For me, meeting or seeing someone who wholly and unapologetically accepts themselves for who they are is incredibly inspiring and a beautiful thing to witness. I would go as far as to say it’s even more beautiful than seeing Harry Styles dance in that leather suit at the Grammy’s, and we know how much I love Harry…
Unfortunately, there are many members of the LGBTQIA+ community who do not feel able to accept themselves because of the archaic social systems and expectations we continue to support and enforce. As a cis-white woman, I often take for granted how the western world is designed for me and my heterosexual counterparts. But what impact does this have on people who do not identify as being part of the same community?
Chris, also known as The Queer Therapist, very kindly agreed to be interviewed for the blog to share their own experience of accepting themselves as a non-binary transgender person. Irish-born Chris, 32, also told me why people in the LGBTQIA+ struggle with self-acceptance and how people struggling to accept themselves can take steps to do just that.
What does self-acceptance mean to you?
Whether you are queer, neurodiverse, young, old, straight, white or a POC; self-acceptance is often the thing that we are all striving for. The reality is the multiplicities of our intersectional identities in today’s Westernised society means, more often than not, we are sitting with a dislike about parts of ourselves. Internalised shame around these parts of ourselves can lead to a whole host of unsuccessful or successful coping strategies. But universally, the only healthily approach is working towards true self-acceptance. Now we all know this is much easier said than done but naming and committing to working towards this goal is the crux of achieving self-acceptance and is worth the energy it takes.
Why do you think people from the LGBTQIA+ community struggle with self-acceptance and how do you think societal expectations feed into this?
Our LGBTQIA+ community struggle with self-acceptance because we exist outside the heterosexual westernised norm. Any difference to the narrative of “able-bodied-cis-white man meets able-bodied-cis-white woman, falls in love, has a baby”, experiences resistance. This resistance is the root cause of shame, guilt, and a whole multitude of mental health problems that our community experiences. We can trace this back hundreds of years to the global colonisation by white Europeans. Without wanting to write a history book, as there are far more qualified speakers on this subject, what is important to be aware of is that before this colonisation, many diverse identities were an everyday part of people’s culture. Where we find ourselves now, particularly in the global north, is at a point of contention. We are carrying an enormous ‘heteronormative’ hangover that we can see in our systems, cultural references and narratives which exist alongside a surge of pride, activism and celebration of our diverse identities.
Have you struggled to accept yourself as someone who is both non binary and transgender? How did you overcome these struggles if you did experience them?
Yes, I have struggled my whole life to accept myself and make space for the many facets of my identity. In lots of ways launching my private practice under the name, The Queer Therapist, was a huge act of self-acceptance and was incredibly exposing on many levels. But my drive to create a service specifically for queer and gender diverse people was a huge act of love to myself and the community as it was what I needed when I was growing up. Whilst I will never claim to understand every trans person’s experience, I am able to use my own lived experience to inform my practice, to provide affirming queer and gender diverse spaces alongside creating space for the intersectional realities of each of my client’s identities. Self-acceptance is an ongoing process but I am happy to say in the past year, more than ever before, I am experiencing trans pride and real joy having made these brave steps.
As a therapist, is self-acceptance something you discuss often with your clients?
Yes. I work mainly with people who have been marginalised by society. We are othered in so many ways. And whilst everyone’s lived experience is different, at the core of all these conversations is how my clients see themselves. We look at the lens that they view themselves through and work to reframe and unpick this perspective.
What would be your best advice for people from the LGBTQIA+ community who are struggling to accept or celebrate who they are?
My best advice would be to find an affirming space. By that I mean a space, either online or in person, where you can be yourself to your fullest capacity. Experience what it is like to be in high definition without dulling down, hiding or shrinking any part of yourself. That can be a radical act of self-love. Within these spaces we start to find our communities. And through these communities our lens shifts so we can view ourselves in relation to people who have shared lived experience. How can we expect our LGBT community to love themselves if we do not see ourselves as loved and accepted? Understanding the reality behind the phrase, ‘you cannot be, what you cannot see’ is key.
Is there anything people outside of the LGBTQIA+ can do to help people within the community to accept themselves?
I think the most helpful thing people outside the community can do is to meet us where we are at. There is a lot of talk of allyship, of speaking up for…, or protecting us from…, which exists as a top down structure. The reality is, it is far more powerful to walk alongside, to understand that we all share a common goal of an equitable society but that relies on being met where we are at and not being treated as powerless. I would ask people to be an accomplice, not just an ally. And understand that there is a shared benefit to us changing the world from how it currently exists.
Are there any social media accounts or websites you would suggest people look at or follow if they are struggling to accept themselves as part of the LGBTQIA+ community?
Follow Chris on Instagram for more uplifting, educational and inspiring content.