As the LGBT community celebrated the passing into law the Marriage Equality Act of New York last week, I was reminded of my clients whose experiences of discrimination have caused deep and damaging wounds in their psyche and spirit.
What is really the effect of discrimination on humans, whether it is due to race, gender, or sexual preference?
It is safe to presume that the effect varies from one person to another – depending on the intensity of the discrimination, the ego strength of the person to handle the incident, and the availability of personal support that cushions the impact of the discriminatory experiences. Kids in school are most vulnerable because belonging is a primary need of children and to be discriminated against can cause a blow on the self-esteem.
The wounds of discrimination can be psychological, emotional and physical. Psychology damage is usually self-doubt, loss of self-esteem, and even lack of personal identity. Emotional wounds are the pains, shame, guilt and anger that the person accumulates through years of being discriminated. Physical injury, which is a common result of bullying, can be fatal even, as can be attested by the incidents of hate crimes in the country and all over the world.
The social cost of discrimination has been thorough studied in the past. But the human, personal cost can only be addressed if the person is willing to go through a process that allows him or her to explore these wounds and undergo a healing process.