09/02/2022 | Writer: Aras Örgen

Aras Örgen wrote queers, well-being and activism #forequality.

Queers, well-being and activism Kaos GL - News Portal for LGBTI+

I have been planning to write a compilation about well-being, which is lack of definition although being a growing research area at recent years, for a while. I aimed to answer some questions related to definition of well-being, its meaning for queers, the necessities considering well-being for queers with different identities, the relation between activism and well-being and things to do for maintaining well-being, with this article. As you may notice in the article, well-being is a quite dynamic concept and there is a wide range of discussions and methods related to it. Exactly through this dynamism and to a degree uncertainty, I planned an introduction in respect of well-being within the scope of queerness and activism.

While writing this article, I was really inspired by my readings on the subject, and as a result I dreamed about what to do for maintaining individual and collective well-being. Although the system isolates us, I noticed that thinking on well- being, itself, is a political action, during this imagination period. I hope to imagine more about our well-being! I wish you good reading.  


Well-being is a growing area of research, especially in recent years, yet the question of how it should be defined remains unanswered. (Dodge, Daly, Huyton, & Sanders, 2012). The studies from the past to the present day, have focused purely on dimensions and dynamism of well-being, rather than on definition. Although there is not a conventional definition on it, well-being may be described as existence of positive emotions and psychology (satisfaction, happiness, and etc.) and abessive of negative emotions (depression, anxiety, and etc.), it includes life satisfaction, gratification and positive running (CDC, 2018).

The concept of well-being may also be correlated with psychological, economic, emotional, physical and social well-being of individuals (Banceviča & Gataūlinas, 2014). In fact these dimensions are used to measure and evaluate well-being. As the dimensions are dynamic and interbedded, an integrated approach is necessary for evaluating well-being (Uymaz, 2021). However, as well-being is not only related to individual well-being but also related to collective well-being for “the communities who are marginalized and oppressed by the society” like LGBTI+s, this integrated approach is essential for measuring well-being (Roberts & Christens, 2021). In addition social and political factors (bans, oppression, public morality, and etc.) that affect inter dimensional impact directly, should always be considered in the studies (Carter & Cecily, 2019).

LGBTI+s and well-being

LGBTI+s face higher risks for some kind of mental health issues due to the effects of discrimination and social determinants of health (access to services, economic and social level) in their experiences of mental health and well-being (Rainbow Health Ontario & CMHA Ontario, 2021). Accordingly it is essential to integrate multiple perspectives and to keep in mind different needs and different experiences in the group while thinking or working on well-being of LGBTI+s. Perceived well-being may be distinct in terms of its’ dimensions and affects, just as the experiences of a cisgender gay man and a lesbian trans woman in the community of LGBTI+ (Bower, Lewis, Anneliese , & Bermúdez , 2021). These factors may be expanded by age, gender, economic and social level, race, HIV and etc. from an intersectional view. This also underlines the distinct experiences of each person in the group as well as the varying needs.

According to the detailed annotation prepared in 2021, by Rainbow Health Victoria, an Australia-based program, bisexuals, trans and gender diverse people have distinct mental health and well-being needs (Rainbow Health Victoria, 2021). In the report, it has been remarked, especially with Covid-19 pandemic period, that trans and gender diverse people face higher rates of depression and anxiety, and their housing and socialization need is more than cisgender people, and all these affect their well-being negatively. As for bisexuals, level of stress, originating from stigma inside and outside of the community, affects their well-being more negatively compared to lesbians and gays (Rainbow Health Victoria, 2021). Despite the fact that the context is not same, LGBTI+s also have distinct needs arising from different experiences specific to Turkey as well. Especially people with intersectional identities; LGBTI+s living with HIV (Güzel & Dikmen, 2020), elderly LGBTI+s (Öz, 2020) and intersex people may experience multiple discrimination (Kaos GL, 2019), therefore internal and external threats for their well-being may be more than other identities in the group.

In the light of these information, we may say that well-being as a dynamic concept and well-being issues may bring the concept of resilience over, due to the internal and external factors which affect well-being. Although resilience, which is a dynamic concept itself such as well-being, is related to coping with difficulties and surviving physically at first sight, nowadays it is perceived as an ability to survive under emergency cases and changing conditions regarding the social factors (Mayuk, 2020). While well-being gives us a general framework, resilience places this framework as a factor which affects well-being positively. Coping with the potential negative experiences in the future is also considered within these factors (Bacon & Mguni, 2012). Herein resilience in political agenda should also be considered beside discrimination, violence and inability to access rights experienced by LGBTI+s, while evaluating their well-being.

In this direction we have to keep in mind that LGBTI+s are more powerful together considering the positive impacts of being organized on resilience and well-being (Roberts & Christens, 2021). However people engaged in human rights activism regularly may experience higher level of stress, burnout and vicarious trauma related to both internal and external factors (Nah A. M., 2021). The relation between activism and well-being is going to be dwelled on in the article from now on.

Activism and well-being

Due to the fact that human rights are guaranteed by international documents and agreements, both individual and collective works are conducted in order to actualize rights and maintain the sustainability of achievements. As activism is practiced against violation of rights, it brings multiple violence and discrimination over. While violation of rights, itself, may be traumatic, an abuse of right experienced by an acquaintance or faced, during working period in detail, may cause trauma for right defenders. (Yılmaz, 2019).

Some individual and collective precautions may be taken against trauma, stress, depression, lack of motivation and burnout by admitting them and believing in being able to overcome the issues while practicing activism. Starting out with the aim of sustainable activism, evaluating our well-being and resilience and internalizing the studies related to the subject may affect us positively (Amnesty International Australia, 2020). Collective well-being is also as essential as individual well-being for a sustainable activism model. Well-being of a person in our group or our community, affects all of us. Group dynamics is closely related to collective well-being especially in the groups which practice activism (University of York, 2017).

Individual and collective well-being

Neo-liberal policies and capitalist economy prompt us to become isolated and to be individualist. Such kind of prompting also affects our approach to well-being, indeed (Ulex Project, 2017). Especially people practicing activism usually seek solutions in themselves while they are thinking on well-being and they may draw a conclusion related to examining sufficiency of their own resources (Nah A. M., 2021). It is worth noting that we are seeking a solution to the factors which affect our well-being negatively from an individual view while we are practicing a collective struggle.

While working on well-being, we have to keep in mind that collective well-being is based on individual well-being, and selfcare may be a beginning for maintaining collective well-being for our group in which we find our self-perceiving by being member of the group (Amnesty International, 2021). Analyzing the history, trauma and components of the group in detail, may liberate our perception which is based on “individual responsible well-being” and give a room to considerations about collective well-being. Such kind of liberation prevent us making a profit-oriented evaluation on well-being (Davies, 2015). Herein radical healing concept, which is a method arising from the experiences of black people who are struggling for their rights in USA, may inspire us about well-being and resilience for queers.  

Radical healing involves being or becoming whole in the face of identity-based “wounds”, which are the injuries sustained because of our membership in an oppressed racial or ethnic group. These injuries may be sustained because of stolen lands, enslavement, colonization, exploitation, internment camps and attempted erasure of these histories from public memory, as well as because of our families. Radical healing underlines the importance of challenging to the oppressed circumstances which causes these wounds and changing them (Comas-Diaz, 2007). In essence, radical healing involves personal and collective actions that promote living a life with dignity and respect (Neville et al., 2019). Especially experiences of Black queers in USA, indicates that radical healing affects collective well-being positively and increases interpersonal solidarity and communication (McNeil-Young et al., 2021). Another study conducted among queer and non-white students demonstrates that safe spaces created by intersectional identities on the basis of radical healing, form a valuable scope to cope with stress and trauma and affect individual well-being positively (Vaccaro & Mena, 2011).

“Radical healing incorporates strategies that address the root causes of trauma by building on the strengths of individuals and engaging the general and culture-specific practices of their community that promote resilience and wellbeing. Such strategies can include community healing circles, intergenerational storytelling and advocacy work.” (Neville, et al., 2019)

When we think on radical healing specific to queers; discovering our historical traumas, thinking on our collective memory, feeling responsible for our own well-being and well-being of each other and binding up wounds together may be an experience that strengthens us and increases our resilience.


Considering the dynamism, dimensions and internal and external factors which affect well-being negatively, we may see that various interventions are necessary for a positive change related to the well-being of queers. These interventions, which has to be designed individually and collectively, may provide an opportunity for a healing process which is based on selfcare and  involves paying regard to well-being of each other in the group. As well as this process, itself, is a well-being practice, the results of the process would affect our resilience positively. Considering the problems experienced during activism, from a collective view by sharing them within the group, instead of an individual perspective may be a practice which increases our well-being. In addition conducting more organizational studies and practices would also strengthen all of us.

We all have unique experiences and distinct well-being needs as LGBTI+s. Keeping this in mind, starting a radical healing process from selfcare to collective well-being, make a recuperative well-being study possible by getting on the same page which requires a liberation from the norms imposed by the society.   

*This article was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Kaos GL Association and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.



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