Mindfulness and LGBT healthcare
LGBT individuals have shown to have higher rates of depression versus the general population. This, plus greater instances of chronic pain due to the long-term effects of HIV, should make them consider the practice of mindfulness.
But what is mindfulness? Mindfulness meditation involves being acutely aware of mental/ physical sensations with acceptance and compassion.
This supposedly allows the self to transcend those same sensations and be present in the moment.
More importantly, a growing number of healthcare professionals are prescribing the practice to patients dealing with mental health issues (depression, anxiety) or chronic pain.
Mindfulness and LGBT experience
Psychotherapist Payam Ghassemlou noted that most LGBT individuals “often spend many years of their childhood in a state of hyper-vigilance in order to be ready for possible homophobic attacks.”
“Spending many years of not knowing what is around the corner can condition the brain to be in a constant state of over reactivity and might cause severe anxiety. It can also condition many LGBT people to relate to the future with a sense of threat instead of optimism,” Ghassemlou said.
In addition to psychotherapy, Ghassemlou said mindfulness practices can help them stop living life based on past conditioning: “For LGBT people who grew up mistreated and had to rely on hyper-vigilance as a survival skill, mindfulness can help them be in the moment without getting lost in catastrophic thinking.”
Ghassemlou is not the only who believes this as most LGBT mindfulness advocates have been inclined to underscore how meditation can help promote healing from the traumas of homophobia.
It also underscores how important it is for LGBT individuals to have options when selecting a meditation group that considers their sexual identity.
Some community centers that have mindfulness meditation as part of their regular offerings have in fact begun to focus on integrating the LGBT experience into their sessions.
Mindfulness and LGBT identity
Many LGBT voices have made themselves heard within these communities and are enriching the practice as a result.
Columnist Jay Michaelson points out that queer theory is playing a significant part in the evolution of mindfulness practices in the West.
Michaelson said this “captures much about how I experience my gender identity: as not fitting into boxes (including ‘gay’), as being defined according to a variety of contingent cultural conditions, and as intersecting with other vectors of oppression far more interesting than the gender of my emotional and physical life-partner.”
“This, I think, is true for many practitioners, regardless of sexual orientation,” he added.
For many LGBT individuals, the idea that they are rigidly defined by their sexual identity can be a major source of stress and anxiety.
Mindfulness meditation’s focus on compassion and empathy may help them reconcile their sexual identity with outside perspectives to improve their health and overall quality of life.