Written by: Michelle Topal, MSW, LCSW- Psychotherapist Raleigh & Durham NC.
There has clearly been a lot in the local and national media recently about the passing of HB2, and rightfully so; this legislation is an affront to the rights and liberties of the LGBT community. As a psychotherapist I am aware that not only can the passing of this legislation stir up painful feelings for those of us in the LGBT community, but the arguments and rhetoric defending it, can lead to a sense of hopelessness.
Anger, hopelessness, shame, helplessness, fear, and a triggering of old feelings of being alone and not okay, are just some of the feelings that can get stirred up for people when confronted with the language of bigotry. However, as a psychotherapist, I have seen, it can also encourage resiliency, unity and social action. These sets of conflicting feelings are not only normal, but something to be accepted and embraced.
These types of experiences are painful reminders of how far, as a united community, we have come and how frightening and uncomfortable this can be for a lot of people who feel by extending human rights to the disenfranchised, they are somehow losing rights or under attack. For those of us who have lived through the progress of civil rights for many groups, this is not unusual and often part of social progress.
But I am not a historian. I am someone who has studied psychology and sociology, and am a psychotherapist. I understand what it means to be the subject and object of bigotry. I also understand, and as a psychotherapist be empathetic, to how scary it can be when you are fearful of losing your position or the illusion of power and control. While the rhetoric of bigotry is painful to those of us it is directed at, where it lands on us, are often our own deepest, unresolved wounds.
For that reason, it is important to get help and support to prevent the wounds from festering and becoming toxic. Help can also enable us to harness these wounds, so they are not only where we are most vulnerable, but also where we are most resilient. Vulnerability is what makes us human and connected. It makes us able to empathize with the fear and vulnerability in others, including those who may be no better then bullies. As a community, let’s stand up to bigotry, but also maintain our empathy and not represent the very intolerance that we are fighting against. Let’s not let the wounds callous us to our own and our opponents fears and insecurities.
Michelle Topal, LCSW is an LGBT therapist in Raleigh & Durham NC who specializes in LGBT issues child therapy, family counseling, parenting support & couples therapy Durham & Raleigh NC.
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