Historically gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people have been stigmatized culturally and this has been bolstered by the practice of labeling us mentally ill. Homosexuality was removed from the DSM in 1987 and is no longer considered a form of mental illness. It never was. What was diagnosable, was the forms of trauma that gay and lesbian people experienced as a result of being shamed, criminalized, harassed, abused, rejected, and living in the closet. Shame grows in secrecy.
Affirmative therapy is a term that applies to the practice of affirming LGBTQ people as inherently healthy and whole and an expression of human diversity. This difference and uniqueness is celebrated and affirmed. So when we set to work on issues of life, we are not making the issue about one’s identity, rather, we are affirming one’s identity and considering the problem through the lens of your unique experience as an LGBTQIA person. This may be very relevant, or it may have little relevance to the problem at hand. But you can rest assured that your identity and your personhood are not under scrutiny and you can know that your therapist, is knowledgeable about diversity and approaches you with honor and unconditional regard.
Many of my clients come to see me not because they are LGBTQIA; but because they are in a life transition, a stale relationship, an existential depression, a mid life crisis, a divorce, a career change, and they happen to been or many of those letters. Life continues after coming out and it can take some hard turns. Turning to therapy as a way of navigating your life concerns will be much more productive when your therapist has a deep appreciation for your journey as an LGBTQ person.
After two decades of committed activism on behalf of sexual and gender minorities, I opened Therapists 4 Equality as a private practice space for providers who serve the LGBTQIA community.
While a large portion of my clientele is LGBTQIA, I see people who are heterosexual, cisgender, and straight as well. Many of these clients tell me how much they appreciate walking into a space that is clearly centered around LGBTQIA and social justice. They express feeling welcomed, and more aware than ever of the intersection of mental health and gender equality and justice.
Family members of LGBTQIA people also come to see me for a variety of reasons. These parents share with me how appreciative they are to be able to talk about their lives without having to educate their therapist about sexuality or gender diversity. And many of them are struggling with the very real and natural process of learning about their loved ones identity and how that person’s coming out or transitioning has an impact on the relationship and the family system. They too are learning about homophobia and transphobia and the gender binary and how through no fault of their own, they have to work a little to recalibrate their thinking about these ideas, in order to have a fuller and more open relationship to their journey.