Discrimination is a powerful negative cultural force affecting millions of people in our country. Members of the LGBT community are often targets of discrimination. Sometimes, discrimination can be experienced in interpersonal settings. This includes things like hate crimes or LGBT youth being bullied at school. But discrimination can also be institutional. Consider the fact that it was only in 2015 that the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that same-sex couples could marry. Prior to that, many same-sex couples were legally barred from participating in the institution of marriage.
As a nation, we’ve made progress, but LGBT individuals are still faced with interpersonal and institutional discrimination on a regular basis. And for those LGBT individuals who are members of an additional marginalized group based on race, disability, gender, etc. the experience of discrimination can be more frequent and complex. For example, according to PBS 67% of hate crime homicides in 2013 were committed against transgender women of color.
Below are some suggestions for coping with discrimination. While this list has been written with LGBT folks in mind, the ideas can be helpful to anyone experiencing discrimination.
- Remind yourself of your values: Discrimination in all forms can chip away at how we see ourselves. It is important to remember that no one else can tell you who you are. Reminding yourself of your values and strengths can help push back against the negative effects of discrimination.
- Emotional reactivity: Experiencing discrimination can bring on strong emotions. It is okay to feel these things; emotions can motivate us to take action. Just be sure that you create some time between emotions and action. Pay attention to your body and where you are feeling your emotions. Expand your emotional vocabulary so that you can accurately identify what you feel. Use breathing exercises, mindfulness, or other calming techniques before taking action.
- Social supports: Surround yourself with people who understand and empathize with your experiences. Family and friends can help you process discriminatory experiences. However, sometimes family and friends are the source of the discrimination. There’s nothing wrong with distancing yourself from these people for the sake of protecting your own mental health. Find people who will allow you be angry, sad, or hurt in a safe space.
- Local resources: Chicago has a number of resources for LGBT individuals. At the state and national levels there are organizations and websites that can be helpful resources as well.
- Therapy: Therapist search tools provided by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology Today, and GoodTherapy can help you find therapists in your area who are LGBT-affirmative.
- Involvement: You can get involved with like-minded groups and organizations, whether locally or online. It can help to know there are other people who have had similar experiences to yours. Working to change policy, participating in protests, writing to legislators or volunteering for LGBT-affirming political candidates are all ways to make your voice heard and impact change on a larger scale.