Trauma, Stress, and Resilience Among Sexual Minority Women: Rising Like the Phoenix: Kimberly F. Balsam
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In June 2002, in the midst of editing this volume, I attended a women’s dance that was being held in conjunction with the annual Vermont Pride celebration. Because this was one of a few such events in this part of Northern New England, women from all over the geographical region were in attendance, and I found myself looking out into a crowd of mostly unfamiliar faces. Attending Pride events has always been a powerful emotional experience for me, as it is for many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people; yet this time I found myself reflecting on a deeper level about the implications of my academic work. Looking out at these anonymous women, I felt a sense of awe and amazement. In her own unique way, each of these women had been faced with the conflict between her own desires and those deemed “acceptable” by society. Each woman had faced, on a daily basis, the challenge of being the “other.” Furthermore, given data from my dissertation (Balsam, 2002) and other recent studies (e.g., Corliss, Cochran, & Mays, 2003; Tjaden, Thoeness, & Allison, 1999), I was aware that these women, to a greater extent than their heterosexual counterparts, had also faced the trauma of interpersonal violence in their families and communities. And yet here they were, laughing, rejoicing, celebrating their pride and connection with each other. This juxtaposition struck me, and I found myself wondering about the myriad of ways that sexual

minority women thrived in the face of adversity. What kinds of challenges had they faced? What did it mean for a woman already living with the stresses of homophobia to experience physical or sexual abuse? How did they make sense of their experiences? Where did their resilience come from?