A Sense of Community
In the last year, it has been impossible to avoid recognizing the impact that COVID-19 has had on our society and our general sense of community. The baseline of our current world view and perception seems to fluctuate between the reality of isolation with the need and desire for contact and unity. We are being forced into a place of separation from a source that seems to be continually fighting back. With daily nudges reminding us to wash our hands and maintain social distance from each other, we still have a strong underlying aspiration to reach out to those who we feel akin. In this sense, even though we are experiencing a physical distance from many close members of our queer communities, we do not have to consign ourselves to emotional distance.
The need to feel a sense of community is a foundational aspect of our overall well-being. In terms of community psychology, feeling that one is a member of a wider collective signifies numerous elements of sharing common aspects of ourselves with those around us. This notion of sharing does not simply apply to being in the same geographical region or making use of the same amenities that surround us.
Being able to state that one truly feels a sense of community has a much deeper implication in terms of one’s overall psychological well-being. This conveys that in some way we are attached through a connected emotional history, a common narrative or even through indirectly sharing similar experiences. This is whether we are in the same geographical location or not, we can still be members of a community through historical events or experiences.
A Shared History of Trauma
In terms of looking over the history of humanity, there have been innumerable physiological as well as psychological attacks on our general sense of community and collective health. This may have been a result of various versions of physical as well as mental pandemics. Even though the current pandemic has devastated many of us directly or indirectly, so has deeply ingrained and institutionalized misunderstanding and the actions taken through this design of misunderstanding. This has especially been felt historically, and even though various concessions have been presented over the years, this still affects the freedom and diversity of the queer community as a whole.
Being subject to generations of traumatic events based on misdirected and misguided sentiment stemming from centuries worth of deep-seated misunderstanding has terribly affected queer collectives on an international scale. This form of negative stigma has laid down a historically shared sense of trauma, which still persists.
A Shared Understanding
One individual being exposed to a highly traumatic event may feel that they have been compelled into an almost involuntary state of social and psychological exclusion. They may feel that they have no other choice but to lose all personal connection to the community to who they felt they may or may not have once had close membership. They could become increasingly isolated and unable to share themselves with their community as they may feel that they fundamentally do not share the same views, opinions, or experiences with those around them.
In many ways, the suffering of an individual who has been subject to a highly traumatic event can reverberate through the core of a close collective. However, in maintaining silence we have the potential to prolong our suffering, and potentially the suffering of others who could have been subject to a similar form of trauma. But this is not a general or direct form of understanding, it is quite a specific structure of comprehension. Finding ourselves in this psychological situation of separation can lend to another type of understanding that can form another collective.
What I am attempting to convey is that a key point in processing trauma is coming to a place of personal understanding which can be supported within a community that has shared similar experiences. Additionally, once we have been able to approach a mental space of healing, what influence may this have on our community, and how does this sense of community translate through a framework of healing?
Shared Community Healing
Being part of a community or a collective where we are aware that we have a shared understanding has the potential to spur on numerous forms of healing at numerous levels. This is one of the main points of celebration we hold when it comes to the commemoration of Pride month every June for the queer community on an international scale. There is a shared knowing, a shared understanding we can gain from moving our concentration from healing our trauma to healing others through our own collective.
Here, trauma-informed care and support can allow us to begin to treat the person in their entirety and not by just focussing on their past trauma. Examining the individual for who they are past what trauma they may have experienced can impact our communities in powerful and positive ways. Making use of other aspects of ourselves through radiant parades and colourful celebrations with creative expression has the potential to assist those around us who may not feel they are not strong enough to confront the parts of themselves who have been harmed through the non-acceptance of others.
Once those of us who have gone through the difficult process of healing, begin to open ourselves up on a community level, we have the potential to provide others with a foundation of understanding on which they themselves can build a sturdier understanding and begin their own journey of healing. Being able to gain strength and knowledge from those who have tackled these issues in the past, and those who been through similar experiences can lend their strength to others by sharing these narratives of healing through creative expression. This should not only be highlighted during Pride month where there is an international focus but should be transcended throughout the year. This has the potential to begin the movement of a community from silence and underlying suffering, to a community of healing and celebration.
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