When working with any marginalized community that experiences systemic oppression on a daily basis it is imperative to truly understand how that oppression came to exist.
In the United States this begins with the trauma of colonization and the enslavement of BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) for centuries. We believe that transgender and queer communities have also experienced trauma through systemic oppression. We believe it is very important to distinguish between the trauma of oppression that comes from the colonization of this country hundreds of years ago from the trauma of oppression that other communities, in this case the transgender and queer community, experience. It is all trauma; however, the colonization of indigenous, and black and brown people spans multiple generations and is rooted in white supremacy culture.
At Transcend Psychotherapy we wholeheartedly believe in the process of decolonizing the mental health system. We are applying this understanding to our work with transgender and queer identified people. So much of the depression, anxiety and the constant states of trauma that we are suffering are due to systems of oppression. They are due to both covert and overt acts of oppression on our minds, bodies and spirits. Many people experiencing chronic oppression are in a “fight, flight, freeze, or fawn” response much of the time. This is so often the cause of what the “dominant white, patriarchal, heteronormative, gender binary narrative” pathologizes in the form of diagnoses. We cannot separate our “mental health” from what is happening to us systemically and we cannot isolate ourselves in the process of healing.
The process of decolonizing mental healthcare seeks to find healing, meaning, and connection through culturally affirming practices. HOWEVER, it is imperative that we recognize that decolonizing mental health is more than just doing research on cultural competence. Instead, it is recognizing that for marginalized communities, including black, indigenous and brown individuals, as well as transgender and queer individuals, the trauma from chronic systemic oppression plays a major role in the state of their mental health.