The problem with triggers

Yesterday the Auckland Pride Festival board announced the Police will not be allowed to march in the parade in uniform, and if they wish to participate it must be in t-shirts or fancy dress.

The backlash was swift and brutal and continues to grow with calls for a boycott of the parade.

There are issues of internal politics and how the wishes of a tiny minority can hold the rest to ransom. But that isn’t the crux of the matter.

It comes down to trying to help people who are “triggered” by things that cause mental distress. For some LGBT people, the presence of police causes this because they have had extremely traumatic experiences with police abuse. It makes total sense, and my heart goes out to these people. We are all very familiar with instances of abuse by a tiny minority of “bad cops”.

But here’s my take…

I get triggered by religious stuff – seriously! When I see a cross I can feel a churning and anxiety inside, and it always throws up memories of my experiences in church and conversion therapy. When I see religious organisations marching in the Pride parade, I get the same reaction, even if they are in t-shirts and are obviously loving genuine LGBT inclusive organisations! If I had my way and followed my gut feelings I would try to get them banned from marching.

But I recognise that the whole problem is mine. I’m the one getting triggered by my experiences. It’s my responsibility to face the issue and take full responsibility for it and be brave enough to work through my problems – NOT project them on to other people and demand they “disappear” so I can feel comfortable.

So, going back to the parade, the reactions of the vast majority of people is that the police are 100% supportive and work hard to protect us. Sure, we all get that twinge of anxiety when we see a cop in the rear view mirror, or walking towards us on the street, but that’s something we all recognise and dismiss as our own problem. If we discriminate against the police because a handful of people are basically projecting their fears onto to the rest of us we are not doing anyone a favour.

I daily face my triggers, but never do I demand that people stop doing something because it triggers me – and of course, this has nothing to do with abuse in any form, which I will address in no uncertain terms!

So to all you beautiful LGBT folks who are genuinely triggered and don’t feel safe seeing police in uniform – I get it! I really do! I genuinely feel compassion and empathy for you and support you 100%. But that support is towards your healing and growth into personal wholeness. I won’t actively trigger you, but neither will I shelter you from triggers, because avoiding them will never, ever bring the peace we crave.

It’s time to “get real”, and that can be bloody hard. It can hurt and cause distress, but in the end we have to face it. For me, no matter how much I get triggered by my own abuse issues, I refuse to demand others change to pander to my problems. I will speak out against religious abuse, I will present alternatives to the prison of religion, but I have no right to expect religious organisations to conform to my expectations.

We are one glorious species of amazingly complex creatures. Let’s work together, recognising that rejecting others because of our own fears builds division – not unity.