Happy Pride Month Ya'll, Amanda here.
My therapist once defined shame to me in a way that I will never forget. She said, “Guilt is the feeling that ‘I did something wrong.’ Shame is the feeling that ‘I am something wrong.’” This distinction was the first time I was able to understand and label this feeling that I had carried with me for so long. I wondered, if I was walking around bearing the heaviness of “I am something wrong” without even realizing it, how many others were?
Over the years, from stories that I’ve shared and stories that I have listened to, this sense of “wrongness” is actually alarmingly common. I have noticed this story emerge particularly frequently among fellow members of the LGBTQIA+ community. There is this sense that we are in some way “wrong” or “bad”, along with the fear that others can see it, just by looking.
Being born into a society whose culture historically rejects, denies, and shames the presence of any kind of queerness in people can be one way this sense of shame is born within us.
No matter what kind of family that a person had growing up, the heavy weight of shame from the larger world can have the same kind of impact. This is a symptom of historical trauma. When a group or population of people has historically endured systemic oppression in the form of violation of basic human rights, repeated violence and aggressive acts against them, and consistent societal shame and rejection, subsequent generations of that group carry this grief and sense of rejection with them.
We can acknowledge that while our society has evolved over the years, the fear of rejection, shame, and violence for LGBTQIA+ folx is still very real, and very valid.
From a survival standpoint, it may be safer for a person to take this shame on themselves, believing that they are in fact defective, to prevent the damage that external rejection and shame can do to our internal world. This is internalized oppression. This is adaptive for survival, yet detrimental to our emotional and mental wellbeing.
Shame, this belief that we are somehow inherently wrong or defective, has a very real impact on the mental health of the LGBTQIA+ community.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, queer folx are 1.5-2.5 times more likely to experience anxiety and depression at some point in their lives than cisgender and heterosexual people. According to the Trevor Project, LGBTQIA+ youth are nearly 3 times more likely to contemplate suicide than hetero/cis youth, and nearly 5 times more likely to attempt suicide.
One way to combat shame? Pride.
For LGBTQIA+ folx, pride is vulnerable, courageous, and SO important. To stand in the face of historical oppression and trauma and announce that we are proud of who we are, to celebrate our humanity in all of its beautiful diversity, continues to be a revolutionary act.
Pride for LGBTQIA+ folx is revolutionary for society and culture, as well as our collective and individual internal worlds.
So please, be proud. Be proud of your beautiful humanity, and what it teaches the world.
-Amanda Bucci, MS