identities. These celebrations can be times of joy, affirmation, and uplift—and they can also activate some pretty complex and challenging emotions, especially for those who have significant trauma related to their own gender or sexual identity.

Identity-Related Trauma

The word trauma comes from the Greek τραύμα, meaning “wound.” And for many LGBTQIA+ persons, the world we live in can be deeply wounding. These wounds can come from heteronormativity (the cultural assumption that all persons are, by default, heterosexual—and that all variation is somehow deviant), cisnormativity (the cultural assumption that all persons are, by default, cisgender), and other restrictive social conventions that both inwardly and outwardly coerce conformity. This can lead to traumas both large and small, with even the small ones accumulating in ways we might not even fully notice but can definitely feel.

As a result, many LGBTQIA+ persons might feel unable to outwardly express themselves, due to fears of losing their friends, family, jobs, homes, or lives. This can lead to the exuberant character of Pride feeling unattainable, exclusionary, or even painful—especially for those whose gender- or sexuality-related traumas leave them feeling like outsiders looking in.

An Affirming Approach

During times of struggle stemming from identity-related trauma, it’s crucial to remember: it’s not your fault. Through a lens of affirming care, we understand that trauma is not the result of you identifying as transgender, non-binary, pansexual, asexual, or any other gender or sexual identity. Instead, it is the result of stress caused or exacerbated by those individuals and institutions who insist that your identity is somehow defective, deficient, or delusional. To be quite certain: it’s not.

We honor the history of Pride and push forward into its vibrant future as a way of eroding this culture of ambient trauma, so that LGBTQIA+ persons can not only heal but grow—and so that future generations do not have to endure the wounds of heteronormativity, cisnormativity, and other such oppressive forces.

Reminders and Affirmations

As Pride month continues on, here are some reminders and affirmations to help you navigate potentially challenging emotions that might arise.

1. It’s okay to move at your own pace. Whether you’re exploring your identity or wondering about the right time to “come out,” you have no obligation to follow anyone’s timeline but your own. Pride might be a time in which many people celebrate being “loud and proud,” but that doesn’t mean that you owe anyone disclosure, visibility, or an invitation into your exploration and identity.

2. Forward movement is possible. During particularly challenging times, you might feel stuck, as if the wounds of trauma are keeping you locked in place—or even moving backwards. During these times, it can be helpful to remember that even small steps forward are still steps forward. An affirming piece of jewelry, a discovery of a new musical artist that speaks to your identity and experiences, an online support group: all of these things can help feel even just a little bit less stuck. Growth happens incrementally, so embrace those small steps.

3. Community is out there. Communities are groups joined together by common identity, values, traditions—or struggle. What groups the many different queer sub-communities into the broader, overarching LGBTQIA+ community is the common struggle under the weight of cisnormativity, heteronormativity, and other oppressive forces. Our struggles and our traumas are our own, but they are also shared—meaning that we are never really alone in what we are experiencing. 

Reach out to learn more about trauma therapy.

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