Samuel’s murder has brought to the fore the victimization that most LGBTI people have been subjected to throughout our lives. Beyond the execrable violence and cruelty with which a group of vermin have ended the life of a boy, this event has removed the individual and collective memory of all of us who are part of this community. I believe that, as a psychologist, my contribution (in addition to the logic of condemnation and regret) should focus on helping us understand what is happening within any of us.
The concept of victimization is often complex to understand in the scientific literature because there seem to be different ways of interpreting it. Most of the studies have been carried out in school and prison settings. There is much less research in fields such as gender violence. But in the words of Ttofi and Farrington (2011), by “victimization” we will understand a process through which brand someone as the target of the aggressions, someone whom others will perceive as a victim and against whom they will direct their attacks. Gay people do not need much explanation of what this process is about: the first cry of “Fagot!” In the town or in the schoolyard we hung the target on our foreheads because of which, and since then, all those who wanted to vent their anger or have fun at someone’s expense, directed their insults, ridicule and aggression against U.S. By identifying ourselves as homosexuals, we were also identified as victims and, from that moment on, everyone attacked us because “that’s what you do with victims.”
In victimology, we talk about three types of victimization (Wolfgang, 1979), and it is good that we know and differentiate them because they will help us to understand this process that I have been talking about:
1. Primary. When we receive an assault we become the victim of that assault.
2. Secondary. Sometimes the institutions blame the victim for the aggression suffered: “Didn’t you provoke him?”, “Wouldn’t you wear your skirt too short?” The social and / or institutional environment burdens the victim with responsibility for the aggression and frees the aggressor from the repercussions.
3. Tertiary. When we are convinced that there is something in us that attracts to the aggressors. When we see ourselves as victims.
Self-perceiving as a victim does not happen in the same way for everyone. There are those who seek redress, there are those who are left vulnerable and there are those who fall into victimhood. And there are those who live it with a little of everything. Most of us know how to flee from victimhood and, in any case, we recognize ourselves as vulnerable people. We seek justice and we work so that the world we live in is a safe world for us and for those who are like us. We organize ourselves socially and we support each other to overcome that vulnerability in which aggressions add us. Much of what we are witnessing in networks these days has to do with this need to express anguish and seek emotional support. It is human and it is healthy. Because, between all of us, we are trying to shake off re-victimization.
Many experts understand by “revictimization” the repetition of the events that make us victims (Messman-Moore and McConnell, 2018), while others understand it as secondary victimization that I have defined a few lines above: the one that occurs when the The police or judicial system blames the victim for a crime or doubts their testimony. For us, these distinctions are not very important because we suffer both the re-victimization of repeated aggressions and the re-victimization of those parents who justify insulting us (“How are they not going to mess with you with that pen you have?”) Or from those teachers they don’t believe us (“Come on, it sure wasn’t that bad, it’s that you take everything very seriously”).
All this leads to a deep re-victimization that we can compare with tertiary victimization and which we are going to call “self-incrimination”, since this is how Schacter and Juvonen (2015) call it. It is this self-blame that ends up convincing you that there is something in you, even if you don’t know exactly what, that causes the rejection of others. You try to change and have less pen. You try hard not to show how much their comments offend you. Shut up and swallow with everything. And this is how you become a victim. You become someone unable to put limits on others, who supports abusive relationships, with self-esteem below the ground and grateful that someone, whoever and whatever, deigns to be your friend or your partner. As anyone would understand, no one deserves to live their entire life in fear, believing that at any moment they can be the next victim and enduring abuse. And that is what our community is rebelling against right now. Because there is something stronger than all the past trauma and pain: our resilience.
The resilience of the LGBT community is so admirable that it has been widely studied (De Lira and De Morais, 2018) because it is amazing that a group of people so abused throughout history has managed to resist and change much of the world and of laws. If we know a lot about minority stress, we also know that one of our greatest strengths lies in our resilience. And the most interesting thing is that this resilience is based on the development of a positive LGBT identity and participation in activism. Being part of a community with which we identify, within which we feel understood and thanks to which we grow is a capital step to shake off victimization. Thanks to that, we stop seeing ourselves as people abandoned to their fate who have no choice but to assume their destiny. We shed that childish feeling of being second-class citizens and become aware not only that we can but that we must demand the fulfillment of our rights. We fight, we defend ourselves, we explain, we convince, we change things. So it has been before and so it will be now. That is why the mobilizations and public demonstrations that you are carrying out are so important and that is why it is so fundamental that this collective movement takes place. Because when we stand firmly on our collective identity, we realize that we are much more resilient than we thought.