Chapter 3: Trauma and grief in 2SLGBTQ+ communities

Violence and hate crimes

I've been there
Jade speaks about the importance of safety.(3:22)Video transcript

We scan the environment to see what’s around, what we can see, what gives us any clues that it’s a space that’s safe to be who you are. And I think that’s especially true of 2SLGBTQ+ people because our experience has been that it’s not safe.

The killing of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando was shocking, but also somehow not a surprise. That violence, that hatred, is always present even when it’s hidden away.

As a trans woman, I feel safer walking in this city at 2 a.m. than I do in the afternoon.

Coming to terms with a traumatic event, such as an assault or death, is always difficult because there seems to be no way to make sense of it. It’s sudden, shocking, and sometimes horrifying.

It’s frightening to be confronted with the knowledge that there are people who want to harm you simply because you are 2SLGBTQ+. If you are a trans or Two-Spirit person, you might be at risk for violence and hate crimes. Similarly, if you work in the sex trade or live on the street, you might also feel vulnerable.

When any 2SLGBTQ+ person or group is attacked, your sense of safety, trust, or acceptance is profoundly challenged. Every story you read, hear, or see may be a painful and scary reminder of the event. Old wounds may be uncovered or reopened, especially if you have experienced an assault in the past yourself.

In cases where the perpetrator is also 2SLGBTQ+, you and others in your community may feel a range of other feelings, such as shock, betrayal, or shame. When combined with the effects of social stigma, these feelings make grieving much more difficult. 

Want to read more about grief in 2SLGBTQ+ communities?

The following article, written after the June 2016 shootings at a gay nightclub in Orlando expands and clarifies some of the different aspects of trauma and grief experienced in 2SLGBTQ+ communities: Commentary: Pulse, and the Beautiful, Sad, Joyful Tradition of Queer Grief.

What may help

  • Keep in mind that there is no “right” way to respond to trauma or to grieve. For example, you might feel unsafe and decide to be less “out,” or you might feel outraged by the injustice and decide to speak up or take action with others.
  • Whether you’re the victim of violence or you’re grieving someone else’s experience of violence or their death, reach out to friends, family, or a faith leader who can genuinely support you. Look for peer support hotlines or a professional counsellor who is experienced in grief, trauma, and 2SLGBTQ+ challenges.
  • An attack on an individual or group often brings members of 2SLGBTQ+ communities together to grieve and to act. This can be very healing and may provide a way to regain a sense of control or power.
  • You may also find additional strength by joining with allies outside your own community.
  • If you live in a rural area, it may be more difficult to access safe supports because of safety concerns or a lack of services. If you are able to safely use a phone or the internet, you may be able to find confidential support services. Another option you may consider is to visit or move to an urban centre. 
  • For more information, see the Resources section of this module.