For many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, and intersex (LGBTQI) individuals, the world we live in is a hostile one. Hate crimes, institutionalized heterosexism, and verbal or written slurs are a fact of life for many who identify as LGBTQI. Rivers, McPherson, and Hughes (2010) state that “lesbians, gay men, and bisexual men and women are four times more likely to experience crime either as a result of being ‘open’ about their sexual orientation or because they attend LGB-identified venues such as clubs, bars, and community groups.” A review from US Department of Justice, as reported in GLAAD’s pamphlet on Anti-LGBT Violence, indicates that one of the leading causes of violence in the United States is “real or perceived sexual orientation.” Those who present a gender identity that is not explicitly cisgender (congruent with one’s assigned sex at birth) can also face increased risk of anti-LGBTQI violence.
The effects of this anti-LGBTQI violence and sentiment on those who identify as LGBQI are traumatic and life changing. Intolerance and experiences of violence (including verbal) fracture one’s basic sense of the world. As an infant, one of the first life tasks is to develop a sense of safety in a new, sometimes frightening, world. As one experiences instances of hate and intolerance, that sense of safety is shattered. Personal reactions to such experiences range from headaches, agitation, and sleep disturbances to depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, and substance use.
Rivers, et al. (2010) found that willingness to seek social support and professional help after a traumatic experience is a mitigating factor in lowering risks of more severe reactions. Counselors, as well as friends and family, play a significant role in supporting survivors of hate crimes and intolerance. A counselor may be the first professional to whom an individual discloses the trauma experience and, as such, the therapist may play an integral part in helping the individual process the trauma and begin the healing process.
In light of the significant role that counselors play in supporting LGBTQI individuals working through traumatic experiences, sensitivity to LGBTQI issues is of utmost importance. Affirming views on authentic expression of sexual orientation and gender identity by the counselor are critical to the success of therapy. At IntraSpectrum Counseling, all of our counselors have specialized training and experience working with LGBTQI clients. We offer a range of services including individual counseling, group counseling, transgender counseling, and gay relationship counseling. We work with a diverse client base and are committed to meeting the needs of the LGBTQI community and beyond.
Rivers, I., McPherson, K. E., & Hughes, J. R. (2010). The role of social and professional support seeking in trauma recovery: lesbian, gay and bisexual experiences of crime and fears for safety. Psychology & Sexuality, 1(2), 145-155.