If you’ve been to this blog before then you know Revitalizing Inner Self Essence is owned by a black queer therapist. As a black queer therapist specializing in trauma it’s central to my work to center the unique experience of LGBTQ+ folks. One thing I love about the LGBTQ+ community is that we do not back down even when so much tries to break us. LGBTQ+ folks know trauma, resiliency, and authenticity deeply. One of the first introductions to the intersection of these three qualities is the coming out process.
For some people, like Zaya Wade, the coming out process is filled with acceptance by loved ones. But, for many, especially Black queer folks the coming out experience is riddled with trauma, sadness, and anxiety. Despite the legal progress of LGBTQ+ rights there is much work for people to do in their hearts and spirits to accept another individual unconditionally.
Understanding Discrimination, Stigma, and Coming Out
For LGBTQ+ folks negatively impacted during the coming out process, a variety of things do and do not happen. Many Black folks are raised in the church and often times the Bible or other religious texts are used as weapons. It’s almost as if cisgendered heterosexual people attempt to have a literal episode of Beyond Scared Straight using the religious texts as their script. When this occurs it is often suggested that LGBTQ+ folks are sinful and unlovable.
Another thing that might happen while coming out are questions such as: What girl or boy hurt you? or Did I (parent) do something wrong in raising you? The first question invalidates the authenticity, bravery, and normalcy within the queer experience. It suggests that the beautiful queer person in front of you couldn’t have had this wonderful journey to authenticity but that it is a response. A response to someone else’s actions suggesting only temporary status rather than authentic beingness. The second question makes the persons coming out experience about you rather than them and the last thing a trauma survivor needs in this moment is for someone to respond to their bravery with selfishness. The second question also suggests that their authenticity is a result of a mistake and therefore is an error that must be corrected.
One of the last but main ways discrimination and stigma are present in the coming out process is through silence. Silence is deafening, anxiety-provoking, and devastating when utilized in a vulnerable moment such as a coming out. Silence does not communicate support which is what the person who has bared their sole needs the most.
These examples of discrimination and stigma remain prevalent issues have a profound impact on the mental and emotional well-being of individuals within the LGBTQ+ community. From a mental health perspective, stigma can lead to feelings of shame, guilt, and self-hatred. They also lead to increased loneliness, depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicidal ideation, and loss of community. One of the most difficult things is for a person to be themselves and realize that the ones who “loved them” only love them conditionally. One pivotal moment in the lives of many LGBTQ+ individuals is coming out – a process that is mostly fraught with challenges but can be liberating and empowering.
Challenges Faced During Coming Out:
- Fear of Rejection: Many LGBTQ+ individuals fear that coming out will lead to rejection by family, friends, or colleagues.
- Internalized Homophobia/Transphobia: Society’s negative stereotypes and biases can lead to self-doubt and internalized discrimination.
- Safety Concerns: In some cases, coming out can pose physical or emotional safety risks, particularly for transgender individuals and those living in hostile environments.
- Support Systems: The availability of supportive individuals and resources can greatly impact the coming-out experience.
Additional Impacts of Discrimination and Stigma:
- Mental Health: Discrimination and stigma contribute to higher rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide among LGBTQ+ individuals.
- Physical Health: Stigmatization can lead to stress-related health issues and decreased access to healthcare.
- Isolation: Many LGBTQ+ individuals experience social isolation due to fear of rejection or discrimination.
- Educational and Economic Disparities: Stigmatization can hinder educational and career opportunities.
Coming Out: A Transformative Experience with a Black Queer Therapist in Baltimore, MD
Coming out is an act of bravery. It is a beautiful thing to live your life deeply, authentically, and unapologetically. It is okay that it looks different than you imagined and that your support system has shifted. Allow yourself to transform this trauma into triumph. Trauma therapy with a trained trauma therapist can help you with this shift. You can trust and you can open up again. Trauma therapy is an act of liberation and empowerment.
If you are ready to get started, follow these three steps: