For centuries, most human societies in the western world have discriminated against many minorities depending on their sexual identity and gender identity. Today, although these discriminatory trends are down, they continue to exist, although at the same time there is increasing awareness of the negative of this phenomenon.
In this meeting point between declining discrimination and rising acceptance, LGBT affirmative psychology emerges : a therapeutic perspective that invites both to take care of the well-being of people exposed to attacks due to their sexual or gender identity, on the one hand , as to transform society so that the above is not necessary and everyone is treated equally.
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The impact of LGBT claims on psychology
Psychology is the science that studies behavior, but it should not be forgotten that behavior also changes psychology itself. Therefore, it is normal that social transformations have made that the point of view and the purposes from which psychologists start have changed a lot in the last decades.
An example of this is the way in which awareness-raising on the problems of LGBT groups has contributed to making psychology a richer and more useful tool to help a part of the population that continues to feel vulnerable in many aspects : lesbians, gay, bisexual and trans. Where decades ago there was a science that considered homosexuality as something intrinsically pathological, today there is one that does not put the label of disease on forms of sexual orientation or gender identity that move away from heterosexual and cisgender (that is, of the conventional correspondence between sex and gender), and which at the same time recognizes that discrimination exposes these groups more to psychological problems, statistically.
In this way affirmative psychology has emerged, a field of work that focuses on the needs of non-heterosexual and non-cisgender people. Its applied aspect, affirmative therapy , aims to understand the mechanisms of the construction of LGBT identity and, from them, help people with problems derived from discrimination and the social pressure linked to it.
Affirmative therapy goals
These are some of the purposes frequently set by LGBT affirmative psychology in helping people who seek help.
1. Treatment of sequelae due to homophobia and transphobia
Unfortunately, even in countries with higher homosexuality acceptance rates (such as Spain) and in the trans community, attacks with physical or verbal violence are relatively common. Many times, these attacks occur even during childhood, in contexts of bullying, and the arrival in adulthood does not prevent similar situations from happening again.
This can facilitate the triggering of psychological disturbances such as anxiety or depression , as well as body dysmorphic disorder. And it is that beyond the physical wounds, the passage through these experiences contributes to not being satisfied with one’s own body, to blaming oneself for what happened, to isolate oneself socially and even to have more doubts about one’s identity.
Understanding what it is like to go through these kinds of experiences is essential to offer professional help to this kind of victims, many of whom receive continuous attacks on a daily basis. And therefore, it is one of the goals of affirmative LGBT psychology.
- You may be interested: ” The 16 types of discrimination (and their causes)“
Accompany and advise when deciding to be a mother or father
Motherhood and fatherhood are roles strongly mediated by social conventions; therefore, it is normal to hear a lot of criticism about who should or should not have children, and about which are the most useful parenting strategies and which are not. If we add to this the factor of sexual identity and gender identity, to this social pressure must be added the tendency to culturally discriminate against minorities who are out of the norm on these issues, and the existence of legal barriers and institutional that continue to feed the idea that you can only have children if you are heterosexual and cisgender.
Therefore, psychologists can specialize in helping people who feel bad at the prospect of first having to choose whether or not to raise a baby, and second, dealing with the frustration and anxiety that often causes having have to fight to get it.
Search for your own space in LGBT environments
It should not be forgotten that LGBT is not homogeneous, and that even within the groups represented by this acronym there are several “social circles” or sub-collectives. Sometimes the formation of these sub-categorizations responds to a trend whose existence must be recognized: discrimination within LGBT groups themselves .
This last factor can make it difficult for many people to find their place and identity even in spaces where no one is heterosexual, for example. Although psychotherapy is not enough to solve this, it is also true that affirmative psychology can contribute both to avoid totally unnecessary forms of discomfort, and to help victims of discrimination to be aware that they have nothing to hide and that they must see these attacks as a social problem , not as a defect of them as individuals. In this way, in addition, it contributes to making truly inclusive an environment predisposed to accept unconventional forms of sexuality and expression of gender identity.
Acceptance of own identity
Finally, the process of accepting oneself contributes so that people belonging to these minorities feel good about their identity most of the time, and not only do not treat it as a taboo, but also normalize its existence and show it in their social relationships and in the expression of their sexuality .
It is clear that much remains to be done at the cultural, institutional and political levels so that LGBT groups cease to have a reason to exist due to the disappearance of discrimination . However, part of the change also passes through the spread of the culture of mutual care and acceptance, and these are precisely the pillars of affirmative psychology. For this reason, psychologists who can do their bit in our work in this area do so knowing that we not only help the individual who attends our consultation; We also invite the entire society to the therapeutic process.