I once heard a transgender youth state, “What I most want from people is that they celebrate that I’m male now – and then forget about it.”*
This stuck with me because the enormity of what this young man had accomplished with the support of his family was hugely courageous. On the other hand, he didn’t do it as a statement or to be courageous. He did it because it fit; he felt right. All he wanted from others was a tacit acknowledgment that he was male – to do more than “pass” – he wanted to be accepted for who he was.
GLBT competent counseling isn’t necessarily directly about being G or L or B or T… or Q or I or any other letters you can add there. Often issues in counseling are informed by how society has responded to these sexual identity minorities; however, it starts with welcoming and valuing people first. My clients are people who want safety, security, acceptance and a sense of belonging. They are people who want to love and be loved openly.
Unjustly, living in our society as a sexual minority often means trying to create the illusion of fitting into a heterosexist society to be safe. This concealed stigma – the closet – is a safe, but stifling coping skill where risk of loss increases over time. The effect is social isolation of the true self, and the risks of exposure are high. Coming out of the closet could mean loss of a job, church, family, friends, child custody, even at times, wives and husbands. Depression and anxiety are responses that healthy people have when faced with these very real threats of loss and rejection. Some research suggests the depression and anxiety tied to concealed stigma is more harmful than to outright discrimination faced by ethnic and cultural minorities.
Other issues relating to sexual identity and orientation exist beyond the closet and discrimination. People struggle with histories of assault, trauma, AIDS, body image, relationships and intimacy, eating disorders, substance abuse, domestic violence, rape, cutting, and molestation histories. What is important to understand in therapy is that these issues are not present because of the sexual identity. These traumas and struggles did not create their sexual orientation either. They are only issues for therapy because bad things have happened to otherwise healthy people who want to live more free and fulfilled lives.
“I guess I should tell you I’m gay,” another young man started his third session with me.* He almost looked angry. “Thank you for trusting me with that,” I replied, “Do you have a boyfriend?” He visibly exhaled and his posture softened. “I like a guy…,” he trailed off tentatively. “Tell me more about him,” I invited. His face brightened and for the first time in weeks I felt like I was privileged enough to see his true self glowing through the crack he had opened in the closet door.
If you, or someone you know, is looking for a GLBTIQ friendly environment, for whatever their social or emotional needs or their place in the coming out process call today.
1001 South 70th Street
Lincoln, NE 68510
(402) 325-0117 ext 1
*Examples are of no single client and are representative of years of experience with many different clients of different sexual orientations and identities.