By Thomas Chung
In his book “Native American Postcolonial Psychology,” Indigenous author and psychologist Eduardo Duran describes the legacy of trauma that Natives have endured since colonization. He also describes how education about hxstorical trauma can provide a cathartic sense of relief to communities that are frequently silenced, and begin the process of healing through shared grief. As LGBTQ+ Hxstory Month begins, I am applying Duran’s teachings to begin the process of healing from trauma imposed on trans and queer people of color.
Almost all of the history we’re taught from an early age is rooted in white supremacy and patriarchy, so the first step to healing is learning about intergenerational devastation caused by American colonialism and imperialism. The hxstories of the people who have been most harmed are not uplifted in schools, and that failure exacerbates the trauma caused by both systems of oppression. For example, most public high school hxstory books lack firsthand accounts of Indigenous people laboring to their deaths in the missionary system, or Black slaves being transported to their perpetual imprisonment, or Chinese rail workers being grossly exploited. The records we’re shown instead are from the perspective of their “employers” — written business receipts.
Similarly, the traumatic Eurocentric binaries of gender and sexuality forced upon trans and queer people of color are never discussed in history textbooks.
This month, I am remembering that same-sex relationships existed in the so-called “Third World” long before the white colonizers came. Those colonizers legalized discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, and the impact was catastrophic. The criminalization of our bodies was intentional, meant to strip us of our identities. Today, trans and queer people of color are being killed because of antiquated laws and ideas instituted by those colonizers. LGBTQ+ folx of color struggle immensely with their identities because they don’t fit into the restrictive labels rooted in a European understanding of gender and sexuality. But this hxstory was erased, which has furthered our trauma.
As trans and queer people, we need to recognize what was done to us and understand that the people who wrote the history we’re taught in schools want to prevent us from learning and remembering our true stories. That is how they stay in power. We must have access to our accurate and complete hxstories and grapple with the hard, genuine narratives of our ancestors/trancestors. We have to record and teach our hxstories amongst ourselves, and then fight for them to be shared broadly in schools.
If we don’t take these steps, we can not begin healing. Healing is how we reclaim power and achieve liberation.