The Right to Truth

Truth and Psychology

Psychologists note that a key factor driving psychological distress is when people live in social environments which pressure them to conceal, suppress, and deny their emotional truths (Laing, 1965). This is especially the case for marginalized minorities living in oppressive societies, whose truths about injustice are often silenced to uphold the status quo.  When forced to deny their truth, many citizens become disconnected from themselves and reality as they strive to cope with the insidious effects of sociopolitical trauma on a daily basis: “one attempts to live in a world without seeing it clearly. How can one be at home in such a world out of focus? How can one not feel disconnected, even unreal?” (Watkins & Shulman, 2008). Healing from such sociopolitical trauma involves restoring citizens’ contact with their reality and truth.

Truth and the Law

The United Nations asserts that citizens have an “inalienable right to the truth” regarding gross human rights violations.  The UN states that the “desire to know” is a basic human need, because citizens who have been victimized by sociopolitical violence experience profound psychological anguish if they are deprived access to the truth about the injustices that have impacted them. The UN perceives “the right to truth” as both an individual and collective right, because public truth-telling about human rights violations can prevent societies from repeating sociopolitical injustices in the future.

Truth and the Closet

Heteronormative societies revoke “the right to truth” from LGBTQ citizens using the oppressive instrument of the closet. The closet is upheld by public policies which prevent LGBTQ people from expressing their truths, such as the criminalization of homosexuality, the lack of legal protection against LGBTQ discrimination, the lack of healthcare coverage for transgender medical care, and the transgender ban in the U.S. military. Being forced to silence one’s truth and live in self-denial can be traumatizing, causing psychic fragmentation, dissociation, or madness. These policies also silence LGBTQ people from speaking the truth about experiences of being societally oppressed for being queer. In doing so, society silences LGBTQ citizens’ truths about the very nature of their sociopolitical oppression. Revoking the right to truth can have grave psychological consequences for LGBTQ citizens, who may internalize the oppression if they are not conscious of it, leading to traumatic shame and possibly suicide. Revoking the right to truth can also have psychological costs for entire societies steeped in institutionalized oppression, because they distort the truth about the sexual and gender diversity of its population. Consequently, citizens believe the lies that LGBTQ identities are abnormal, rather than natural manifestations of the sexual and gender spectrum.

Restoring the Right to Truth

LGBTQ people can restore their right to truth by identifying safe people with whom to come out and speak their truths–not just the truths about their sexual orientation or gender identity, but about the daily ups and downs of their emotional lives. Specific friends or family members, local or online support groups, and LGBTQ-affirmative psychotherapists can all serve as safe people with whom to share the full spectrum of their humanity and restore their contact with themselves, their truths, and their realities.

Society is also responsible for restoring queer citizens’ right to truth. This requires society to “come out of the closet” as a collective and acknowledge multiple truths: that institutionalized homophobia and transphobia run deep in the foundations of our society; that this institutionalized oppression has tragic consequences upon LGBTQ citizens and their loved ones; and that sexual and gender identity is much more diverse across the population than openly acknowledged, thereby making it a normal aspect of society.  It also requires societies to strike down laws that silence LGBTQ citizens’ personal truths and force them into the closet.

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