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Celebrating Pride: A Trauma-Informed Perspective

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

Welcome to week three of the June Pride blog post series. So far this month, we’ve read a bit about LGBTQIA2S+ history, including the Stonewall Riots and the creation (and re-creation) of the Pride Flag. This week and next week, we’ll shift our focus and discuss ways we can support the LGBTQIA2S+ community in the present and future. This week’s post addresses working from a trauma-informed perspective; next week’s will discuss allyship.

Disclaimer: This post is longer than our previous post but all the information it contains is important and relevant to PRIDE. Please take the time to read and process it. The last two posts highlighted some important moments in LGBTQIA2S+ history. The events described in these emails (the Stonewall Riots, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and an ongoing reckoning with racism within the the LGBTQIA2S+ community, for example) are causes for celebration and pride, but also examples of historical trauma. The Olalla Center has committed to being a trauma-informed organization and we'd love for our community to be trauma-informed as well. How do we measure our progress and hold ourselves accountable to this commitment? The Substance Abuse and Mental Service Administration (SAMHSA) suggests using the “Four R’s” of trauma-informed care: Realize, Recognize, Respond, Resist. The “Four R’s” can be used as a tool when providing trauma-informed care to any population, but in this post, we’ll discuss how to apply them with the LGBTQIA2S+ community specifically.

Realize: Before we can be a trauma-informed organization and community when working with LGBTQIA2S+ colleagues and clients, we need to know a bit about how trauma affects the lives of LGBTQIA2S+ people. Here are some statistics that may help increase your awareness:

  • 77% of LGBT people will experience a hate crime in their lifetime. Most will experience hate many times over. Rates of hate crimes against LGBT people (particularly trans people and LGBT people of color) are rising.

  • About three quarters of LGBTQ students report having been harassed at school. 35% have experienced physical assault, and 12% have been the victim of sexual violence at school.

  • LGBTQ individuals have a higher risk of sexual assault than any other community.

  • LGBTQIA2S+ people often face trauma and discrimination in healthcare settings. One example: Conversion therapy (an unethical, unscientific “treatement” that attempts to change someone’s gender idenity or sexual orientation) remains legal in 30 states.

  • LGBTQ+ people, especially LGBTQ+ people of color, experience intimate partner violence at a rate higher than the general population.

  • 30% of children who come out as LGB to their family are rejected because of their sexual orientaiton. 20% of homeless youth identify as LGBT.

Recognize: Given the prevalence of trauma in the LGBTQIA2S+ community, we need to be able to spot signs and symptoms of trauma in our LGBTQIA2S+ colleagues and clients. Increased rates of trauma manifest in higher rates of suicide, self-harming behaviors, and substance use among LGBTQIA2S+ people. LGB people are twice as likely to experience a mental health condition when compared to straight people, and trans people are four times as likely to experience a mental health condition when compared to their cisgender peers. Being LGBGTQIA+ doesn’t cause mental illness, but–all too often–transphobia and homophobia do. Depressing statistics can mask and overshadow another way trauma impacts LGBTQIA2S+ people though. If we are going to recognize the impacts of trauma, we also need to recognize resilience. It’s incredibly important to remember that, despite experiencing a higher prevalence of trauma, LGBTQIA2S+ people continue to advance social equality, create beautiful art and music, be pioneers in sports and politics, and generally break down barriers to create a more loving society and culture. Recognizing and celebrating resilience is what Pride is all about! Respond: After realizing and recognizing, we need to respond as an organization and as individuals. How will we change our behavior, language, and culture based on what we know about trauma in the LGBTQIA2S+ community? Here are some ways YOU can respond:

  • Center LGBTQIA2S+ voices, especially when making decisions that impact their community.

  • Have questions? Google first. Don’t rely on LGBTQIA2S+ people to educate you.

  • Use people’s names and pronouns. If you mess up, apologize briefly, correct yourself, move on.

  • Don’t assume heterosexuality or cis (or binary) gender identity. Give people a chance to self-identify their gender and or sexual orientation, list their pronouns, etc. on paperwork and forms.

  • Reflect on your own privilege.

  • Put your pronouns in your email signature, on your name badge, next to your name on Zoom. Include your pronouns when you introduce yourself at meetings.

These are just a few ideas, not a comprehensive list of ways to respond. Next week’s post will share additional ideas about how you can support the LGBTQIA2S+ community.

Resist: We’ve made it through 3 of the 4 R’s. Hooray! Last, but not least, in order to be a trauma informed organization we must resist re-traumatizing LGBTQIA2S+ people. Re-traumatization is often unintentional, but that doesn’t make it any less damaging. If we aren’t mindful, we can easily sabotage the treatment of clients, create an unsafe workplace culture, and undermine the work and mission of the Olalla Center. We minimize the risk of retraumatization when we listen to, and believe, LGBTQIA2S+ accounts of trauma. Obtaining consent before asking LGBTQIA2S+ people to engage in emotional labor or any other potentially challenging activity, is another way we can be trauma-informed and resist retraumatization. We can also engage in social activism outside of the workplace to resist the people and institutions that consistently traumatize (and retraumatize) LGBTQIA2S+ people. Thank you for taking time to read about trauma in the LGBTQIA2S+ community. Here’s hoping we can all use the “4 R’s” in our work and our lives to create a more loving, equitable, and safe organization, community and world. Happy Pride, Olalla!



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