The Friday Question: How it works
Every Friday we will pose a question for you all to discuss or privately consider. You can engage with it publicly here on the RFAS blog, or you can join our forum (details below) for a more private discussion. You can write it down to think about later, journal about it, or bring it in to a therapy session with you.
If you would like to volunteer to become a moderator and host future Questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org—or join our forum and post in the moderator volunteer thread. If you just have an idea for a future Question that you want to share, we have a brainstorming topic on our forum.
Something to Ponder Today
In the past few weeks, we’ve received three different asks related to the topic of gender-based triggers. It is completely normal, and very common, to experience things like this after trauma. I’m just going to go ahead and quote Queenie:
That isn’t an uncommon experience among survivors of all stripes. Trauma reactions and triggers can be extreme specific (the smell of oranges, a certain song) or wildly general (people of a certain gender, people wearing leather jackets). For example, there was a period of time where I would experience a huge spike in anxiety any time I saw someone of the same general height as my first attacker. (Fortunately, he was very tall, so it was an infrequent occurrence.) I knew, logically, that just because someone was over a certain height didn’t mean that they were going to hurt me, but my brain had made a faulty connection between “super tall people” and “super dangerous people,” so it would panic at inopportune times. So, basically, some of that being flustered and feeling self-conscious and exposed might be a trauma reaction or a trigger–to put it simplistically, your brain might be going, “Oh my gosh, a man, that’s dangerous!”
Our brains can pick up on anything that reminds us of our traumatic experiences, and throw out strong reactions to protect us from any similar situations—no matter how illogical it may seem. It’s important to remember that these are symptoms, not your true understanding of the world.
So with that in mind, here is a place to explore this topic.
Do you have any gender-related triggers? What do they look like, and how do you deal with them?
- What kind of feelings about gender come up for you? Fear or nervousness? Anger? Aversion or disgust? Suspicion?
- Are your triggers generalized to all of the people of the gender that you’re most triggered by (for example, all women), or are you triggered rather by certain traits (like tallness, or certain clothing or hairstyles) but only when those traits are expressed in a person of a certain gender? Are there other factors playing into this besides gender?
- Do any cultural messages or stereotypes you have received through your upbringing contribute to your triggers? (Have you been taught, for example, things like “men only want one thing”?)
- How have people reacted when they learn of your gender-based trauma reactions? Do you tell people, or try to hide it as much as possible? Has anyone ever used your triggers against you to invalidate your orientation?
- Have you ever tried to desensitize yourself to these triggers, or process through them? How do you usually cope with them? Do you have any advice or ideas for others who might be going through something similar?
You don’t have to answer every (or any!) question, of course. These are just different ways to approach the topic which might be helpful to consider.
On the Forum
- You can discuss this question privately after registering at the forum
- Here are instructions for how to join the forum
- Here’s the invite request form
- You can also still discuss previous questions as well. There is no time limit for joining the discussion.
Please note that we are still working things out in the forum, including rules, guidelines, structures, and technical issues. We are gradually letting people in now who are not moderators or volunteers, but it can basically be considered “in beta” for now. So if you do join, please excuse our forum being a bit of a mess while we get everything tested. There may also be a little bit of a wait time for sending out invites.
Here are a couple of things you should know about posting to the forum:
- All posts are private, and can only be viewed by members
- It is against forum rules to discuss any personal stories shared on the forum with anyone who is not a member without permission of the person who shared it
- You can post as anonymous, once you are a member
The Spoiler Tag
You can hide especially triggering details behind a spoiler tag—which also works in blog comments. Here’s an example:
[spoiler title=’Triggering stuff’ collapse_link=’true’]Explicit/triggering material would go here.[/spoiler]
To make one, just type…
[ spoiler ] ... [ /spoiler ]
…without the spaces. I hope that this helps everyone safely navigate this conversation.