I don’t have any answers today. I only have questions. I have a story. I have this trembling.
I mentioned in my last post that these past few weeks have been busy for me. I wasn’t expecting for them to dredge up trauma, loss, and lostness while I was at it.
Yesterday, I went to the first session of a new group therapy I’m in. It’s co-led by my therapist, which was nerve-wrecking for reasons I haven’t figured out yet. It’s also a group just for queer people.
Given my history – a main dish of suppression, self-denial, and high-stakes silence with a side of trauma – this was already going to be a tough group therapy. I spent years realizing, with much ado, that I was not straight, not cis, and not romantically attracted to anyone. As someone raised evangelical Christian and so shy about sex that I thought “gay” was just a curse word until high school? Who I am was not convenient. Or safe.
And sitting in that room that first day, the AC humming and the lights blanching the walls white and an adult stranger perching on a sofa directly across from me, I did not feel convenient. Or even safe.
Because the setup reminded me of a Sunday morning, many months ago. It reminded me of a man, his hands shaking, seated across a desk. It reminded me of catastrophic fear. It reminded me of the day the pastor told me he’d found my blog, he knew I was queer – it reminded me of the day that something innocent in me died. Very messily, very quickly, without a sound.
How many times have I had to die without a sound?
In the game of survival that I live, information is the weapon. Knowledge is made to be grasped at the hilt. In the moments before the pastor told me what he knew, I knew he knew, and needed a battle plan in an instant. I was 17. It was not something I had ever wanted to do: be stoic, be measured, be defiant even while I was being traumatized.
With the group therapy room reminding me of the pastor’s office, and knowing that the space I was in was created explicitly to divulge information about queerness, something inside me remobilized. I sat very still. I staved off panic. And I said absolutely nothing. The whole time.
If you know me, you probably realize that’s… not really how I work. When I have an opinion, I say it. Shutting up is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I had to do it (pretty damn unsuccessfully) for months – hence, trauma.
Thankfully, 2 of the other 3 members piped up – hesitantly, but vulnerably. And what they said packed a punch. We were supposed to be brainstorming topics for future sessions, and some of the ideas hit home in a way that I haven’t allowed since I attended a trans murder victim vigil last semester.
Being queer, they said, comes hand in hand with loss, grieving, suppression, silence. Exhaustion and trauma are part of being queer. You meet friends, you reveal something that should be such a small part of you, and they leave you for it. You have to grieve that. For every friend that leaves. Every family member, employer, teacher, peer, and significant other you can’t tell. Everyone you do.
If you keep hiding, there’s trauma. If you take the often-immense risk of living authentically, there’s trauma. Trauma back guaranteed.
How can I keep going to a group therapy that demands so much energy of me, even when I don’t speak?
How can I come face to face with the dangerous reality I live in every single fucking Thursday?
How can I fully accept that just because this is how things are, doesn’t mean it’s how they should be?
How can I permanently realize that what the pastor did to me was not okay? That it was fucked up, and I didn’t deserve it? That it wasn’t “immature” or “stupid” of me to be so easily “found out” by him? That he and the adults who claim to protect me should never have created a world in which I ever had to hide from them?
How many more times will I have to die without a sound?