“Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive — the risk to be alive and express what we really are.”
— Don Miguel Ruiz
🌈 This page is a resource guide for queer healing.
🔥 The goal is to help you move from surviving, to thriving, to helping others thrive.
💅 To help you learn self-love and self-care.
🧒 To help you connect with your inner child and learn to feel more at home with yourself.
☔️ To help you become more resilient and adaptable.
💪 To help you find power in vulnerability and community.
Why this guide exists
There's a lot of survival guides out there for queer people. This guide is about thriving.
The major resources for the queer community—the crisis hotlines and support groups—are geared toward making it through the most difficult moments. They provide a critical safety net. But what happens after that? Beyond getting basic needs met, what does it mean to thrive?
Learning how to love even more. Living an integrated life. Setting yourself up for the future. Focusing on normal, boring everyday things like exercise and diet and household budgeting. And, of course, inventing new structures and forms for belonging, relationships, family, home, intimacy, resiliency, liberation, and world peace in the 21st century. Because that's what we do.
Scope & Notes
- This guide takes the long view on queer healing. It attempts to answer: What are the keys to a healthy life, and the foundations for ongoing growth and liberation, in the face of queer oppression?
- The goal is to cover everything you need to thrive as a queer person: Coming out, making a home, dating, sex, queer family, mental and physical health, spirituality, being in your body, domestic practices, gender transitions, legal issues, financial planning, and, of course, queer interior design.
- This guide is a broad collection of resources. It is designed to be practical, with lots of links, good advice, and time-tested folk knowledge. It is not a substitute for therapist, or a financial planner, or an estate lawyer, or an interior designer… it's more like a concierge. Maybe it will get you where you need to go.
- This guide uses the word “queer” and sometimes “LGBT” as shorthand for LGBTQIA*. Using the word “queer” within our community is a way of reclaiming what might be considered an insult and using it for empowerment. It's a clever reappropriation. And it's a nice word because it starts with Q, and that will get you a lot of points in Scrabble.
- This is a work in progress, and it is village property. We hope you'll consider dropping some knowledge upon these pages. (See the Contributor's Guide for details)
Am I queer enough for this website?
There are two-spirit native healers in New Mexico. There are bisexual cis men in traditional marriages who live in rural China. There are black trans boys in Queens and Taiwanese trans girls in Taipei. There are people who don't have any word for what they are, but they know something different is going on. Point is, “queer” is a big tent and there are many kinds of people inside. None of these people need anyone's permission to be who they are. If you think you're queer enough, you are queer enough. If you're not sure, that's fine too.
Coming out is a great place to start.
What am I? That's the real question, isn't it. Forget about coming out to your family. What about coming out to yourself? You may not even know what you would come out as. “Am I a lesbian?” “Am I nonbinary?” “Am I a butch trans girl?”
Give it a minute. Give it a year. What's really happening is an internal discovery process. We are all discovering more about who we are. So, instead of trying to understand yourself perfectly in all of your magical dimensions, it's okay to just sit with the confusion.
You might gain some new understanding of yourself by describing what you feel to a supportive listener. You might have safe and close and supportive enough friends or family or therapist or chat group where you can talk even when you're really confused about yourself.
Or you may not feel ready for that. But at some point, things will become internally as clear to you as they can be without you taking some further steps externally. Maybe you found a few words that seem to describe your gender and/or sexuality, and you tried them on and, a year later, you see that they still ring true. Good. Might this change? Yes, but that's the beauty of self-discovery. Years from now, you might come out to yourself in new ways. I'm not sure if these discoveries ever really end. But after you've lived with a new discovery internally for a while, taking action in the world is the best way to learn more about yourself. Because you only live once, after all.
Coming out of the closet is not a singular moment where the hero fabulously steps out on stage, loudly and confidently proclaiming their truth. It’s a lifelong journey of self-discovery (as you come out in new ways to yourself) and sharing (as you come out to new people in your life).
Will they accept me? That's always the question when coming out to others.
Coming out will, at some point, make someone around you feel uncomfortable. It's not your fault. But that doesn't make it feel any better to, for example, have someone scowl at you when you come out to them. Learning to weather other people's issues around sexuality is part of the journey.
Queerphobia is so widespread that most people discover over time the ways they have bought into and internalized society's phobias, even unconsciously. This process of rewiring the phobias is a process of learning to celebrate and love parts of ourselves we were taught to hate, or to believe was unnatural, evil, against God, and so on.
Internalized queerphobia can be unconscious
Most queer people in the world have been programmed with some negative ideas and messages from society about queerness, gender, gender roles, mannerisms, and sexuality. This stuff is often so deeply wired that you can't even see it. But the sooner you can spot how you've been socialized with toxic ideas from misinformed people, the sooner we can let it go. Watch this video to see someone beginning to notice and come to terms with their own unconscious queerphobias.
How to Heal
“You can be fully in charge of your life only if you can acknowledge the reality of your body, in all its visceral dimensions.”
— Bessel van der Kolk, “The Body Keeps the Score”
No matter how loving and well-intentioned our childhood home was (or is), we all emerge from childhood damaged by our parents, by our schooling, and by society in one way or another. Which means there's an opportunity for even the most “healthy” of us to heal in ways that we didn't even know we were broken.
Everyone has emotional trauma in their past. It may feel like a negative memory that you keep returning to. Sometimes it's simply the sense that you cannot seem to get out of your head, that your mind is on overdrive all the time and you can't focus, or that you often feel unsafe or triggered. If a negative memory is something that you think should be “no big deal,” that you believe shouldn't be a problem, and that you wish you could just get over, but it keeps coming up, that is trauma.
Some people have a history of trauma with a lowercase t. Some have Trauma with a capital T. Some have both going on. It's possible to heal from all kinds of trauma. A few lowercase-t traumas spread out throughout childhood can be more debilitating than one capital-T trauma.
Trauma, PTSD and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are more common among queer people. Internalized queerphobias are also common and often unconscious. In recent years, we have come a long way in understanding how to help people heal more effectively. Here are some directions and avenues where deeper healing can take place.
One of the pernicious things about childhood trauma is that it can be with you for so long that you come to believe it’s part of who you are.
DIY trauma workbooks
Movies to Watch
The Work, about trauma release inside Folsom prison
Being a Helper
As for being a helper or balancing the role of a helper, these books are fantastic when it comes to navigating your own trauma in relationship to a partner/family member/client/etc. Secondary trauma is real.
Top-down healing (eg. therapy)
Therapy means so many things. There are many kinds of therapists. So, it's worth learning about various modalities (there are many) and talking to several therapists so that your work will be effective. With the wrong kind of therapy, it's easy to waste a lot of money. But the right kind of therapy is absolutely life changing and is worth every penny.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy
EMDR is used for PTSD, depression, anxiety, addiction, and phobias. It is different from talk therapy. It uses eye movement (or sounds or vibrations). When you recall a traumatic memory while doing these calming eye movements, the memory gradually loses its charge.
No one knows quite why it works, but the eye movement is similar to what happens during deep sleep. The theory is that trauma is stored in the part of the brain that isn't accessible via talking, so while talk therapy may feel good at the time, it doesn't always have a lasting impact. EMDR makes it possible to truly heal old trauma, sometimes in just a few sessions.
Video: Healing Trauma with EMDR
Book: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk talks about the power of EMDR and somatic therapies for treating PTSD
Parnell Institute directory of EMDR therapists
Article: “Does EMDR Work?" (The Guardian, 2018)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Aside from EMDR, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been shown to help with trauma release. It is a more traditional talk-centered approach that aims to rewrite the underlying beliefs that lead to depression and anxiety.
App: Sanvello is an app that helps you relieve symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression
Video: Feeling Good TED talk by CBT practitioner David Burns
Book: Feeling Good very popular book that has helped a lot of people with mood disorders, by David Burns
There’s a growing belief that psychedelics, when used in therapy or with a guide, are among the fastest and most effective treatments for complex PTSD. But they come with risks. This is an area of ongoing exploration and recent experimentation, with the FDA currently in stage 3 trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. If all goes as expected, psychedelics will become legal for PTSD therapy in several countries by 2021.
Book: How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan
Video: The future of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy TED talk by Rick Doblin, head of MAPS
Movie: MDMA: The Movie
Movie: Trip of Compassion, about MDMA trials in Israel for trauma release
Neurofeedback uses EEG monitoring to improve brain functioning as you learn to alter your brain activity. By using computer imaging, you receive direct feedback through a “brain map” that indicates areas of your brain with excessive activity associated with PTSD, such as your fear center. Here you learn how to relax your body and mind to activate the outermost layer of your brain; that which is associated with thinking and decision-making. Typically, 20 sessions will give you enough feedback to understand how to facilitate regulation of your body and mind on your own.
Note: Current research does not support conclusive resultes about the efficacy of neurofeedback.
Article: The weird science of neurofeedback
In the act of drawing, the patient makes an initial reorganisation of the form of the trauma, and begins to differentiate the adaptive ego, which has the tools and the ability to restructure the experiences, and the traumatic emotional part that suffers those experiences in a condition of impotence and passivity. The person may rapidly access pre-verbal and motor-sensory language, activating inborn creative skills. The use of this tool enables us to access the traumatic material gently, limiting dissociative reactions, bypassing avoidance and flight behaviour and setting a distance from pain by objectivizing. A protective space is created between the self and the part that holds the suffering. A voice to the inner child. The patient is offered the possibility of drawing what is occurring in the self's here and now, and given a choice of different graphic materials. At the end of the drawing and assessment phase the person is asked to note what has emerged, and a brief space of time may be allowed for description without interpretation.
Can't afford a therapist right now? There are many ways to get free therapy, so don't give up the search. You can go to a training clinic at a university, for a reduced rate. If you're in the US, you may be able to use Medicaid. Call SAMHSA at 800.662.4357 to speak with someone, confidentially, who can help you find options.
Meditation & Spirituality
Meditation is very powerful and can be used to reduce the symptoms of PTSD by calming the nervous system.
Here's a few general books about reconnecting to yourself and your spirituality or consciousness as it exists separate from religion.
Good feels, motivation, and inspiration
Bring in regular motivation and reminders for self-care:
Religion & Spirituality
A lot of LGBTQ oppression comes from religious organizations. So if you come from a religious background, does this mean you have to stop being religious? Not at all. There are lots of options, and many inclusive churches and spiritual communities.
Book: Pray the Gay Away by Bernadette Barton is a study of present-day religious oppression of LGBTQ people in the US
Film: Believer about the Mormon Church's inner struggle with LGBTQ rights, featuring Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons
Film: Trembling Before G-d, a 2001 American documentary film about gay and lesbian Orthodox Jews trying to reconcile their sexuality with their faith.
Affirmation, an independent organization supporting LGBTQ Mormons
Follow a Dead Teacher
Many queer people have suffered from religious shame and oppression growing up. So as adults, it makes sense that they may become untrusting of all religious and spiritual guides, philosophers and teachers of all kinds.
This is unfortunate, because having your own spiritual life is incredibly valuable and healing. One way to proceed and reclaim your own sense of consciousness or spirituality is to follow a dead teacher. A dead teacher has no possible incentive or means to harm you or take anything away from you, so you may find it easier to listen to them.
The best dead teachers, in my opinion, are recently dead teachers who lived during contemporary times. Because you do not need anyone else who is currently alive to help you interpret the words of a recently dead teacher. You can have your own relationship with them, and listen to them directly, and decide for yourself how you want to apply their teachings in your life.
Dead spiritual teachers
J. Krishnamurti, Indian philosopher and writer
Alan Watts, an English philosopher
Suzuki Roshi, spiritual teacher who brought Zen to the United States
H. W. L. Poonja (“Papaji”), Indian sage who taught self-enquiry.
S.N. Goenka, Burmese-Indian teacher of Vipassana meditation—a no-dogma practice of self-directed meditation
Living spiritual teachers
All of the people listed below have offered free media online that can help you. Watch and listen to each of them and see if you connect with any of their messages. All of the people below have your wellbeing in mind.
Bottom-up Healing (body-centered)
Article: Reiki, Tantra, and the Healing Power of Touch
Trauma Sensitive Yoga
TRE Trauma Release therapy
Rolfing is a massage technique that is about balancing the body.
OSHO Dynamic Meditation
Yelling and screaming and beating sticks against trees
Treating yourself to a local spa / sauna / massage / steam room
Tai Chi, Qi Gong, or other body / movement practices
Somatic Experiencing is a body-oriented approach to PTSD healing. It attempts to promote body awareness and release the residual physical tension that remains in the aftermath of trauma. It is sometimes used in combination with EMDR.
Breath Work and Cold Exposure
It seems so simple but breath work and cold exposure can be very powerful for healing. For example, reducing inflammation via cold exposure can be incredibly helpful for depression.
Max Strom / Breathe to Heal
Wim Hof Method (cold exposure)
Holotropic Breathwork, created by Stan Grof as a way of experiencing non-ordinary states of consciousness through breathing
Of course, having sex is fun. But sexuality also has a spiritual component for those who are willing to explore it. It can be very healing, can help you develop self-acceptance and validation of your body. It can help you be in your body more fully.
Queer community sports
Dinners with queer family
Building a circle of trust
Creative writing and journaling
Healing with nature
Ocean adventures: surfing, swimming, kayaking
Wilderness therapy including backpacking, mountain climbing