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2 min read

Growing up LGBTQ: Troubles & Challenges

Williamsburg Therapy Group LGBTQ group standing with a pride flag

Growing up LGBTQ in a hetero-normative world is traumatic and comes with an extensive set of challenges.

Most young adults and even children who are questioning sexuality or gender are not equipped with the emotional and intellectual skills to navigate the intense feelings of shame and inadequacy experienced at such a young age. LGBTQ youth do not come out of childhood unscathed.

Scared, ashamed and terrified, they fear that if anyone finds out (family, friends, community), they won’t be loved anymore. In clinical and personal experience, I’ve witnessed and felt feelings of disownment, getting kicked out of the house, abandonment. And in extreme cases fearing for one’s life. The path to healing seems impossible; however, there are various
resources to discover a way out of shame spirals, anxiety, and fear.

Experiencing Fear and Shame

Terror can persist for years and years. Fearing the worst possible scenario is right around the corner, one must navigate challenges alone, wreaking havoc on one’s sense of self. It’s no surprise that a perspective arises centering around self-loathing, an inability to authentically relate to others, interpersonal difficulties, and problems with emotional regulation. There’s a clear lack of feeling safe and belonging, while the only seemingly abundant feelings are loneliness and abandonment. Over time, this kind of perspective on shame and fear leads to an internalized and deeply held belief that you are unworthy, unlovable, shameful, and flawed at your core.

Quieting the voice of Fear and Shame

Despite eventually “coming out,” and overcoming the shame of “being in the closet”, for most LGBTQ youth, the damage has already been done. An internalized sense of shame from the years and years of trauma has already set in. Shame is one of the worst feelings in the world and most people deal with shame and self-loathing through various avoidance tactics: substance use, food, sex, gambling, shopping, work, the internet, and video games are just a few.

Tactics succeed at quieting the voice in one’s head telling you you’re not worthy; however, over-utilized and left ignored the shame and fear only get worse.

Healing the Wounds

In many individuals I work with, I’ve discovered that talking about and feeling shame is the best way to reduce it. Confronting these difficult thoughts and emotions over time gives the individuals I work with access to freedom. Talking about and feeling the intense complexities of the past can only dissipate through an exchange with the presence of a loving, accepting, and trustworthy person. Confronting feelings of shame with such an individual gently erodes the barrier of shame and fear. It is a slow, delicate process of learning to tolerate and reduce shame rather than avoid it at all costs.

Although difficult and sometimes a painful journey, breaking the maladaptive cycle of
shame leaves you with a lasting feeling of safety, connection, and belonging that is
completely worth it.





Brian Traeger Profile Photo-1

Brian Trager, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist




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