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Culture

Queer Self-Care: Managing Anxiety During Turbulent Political Times

| 07/11/2022

two people looking at a rainbow path Illustration by Doris Liou

Pride month has come and gone like a blur this year, evidenced by more than Target’s yearly surplus of rainbow garb moving to clearance. An ongoing pandemic, anti-trans legislation, Florida’s noxious “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the recent fall of Roe v. Wade, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ remarks that same-sex marriage should be reconsidered, to name just a few reasons, have many LGBTQIA+ folks feeling anything but celebratory. 

You’re not alone if you’ve experienced sadness, grief, anxiety, fear, or overwhelm this year around Pride. “Especially in the wake of dozens of anti-LGBTQIA legislation, many folks aren’t feeling celebratory at this time, which is incredibly valid,” said Kai Lewis, M.S., AMFT, a transgender therapist who works predominantly with trans and LGBTQIA+ communities. 

“Pride is for us, and there is no ‘right way’ we should be experiencing or feeling during this (or any other) time,” said Lewis. 

Some may experience grief and joy concurrently. “Despite the concerning events in our government, this year marks the first pride celebrations for many people who have come out over the past 3 years thanks to pandemic shutdowns. So there are folks feeling a new burst of pride and excitement even while others of us worry about dark clouds it seems on an ever-nearing horizon,” said David Bowers, Ph.D., IMFT, a gay therapist at Thriveworks Columbus Polaris. 

At its inception, Pride commemorates The Stonewall Riots, a protest against police brutality, fueled by a sense of injustice. This year, anti-LGBTQIA+ incidents and increased violence at Pride parades act as a stark reminder of the need to oppose unjust systems. “Regardless of what happens in the future, no one can deny the impact the community has made and the great strides taken to make the world more inclusive and safe for everyone,” said Julia Schiffman, LCSW, an LGBTQIA+ therapist in San Diego.

Whether you’re protesting, attending Pride in states that throw a parade later in the year, or managing morning headlines, it can be helpful to amp up self-care practices as we wade through an onerous news cycle and hostile legislation. 

Self-care ideas around managing anti-LGBTQIA+ news

“We don’t get to take ‘days off’ from being queer as it is a continuously lived experience, however, creating space for self-maintenance is crucial,” said Lewis. 

Self-care is often touted as bubble baths and pedicures, but it doesn’t always look as lavish. Lewis explained that self-care involves meeting your needs, like getting enough sleep or finding movement, even if it feels like a challenge at the time. 

Bowers recommended taking inventory of past self-care practices or coping skills that have proven helpful in difficult prior times. Giving yourself extra time to process and practice self-compassion can also help. With self-care, “If it helps you to feel connected, then you’re doing it right,” said Schiffman. 

It can also help to implement boundaries around news consumption. “Boundaries can look like taking intentional time off from news and media consumption, or excusing yourself from the burden of educating others on queer topics when feeling burnt out,” said Lewis. 

You might also choose a few trusted sources to consume news from rather than opening any headline you see. Other limits around news consumption include the time of day you read, how long you might be scrolling for, and taking time-outs to check in with yourself about how you’re feeling. It’s easy to become overtaken with anxiety and overwhelmed, especially when learning of something particularly harrowing. When reading about violence toward your community, it can feel personal, and rightly so. 

“Scars within our communities bear witness to our ultimate resilience. I think it can be important to remind ourselves that we can get through and have come through horrific times.”

“Community is also key. Finding or creating safe queer spaces to foster a sense of connection is powerful when it comes to processing, healing, advocating, or simply finding joy and celebration in the existence of queer lives and intersecting identities. Regardless of what is happening politically, queer folks will always be here and seeing members of our community continuing to gather and exist despite all these barriers is pure magic,” explained Lewis. 

Activism, advocacy, and showing up authentically

Whether you protested during Pride this year or are seeking ideas to support the LGBTQIA+ community, it’s essential to remember that everyone can show up in ways that may look different from one person to the next. “We don’t all have to be doing the same thing on the same fronts in order for it to be helpful or meaningful,” said Bowers. 

Lewis pointed out that sometimes, people act in advocacy and activism through their mere existence. “Part of the burden of being queer is that there often is a pressure to ‘do more’ advocacy, activism, and education when sometimes simply existing as a queer person is difficult enough. Sometimes walking the world as a queer person is enough activism and bravery for one day,” said Lewis. 

“Some might want to donate funds to queer organizations seeking change on community, state, or national levels. Some might volunteer their time or other material donations to local agencies that work to provide support to members of the community. Some might work directly for LGBTQIA companies or organizations, or might be advocating for affirming changes in their own workplace,” said Lewis. 

While all feelings are valid, Bowers advised not to slip into the void. “The one thing I’d caution folks to avoid is the temptation to pull into themselves in silent fear and anger. We aren’t alone and it’s important to fight the forces inside and outside that lead us to feel that we are,” explained Bowers. 

“Scars within our communities bear witness to our ultimate resilience. I think it can be important to remind ourselves that we can get through and have come through horrific times,” said Bowers. 

Pride might have come and gone this year, but being LGBTQIA+ is not an annual event. However you’ve shown up, and however you continue to show up, is enough.

 

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