We can’t talk about being Queer without talking about time. Even the words we use are so dependent on our generation. I’m in my 40’s, so I use Queer when talking about myself and my identity. It is a word that filtered into my consciousness when I was in high school in the 1990’s. It’s a reclaimed word, and like all reclaimed words, means something different to different generations. Clients I’ve worked with who are a generation older feel it as a threatening word – a slur. Younger clients might think it’s an outdated or quaint word, and might resonate more with LGBTQIA+ or Alphabet Mafia or…any number of new ways we choose to describe who we are.
Beyond the words are the experiences. Someone who grew up before Stonewall is going to experience their identity differently than someone who grew up with Obergefell as the law of the land.
LGBTQIA+ affirming therapy means attuning to you. It means having an awareness that the way you think about your identity is shaped by when and where you grew up, your family narratives, your cultural and racial background, religious upbringing, disability status, socioeconomic status….in short, nobody is Queer in a vacuum. And…we know that even within our community, not everyone plays nice together all the time. Some people feel on the margins of the margins, and struggle to find a place to belong. We can name that so we can talk about it.
We’re humans and being Queer is one part of who we are. Maybe when you come to therapy, it is absolutely the most important part of your identity and it’s front and center in our discussions. Or maybe it’s just a part of you that you don’t want minimized or forgotten, but it doesn’t need to be the focus of conversations. You lead the way.
And let’s talk about gender. Exploring gender identity is also about time. People older than me might explore gender within the construct of the gender binary, and that’s totally ok. People younger than me might have a level of fluidity and fluency about gender that I deeply envy. That’s pretty awesome, too. The point is that you come in as yourself.
Let’s also talk about partners. Not only do we help people who are exploring their identities – we also help people whose partners are exploring their identities. Maybe they are exploring new attractions, possibly even discussing opening your relationship? Maybe they are changing their body so it better aligns with their inner truth, but their “before” body was the one that attracted you and now you don’t know what to think? What if you’re trying so hard to understand what they’re going through and why this has all come out all at once? Partners need a safe space where they can talk about all the complex feelings of support and love and confusion that come from loving someone who is changing.
One more thing – families and kids. Maybe you’re raising a gender expansive kiddo – you want to do right but you can’t shake the “shoulds” running through your brain. These shoulds are intergenerational trauma. There was a time when being a “real man” or a “good girl” would genuinely help keep you safe, and not being those things was dangerous. The world has changed, but it would be naive to say that it’s completely safe for Queer and Trans people. So how do you help your kid grow up with a healthy awareness of safety but also a healthy confidence in their right to exist? If you are a cis-hetero person, how do you navigate your family member’s experience of coming out, with its attendant homophobia and transphobia? Many parents of younger kids describe a family coming out process, as you navigate affirming your kid while arranging playdates or navigating relationships with other parents. Whether you’ve never been on the receiving end of homophobia and transphobia, or you’ve experienced it in relation to your own identity, navigating how to support and protect your child can be deeply disorienting and difficult.
Your job isn’t to educate your therapist, and your therapist isn’t here to tell you the “right” way to be. We know that internalized oppression is real, and we’re here to help you process through the conflicting things you feel.
I invite you to come talk with us. Bring your whole self. I’m happy to see you here.
Katherine Walter, Clinical Director
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