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You Can’t Fix All Your Friends’ Queer Trauma

Radical Ideas: #25 Boundaries

“Unless we’re social workers, we’re not social workers, so employ boundaries and share your limitations as openly as you do your empathy."

"The queer community has often had to look outside of the mainstream for support, mental health-wise," says Shira Erlichman, writer of Odes to Lithium about living with bipolar disorder. "But the idea that we have to bear the entire weight of others' struggles, or provide consistent emotional labor, or even put ourselves in harm's way to aid a friend is a dead-end."

Erlichman is referring to the ways trauma is inherent to queer upbringings. And as a consequence of our disenfranchisement, we often don't have access to the necessary resources or mental health counseling we deserve, and therefore turn to each other and our chosen families for emotional support. "Unless we're social workers, we're not social workers, so employ boundaries and share your limitations as openly as you do your empathy," she says.

We can't "fix" the people we want to nurture, nor do we have an unlimited amount of emotional energy to help heal that hurt. "No matter where we find comfort, guidance, or meaning -- all very important things -- we need to understand that mental illness is just that," she says. "Be honest, so you can heal."

This is one of our 50 Radical Ideas, featured in Out's June/July 2019 issue celebrating Stonewall 50. The three covers feature the enduring legacy of activist Sylvia Rivera, the complicated candidacy of presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, and the triumphant star power of actress Mj Rodriguez. To read more, grab your own copy of the issue on Kindle, Nook, Zinio or (newly) Apple News+ today. Preview more of the issue here and click here to subscribe.

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