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Empath, Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), LGBTQ, Self Relationship, Trauma

LGBTQ Empaths: High Sensitivity and Hypervigilance

Queer, Trans, and Sacred – QT Magic Series

Dear all,

Queer is Sacred. Trans is Sacred. We are Sacred. Make this your heart affirmation.

Historically, Queer and Trans folks were seen as sacred in many cultures. Those who could walk between the worlds of the spirit and waking life, similar to what we call empaths today. We were a natural and essential part of the community, with a unique path that reflected our gifts.

In these QT Magic Series blog posts, I will be exploring how those gifts can show up in today’s LGBTQIA communities, as well as how to care for these gifts. Additionally, I will be exploring the impact of oppression and trauma on LGBTQIA communities, as well as tools to help heal those experiences. In a time where those in power and those who follow them threaten, attack, and attempt to erase our very existence (again), it is essential to root into and nourish all of who we are. Who we want to be. Who we are becoming.

The Survival Skill of Hypervigilance

Two men sitting together with shirts that speak out against the oppression of LGBTQ communities.
Photo by Ece AK on

To be LGBTQIA often means we traverse many different ways of being in the world. When we feel safe, surrounded by those who love and accept us, we can fully inhabit our selves and take up the space that is rightfully ours.

When we feel unsafe, we rely on unconcious survival skills to navigate the situation and get out safely. This includes hypervigilance.

Hypervigilance is very common in communities that are oppressed, as well as in those who have experienced abuse. Hypervigilance is a survival skill. A survival skill is something that strongly protects you in a time of trauma or threat. This same skill that supports you under threat, can be hurtful to you when you are in a safer place. Survival skills are unconscious adaptions your body-mind makes in order to help you survive a situation it experiences as life-threatening.

Hypervigilance is a heightened state where your body and nervous system are on high alert, constantly scanning for threats. Over time, hypervigilance can become so ingrained that it doesn’t matter if you are in a safer place – your mind and body will continue to scan for perceived threats. This can negatively affect your health, your daily routines, your relationships, and your ability to take up space in the world. It makes it very hard to relax. Trauma-informed therapy, connecting to safer spaces and communities, as well as trauma-informed body healing practices all help in healing hypervigilance.

LGBTQIA communities are subject to pervasive, ongoing oppression, abuse, and trauma. Ongoing oppression can cause PTSD, as well as trauma symptoms such as hypervigilance. This is even more escalated for LGBTQIA communities with multiple identities that are oppressed, such as QTBIPOC and disabled or chronically ill LGBTQIA folks.

The Gift of the LGBTQ Empath

Close up photo of person holding fern leaf, emphasizing the spiritual and natural attunement of highly sensitive people and empaths.
Photo by Rahul Pandit on

Additionally, many LGBTQIA folks can also be highly sensitive people and empaths – those who walk more easily between the seen and the unseen worlds. This means you are more likely to be deeply attuned to the emotional state of others (including animals!). You may also experience deep connection and attunement to the environment around you.

High sensitivity is a neurodivergent way of being where the body-mind has a heightened capacity to notice seemingly imperceptible information from others and the environment. High sensitivity can also include experiencing internal/external stimulus in a significantly more intense way than others. Highly sensitive people and empaths have a greater than average ability to “read” other people and pick up on cues that may not be noticeable to others.

Discerning between High Sensitivity and Hypervigilance

High sensitivity is a natural born neurodivergent trait, not caused by trauma. Being highly sensitive can offer a deep, often spiritual way of experiencing relationships with ourselves, others, and the world. High sensitivity can bring gifts of deep artistry and intuitive, skillful healing abilities. It can increase our appreciation of beauty, and create a heightened capacity for joy and sense of connection. It goes hand in hand with the roles and path LGBTQIA folks have played historically, as those who walk two worlds.

Person watering a potted plant to help ground through hypervigilance.
Photo by cottonbro studio on

At the same time, hypervigilance can often partner with high sensitivity. They can look quite similar, though It’s important to distinguish between the two. Hypervigilance is a survival skill that keeps your body in a heightened state, constantly scanning for threats. This can mimic high sensitivity. However hypervigilance is created from trauma and oppression and is meant as a survival skill, not a way of being. Experiencing chronic hypervigilance is common, and it means your nervous system needs safety and support to feel well, nourished, and calm.

Being highly sensitive or an empath means that you have a neurodivergent way of experiencing the world. Therapy for HSPs and empaths is deeply helpful in discovering how to protect, nurture, and care for these traits in a balanced way. Trauma therapy is an essential component of healing hypervigilance.

The Sacred Path of QT Magic

Rose quartz on a divination deck to help heal the heart and hypervigilance.
Photo by Danielle Rangel on

As an LGBTQ empath, you already have the magic of high sensitivity. You also may have survival skills, such as hypervigilance, that comes with ongoing oppression.

It is important to separate out these experiences. For hypervigilance, we need to receive support to cultivate safety, within our own selves and externally. For high sensitivity, we need to learn to practice boundaries, and how to care for our unique needs. High sensitivity is not the same as hypervigilance, though it can increase our risk of experiencing hypervigilance through trauma.

Look for more posts in the QT Magic series for tips on protecting, nurturing, and cultivating your own high sensitivity gifts and unique magic as an LGBTQ empath. Additionally, look for posts in the QT Magic series for further support tips on healing from trauma, abuse, and oppression.

As always, if you would like support on exploring how to thrive as an empath, intuitive, or highly sensitive person, I am here for you. Please feel welcomed to reach out. As a queer, enby, empath, and highly sensitive therapist, I deeply understand the challenges of this journey. I would be honored to support you.

In Healing,