Trauma in the LGBTQ+ Community: 3 Helpful Things to Know

Trauma doesn’t always look like we expect it to: its origins aren’t always clear-cut and tangible, nor its symptoms obvious.

So if you’re an LGBTQ+ individual seeking support for yourself or a loved one who identifies as queer, understanding the nuances of trauma in the queer community is an incredibly powerful starting point in the path to healing.

Here are three helpful things to know about trauma in the LGBTQ+ community: where trauma habitually originates, how it tends to present, and the proven treatment options.

1. Trauma in the LGBTQ+ community can stem from both overt and insidious mistreatment

While some traumatic events – e.g., assault, physical bullying – are clear, others have less obvious impacts. It is these same, smaller sources that are also often ongoing, and may accumulate into trauma.

Some of the potential sources of trauma for queer and trans* individuals include such things as:

2. Trauma symptoms may be more complex, due to the ongoing nature of the trauma

All of the classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that a straight, cisgender person may experience, a queer and/or trans* person will also experience. Classic symptoms of PTSD can affect all people, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation.

With queer and trans* people, PTSD symptoms may be prolonged because of Complex PTSD, a diagnosis in the ICD 11 (International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems 11th Edition). Complex PTSD recognizes the ongoing nature of some forms of trauma, and is distinct from PTSD as it is the result of repetitive or ongoing exposure to the threat of violence.

Common symptoms of trauma, both complex and otherwise, may include:

If you notice these symptoms in your loved one, you can be a positive force of change in their life by encouraging them to get help.

Find LGBTQ+ affirming trauma therapists for trauma in NYC, Providence, Chicago, and Boston; and learn how to support a loved one with trauma.

3. Various therapy types can help LGBTQ+ clients find relief; what’s most important is non-judgmental care

Based on my research of therapeutic practices with trans and gender-nonconforming clients, the most effective – and yet basic – treatment is the provision of a non-judgmental space.

To that effect, person-centered approach (such as the approach developed by Carl Rogers), is the best place to start treatment with a trans or gender-nonconforming client, and by extension queer people as well.

This can look like:

If you or someone you know has experienced trauma, or any of the symptoms described above, don’t let them get worse. Isolation intensifies these symptoms, and can make it harder to heal.

Healing needs to happen not just in clinical settings, but also in our homes and communities. If you recognize these symptoms in a loved one or yourself, know that therapy can help – and become a vital part of the journey to healing and support.

*"Trans" here refers to all gender identities under the transgender umbrella.