What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.
― Brené Brown

Hena Faqurudheen is a mental health professional who has worked at the intersection of trauma, relationships, and social justice over the last decade. She tells how her identities as Muslim and queer often surprise others as it negates stereotypical notions of being Muslim and queer. Both in the country and abroad, these notions continue to prevail.

You don’t look like a stereotype. It’s interesting that there is a stereotype for this.

The privileges that Hena enjoys allow her to exist and act beyond stereotypes. She uses them to spark conversation and debate about the politics of rigid identities. Hena argues that there are different ways to look at things when dominant and powerful sections of society continue to build preconceived notions about marginalized identities.

Hena tells us she knows she represents a possibility; a different mode of being. She has made it her purpose to push conversations forward so that they empower others with hope and the tools to improve life. By not looking 'like a Muslim' or 'typically queer,' Hena has opened up difficult conversations about prejudices and stereotypes surrounding identity - and helped break some preconceived notions. For this, she proposes the practical philosophy of "questioning together."

When we try to occupy spaces as our authentic selves, she says, someone in the room is bound to think that they too can "look like this."

Hena feels that acknowledging and rethinking privilege can take us a long way. Privilege, Hena says, is knowing that “there are certain ways in which I won't be oppressed.” Knowing this is instrumental in devising strategies for change. Rather than the guilt of possessing privilege, one must nurture the capacity to deliver measurable impact in the real world.

What can I do with this? What would help push the envelope a little further? What would help create dialogue?

She believes that conversations are the beginning of understanding. By this, she is not asking everyone to take on the role of an activist. Instead, she asks us to leverage privilege to rethink perspectives even in the smallest circle of family or friends.

Hena’s journey into the world of psychology came from the keen curiosity of wanting to know what makes individuals, including herself, distinct from one another. As a trauma-informed psychotherapist, Hena has also worked with individuals affected by dire disasters. While conversing with us she highlighted the importance of employing multiple perspectives in unpacking trauma.

From a professional point of view, Hena explains that being trauma-informed means understanding the interlinkage between what a person is suffering and what’s going on around her. Hena feels that it is impossible to divorce history from how one experiences trauma. The conversation today, however, she says, is much more receptive to feedback and reform.

After choosing to pursue community-oriented mental health work, Hena trained in disaster-related mental health in Mumbai. She worked on some very serious incidents with her teams. During this time, she worked on complex projects with communities that have faced disastrous situations.

There are systemic influences that allow the prevalence of trauma, and addressing (them) has to come from a holistic perspective.

The experience and the learning that came from this set the stage for Hena to see that there are different ways in which people struggle across society. These are due to oppressive systemic practices, attitudes, and events.

Explaining her view, Hena points to the fact that India has a long history of intergenerational trauma that is carried across regions, cultures, and languages. She continues by mentioning research in the field of epigenetics that shows how historical trauma can induce psychological and physiological changes in the offspring of traumatized communities or societies.

Before we part ways, Hena says that trauma experienced at an early age is more than likely to have a significant influence on the rest of a person’s life. But how well one manages childhood trauma largely depends on one’s access to resources, access, opportunities, and above all, community. In very simplistic terms, the need for relating to one another, and making meaningful connections are some qualities, Hena believes, that will decide how well one can manage, navigate, and eventually overcome trauma.

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