Survivor Tips (from a survivor)

It has just been announced that Australia’s marriage equality postal survey is going ahead.

For many LGBTI Australians, tolerance has been the least they have experienced. Most though, have acceptance with their family, friends as well as workplace settings. Australia’s corporates and multi-nationals actually champion and celebrate diversity. Homophobia is being stamped out in sport.

We have a generation who essentially knew nothing of the horrors of imprisonment, institutionalisation, torturous treatments, job losses or overt discrimination etc.

Therefore it has come as a shock to many LGBTI people, to experience opposition so publicly and relentlessly against LGBTI people, our community and relationships.  The safe schools program[1], Gayby Baby[2] and the push for marriage equality have unleashed prejudice, ignorance and fear that many thought were things of the past.

LGBTI people from faith backgrounds could say ‘welcome to our world’. For us, this kind of conflict never went away. And after marriage equality is made law will continue in many contexts.

Since 2000, I have been involved in that conflict at one level or another. Sometimes very publicly and other times behind the scenes fighting battles no one will ever know about.  I’ve seen people come and go.  Some appeared like sky rockets, announcing they were going to change the world and then slipped into oblivion but survivors stay the course.

As a survivor I’ve learnt a few things over the years in order to manage the constant negativity, ignorance and the anger from not only from without but also within. I have written about this before[3] but I’d like to offer some lessons I’ve learnt as they are particularly relevant to what lies ahead for our community over the next few months as the YES and no campaigns on marriage equality are in full swing. Some nasty, cruel, unkind and ignorant things will be said about us, our community, families and relationships.

Social media platforms are both a blessing and a curse. They are potentially places where we can be hurt and harmed. During times like the current marriage equality ‘debate’ that potential is increased and intensified. I see people going off regularly on social media and often wonder just how aware they are of what is actually happening to them.

Here’s my top ten survivor tips

  1. Your mental health is more important than the cause.

Paramount, above everything else is your mental health. Over the next few months you need to be very self-aware, monitor yourself and manage any personal challenges that come your way. Your mental health is more important than the cause. Let me say that again. YOUR mental health is MORE IMPORTANT than the cause.

  1. Know your triggers

Triggers are words, phrases, statements, people or situations. When you are triggered then there is an automatic emotional and/or physical response. The triggers I’m speaking about are the negative ones. Triggers are attached to some trauma or emotional pain from the past. If you aren’t aware of your triggers then they can set you off into paths of anger, hostility, depression etc. If you are aware you can handle these situations more rationally.

  1. Take a break

There is the potential to spend hours and hours in ‘the battle’ but that wouldn’t be unhealthy. Most people wait till it’s too late to have a break. When they finally do, they are so wound up it will take them forever to release the angst. Better to walk away sooner. Pace yourself. Do something that requires your total attention so those other nasty little thoughts won’t creep back in and rob you of your recuperation time.

  1. Some things are best ignored

Not everyone will agree with me on this and that’s okay (I’m not going to fight you on it. See tip 5).  Giving them oxygen or publicity exposure only increases their influence. Many of you will remember Rev Fred Phelps, the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) of Topeka, Kansas and their disgusting God Hates Fags signs. WBC is an incestuous ‘christian’ cult of less than 100 people. Who gave them the international notoriety they craved?

Margaret Court, once a tennis star, now aging (75) pastor of a small church (300-400 is small in Pentecostal circles) in Perth, writes an open letter published in the local newspaper to Alan Joyce the CEO of Qantas saying she will no longer fly on that airline because of Joyce’s support for marriage equality. Who was listening? Anyone out there really thought this was relevant or even mildly influential? I do wonder what would have happened if the letter had actually been ignored instead of inciting a media frenzy? Margaret would not have flown Qantas?

The latest thing has been the fag posters in Melbourne. How did they get plastered all over Facebook over and over again. Triggered. People were being triggered.  I could write an whole expose about that saga – the pro and con’s and what was going on behind the scenes but now there are more important things to focus on.

I find the best way to know how to respond is to ask myself some questions.

  1. Is this just click bait or hate bait?
  2. Am I passing this on because I got triggered?
  3. Will passing this on be hurtful to others?
  4. Am I giving these morons publicity they don’t deserve?

BTW……only YOU can answer those questions.

  1. Don’t turn on the tribe

During highly emotionally charged times our anger/frustrations can get misdirected. You may not agree, actually you will never agree with what everyone says or does. Leave it at that. This is not a time for us to put our energies into tearing each other apart. We need to stand shoulder to shoulder for our common cause; EQUALITY and a better future for all LGBTI people.

  1. Promote some positives

It is really easy to  keep recycling the negative things happening out there but there are positive things happening as well. Whilst there are Christians and churches strongly opposed to marriage equality there are also Christians and churches how are passionate about our cause for justice and equality. Promote them. Find a positive story a pass it on.

  1. Name calling  – you can do better than that

Name calling is a rather childish behaviour that should have been left in the primary school playground. Homophobe, bigot, hater are labels I don’t use. They certainly don’t encourage debate or dialogue.

  1. Don’t poke the bear

When people are opposing you, resist the temptation to have another dig. Sarcasm might be clever but not helpful. None of this actually helps the cause and only reinforces the other person’s negative view.

  1. Wear clean underwear – you’re representing the family

Was your mother one of those mothers who used to say ‘I hope you have clean underwear on. I’d hate it if you had an accident and your underwear was dirty. What will people think of the family’. It’s funny and ridiculous at the same  time. In the back of my mind I remind myself  that everything I write, say and do I am not just speaking for myself but I’m always representing the tribe. It can be a useful strategy for tempering responses. The way some people behave only undermines our message and cause and gives fuel to those opposed to our equal rights.

  1. Don’t lose your sense of humour

I haven’t. I did for a while. I became too serious and too intense. Honestly, some things don’t deserve getting angry over they should be laughed at. When you are out with your friends and discussing the current trial we are going through don’t forget to have fun, have a laugh and have a break.

Now’s a good time to remind ourselves to never underestimate the strength and resilience of the LGBTI spirit.

We’ve been attacked, humiliated and abused. imprisoned,  excluded from churches, rejected by friends and family, institutionalized, lobotomized, treated as pariahs, denied basic rights ……….AND YET WE SURVIVE.

This too shall pass ……….and in the meantime be kind to yourself and to others.

Do something positive now. Share this on social media using the buttons below.

If you need help at any time.

Q Life   Online Chats or Call 1800 184 527 . 3pm to midnight in your state around Australia, every day.

Lifeline  Crisis support Chat Call 13 11 14

Beyond Blue  Call 1300 22 46 36