Author: Naveen Sridharan
June is here. Pride month is here. And as Pride came around the corner, an itch came with it. An itch to do something. Looking closer, I realized it was an itch to "be open" or "show pride" about being part of the community. More interestingly, I felt that this was something that I had to do, like it was my responsibility to somehow "free" myself. This made me wonder. Am I struggling against myself? Or am I struggling against a system, or against the world itself? In retrospection, struggling didn't even sound like the right word anymore, I'd probably say I'm coping.
"Coping” is a word that you must have recently seen and heard a lot. Essentially, this word means tolerating, minimizing the effects of, or dealing with problems and issues. Currently, one of the most widely affecting problems is the COVID-19 pandemic. Across the world, we learn of countries, cities, governments, and individuals trying to cope with the problem, using measures ranging from country-wide lockdowns to using masks and maintaining social distancing. These coping strategies have been effective to various degrees in various settings. In a way, this has been a perfect example of how "coping" works (or doesn't). Amidst all this, a question appeared in my head, and hasn't really gone away. All around me, and on the internet, I hear of people wanting the world to "go back to the way it was". But is that really possible? Even if every single person on the earth is vaccinated, even if no new cases arise forevermore, will the world go back to what it was before? I don't believe so. There has been so much loss and suffering that won't just disappear when the virus is gone. But we will cope, and we will rebuild.
Similarly, individuals and the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole are coping against oppression and marginalization across the world in different ways - finding safe spaces, coming out to loved ones, seeking affirmative counselling, helping questioning individuals as a community, etc. As important as coping is, it isn't everything, as we saw with the problem of COVID-19. It is only a part of "progress". Imagine going to a doctor every week to get stitched up. What would the doctor say? Would they just keep treating the wound, or would they ask you how and why you keep getting hurt?
Every year during Pride month, that's how I feel. Like I'm going to the doctor to get stitched up for a wound that is inflicted on me time and time again. So, what do we do? It's time we stop only treating the wound. It's time we stop telling people they're not "coping correctly" or well enough. Therapy doesn't erase trauma, especially when the trauma is ongoing. You can’t tell me I’ll heal soon when I keep getting hurt in the same place over and over. Why are we restricted to these tiny bubbles, and even these bubbles come with so much fear and contemplation, when the restrictions itself shouldn't exist in the first place? And coming out is something that individuals find themselves doing multiple times with multiple people over the course of their lifetime.
What we should also do in addition to coping is learn. Learn from how marginalized communities were disproportionately affected - whether it’s COVID or discrimination. We need to learn, and act. We need systemic changes that ensure we get hurt less and less. Therapy is mitigation, not a solution. The solution is for everyone to learn about how they hurt us (and how we hurt each other), intentionally and unintentionally. And we need to stop doing so - this ranges from microaggressions to public policies.
It is time to stop blaming people for not being able to break their chains, and instead demand that they're not chained in the first place. I deserve that much. We deserve that much.