I remember several years ago, sitting with my coworkers, all cis-gender women, waiting for our work meeting to start. My coworkers were asking each other about their spouses and how their children were doing in school. I asked a couple of my coworkers how their heterosexual spouses were and how their children were. When the meeting started, I realized no one had asked me about my partner, how she was doing, what we were planning for the weekend. No one had reciprocated to acknowledge my family.
This is just a small example, but we in the LGBTQIA+ community have all experienced these moments where we’re invisible and surrounded by heteronormaty and binary gender expectations. I remember feeling quite alone. I felt grief in that moment, that even though I am out, I am still invisible all too often.
And these moments add up, they take a toll emotionally.
There is a Buddhist poem from the Zenrin Kushu:
“Trees show the bodily form of the wind;
Waves give vital energy to the moon.”
Normally, when I think about the relationship between trees and wind, I think, “The wind is moving the trees.” This poem turns that logic on its head. The wind has been there all along, but without the trees, we wouldn’t see it. At the same time, the tree didn’t wake up one day and say, “Hey, I’m going to show the shape of the wind today.” The tree is just doing its thing, living its life, breathing in CO2, and exhaling Oxygen.
Without the trees we wouldn’t see the wind.
You being you, you being visible shows the shape of the winds of hate, oppression, bias, and racism. This wind has been here all along and has nothing to do with you or anything you have ever done, but we see its shape because you are just living your life, being beautiful you.
This is the relationship of being LGBTQIA+, nonbinary, and trans in a heteronormative, binary society. The effects of this relationship are depression, thoughts of suicide, chronic health problems, panic attacks, etc…
This is minority stress.
The emotional, psychological, and physical toll of bias, discrimination, and racism on individuals identifying within minority groups is minority stress.
We’re just trying to live our lives, do our thing, but then there’s that wind of bias. What do we do with this wind? What do we do as the winds of heteronormaty and binary gender expectations move past our limbs?
Start with self-compassion.
Can you make some space today to acknowledge the toll this relationship with these winds have had on you? Can you acknowledge the millions of pin pricks across your life from the millions of moments of invisibility and bias? When you get home from work and you’re exhausted physically and emotionally, can you extend some compassion toward yourself for all the hard work and effort you had to put into your day to navigate all those moments that stung?
Hiking through aspen groves always inspires me. I know that the tree I walk by is connected to all the rest of the aspens as far as my eyes can see. Below my feet, through an intense network of roots, these aspens support one another.
We need community. We need others who get it. Even if you spend time with others and you don’t talk about these pains, just being with them is healing because you know they get it without even saying so.
Find ways to use that frustration and anger to fight for policy change. There are many advocacy initiatives and groups across the metro area and the country. If you have the emotional capacity, attend a meeting, write a letter, volunteer for change. But remember to come back to self-compassion. Remember to rest. Remember that sometimes you will have the capacity to engage and other times will not. That is ok.
Remember to be gentle with yourself today and reach out if you need support.*
*If you or someone you know is having a mental health crisis, text “TALK” to 38255 to access free Colorado Crisis Services.
Author: Lindsay Cade, LPC (she/her) is a licensed mental health therapist serving the LGBTQIA+ community with 8 years experience. She uses affirming, client-centered methods to help folx find freedom from their past and healing in their life. Read more about Lindsay here or contact her today to get started on your path of healing.