The Healing Power of Community

LGBTQ2S counselling and art therapy

Experiencing the Suffering of a Collective

Internationally, the transgender community has been subjected to increasing levels of violence and brutality annually. Within the first four months of 2021, it was noted that there was a 100% growth rate of transgender deaths directly connected to acts of gender choice discrimination. Within the statistics of violence connected to the transgender community, as recorded by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), it has been revealed that an overwhelming 98% of reported and recorded violence was aimed specifically towards transgender women. This pinpointed transgender women as one of the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ community.

With a high amount of these horrific crimes going unreported, the true number could uncover an even more dire situation in terms of exposure to trauma and associated psychological distress, which all too often goes undetected. As a result of the ingrained nature of the sectors of society that persist to inflict this form of violence on the transgender community, there is still an underlying notion of silence in suffering when it comes to LGBTQ-based attacks. This commonly manifests in the affected individual as deep feelings of guilt, shame, and rejection of the self, in reaction to the repeated rejection they receive from the society in which they live.

Experiencing the Suffering of the Individual as a Collective

In many situations, countless transgender individuals feel that they are unable to tackle the psychological impact of being subjected to the continual discrimination and violence connected to their identity and expression. Being continually exposed to numerous experiences of intolerance and being subject to the connected psychological trauma, which is purely directed towards one’s identity, can create a complex sense of self within their immediate community. An individual can become extremely shameful and hold deep feelings of guilt about their who they are, and even what their personal purpose may be in terms of their role in society. This can lead to intense thoughts of suicide and prolonged periods of depression and anxiety, trying to understand their own identity and separate who they are from past harm.

In one key study conducted by the US Transgender Survey (USTS) in 2015, it was found that a staggering 98% of transgender adults who had been exposed to at least four occasions of violence and discrimination as a result of their orientation had contemplated suicide. What is even more alarming, the USTS also reported that 51% of this population of transgender adults had attempted suicide at least once in the same year the research had been carried out.

What do these heart-retching statistics concerning the transgender individual imply in terms of a wider psychological consideration? The first, and the most pressing fact that we need to understand is that the average transgender individual is experiencing depilating suffering on a collective level. It is not just a select number of the transgender community who are going through deep psychological suffering as a result of trauma, but a majority of the transgender community has to deal with its impact as a whole on a daily basis.

Experiencing the Healing of a Community

In the past, there have been many communities that have had to cope with the impact of discrimination and deal with continual assaults as a result of their collective identity. It is notable that all of these communities have first and foremost shown that the leading form of support is compassion through a shared understanding. The second point to consider that with a compassionate grounding, being an active part of the community itself by creating shared experiences can strengthen the collective as a whole.

Attempting to build a deeper sense of community within such a devastating state of affairs is of pressing concern within each transgender collective. There is a powerful truth in the cliché that there is strength in numbers. When we are faced with such painful statistics which directly mirror our current reality, there is little choice. Not only do we need to continue fighting gender identity and expression-based stigma as a unified collective, but it is imperative that we offer an elevated level of support to other members of our community. But how can one offer this support if they do not have the extensive psychological training to deal with such complex results of harassment, violence, and other harms?

Experiencing the Healing of an Individual through a Community

Those who have gone through similar experiences and have gained personal strength through their own psychological healing can offer this added support through a more extensive and personal understanding of their own experience. They have the capacity to lend this strength and understanding to those who are just at the beginning of their journey. This is especially important for those members of the community who feel that they have little hope left to overcome the severe harm that they have been forced to encounter.

There are innumerable ways in which we as a community can act in an attempt to help support build resilience within other members of our community. Creating and maintaining close relationships with members of our community has the potential to help others to learn how to trust and share with those that surround them. This act of building resilience on an individual level has the potential to impact the wider community through the assurance that optimism in the wake of trauma is more than just possible, as it has become a reality in many instances. Here we can initiate the healing of a community through the past healing of each individual member by showing profound care for our collective. Furthermore, this offers a very particular space for those who have struggled to find their own purpose in society in relation to their identity. It offers them a safe space within a shared community that understands who they are on a psychological level.

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