**TRIGGER WARNING: Discussion of violence, murder, and traumatic events**
The month of June is a time of celebration for the LGBTQ+ community.
We celebrate by participating in events like parades ,recognizing the impact that those in the community have had around the world, and promote awareness and acceptance of the community itself. It is also an opportunity for allies and those in the community to raise awareness of the current gaps in politics that need to be addressed to further meet the needs that those in the community have as human beings.
Although acceptance for those in the LGBTQ+ community has grown significantly, particularly in recent years, we still have a long way to go. One issue that needs more attention is the amount of trauma that those in the community have experienced and continue to experience.
In recent years, we have seen a significant increase in violence against the LGBTQ+ community. The American Psychiatric Association states that the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016 in Orlando, Florida is the most extreme and aggressive attack against the community. 49 people were killed, and 53 others were wounded; all because of someone’s prejudice and discrimination against the community.
This traumatic event drew attention to the fact that there is still so much hatred and violence against people in the LGBTQ+ community, despite growing acceptance. It is extremely upsetting that people are hated just for being who they truly are.
Another important issue that needs far more attention than it’s getting is the growing hatred and violence against LGBTQ+ people of color; particularly, Black transgender women. Between 2019 and 2020, at least 53 individuals identifying as transgender or gender non-conforming were murdered. The majority of those killed were Black transgender women under the age of 30, according to Harvard Civil Liberties Law Review.
Although violence against the LGBTQ+ community has become a growing issue, prejudice and discrimination occur at varying levels. The American Psychiatric Association states that roughly three quarters of LGBTQ+ students experience harassment at school, with 35% of those individuals experiencing physical assault, and 12% have experienced sexual violence. Further, those in the community also face continued discrimination and micro-aggressions in workplaces, healthcare settings, and within their own families.
All of these factors can cause a significant deterioration of mental health. Experiencing hatred, violence and discrimination as a member of the LGBTQ+ can result in developing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Even if one does not meet criteria to be diagnosed, the effects of a traumatic experience can be debilitating. Symptoms of PTSD can include intrusive memories, negative changes in thinking and mood, avoidance, and changes in physical and emotional reactions, just to name a few. More specifically, those in the LGBTQ+ community can experience symptoms such as marginalization, internalized phobia, and rejection sensitivity.
It is essential to continue to raise awareness of the issues mentioned above, and it is crucial to be an ally to this community to help make their voices heard. Pride month is the perfect opportunity to take action, although we all need to be mindful to continue this effort 365 days a year. Those in the LGBTQ+ community deserve to be heard, validated, and accepted for who they are in their truest form.
If you have experienced trauma as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, here are some resources below to get the help and support that you deserve:
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline-LGBTQ+: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-yourself/lgbtq/
- oSTEM LGBTQ Crisis Hotlines and Services: https://ostem.org/page/crisis-hotlines
- The Trevor Project for LGBTQ+ Youth: https://www.thetrevorproject.org/
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention-:LGBTQ+ Crisis and Support Resources: https://afsp.org/lgbtq-crisis-and-support-resources
- National Black Trans Advocacy Coalition: https://blacktrans.org/
- Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD): https://www.glaad.org/
By Kristi Zalinka, M.S. Ed., MHC-LP, EAP Intern