Doris Bersing, PhD
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LGBT Youth and Conversion Therapy

Born PerfectConversion therapy or restorative therapies are, ethically and intrinsically, wrong when trying to change an individual’s sexual preference based on homophobia and extreme religious beliefs. These types of treatment have been a source of controversy in the United States and other countries. The American Psychiatric Association has condemned “psychiatric treatment, such as reparative or conversion therapy which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per-se is a mental disorder thus the need to revert the “disease” by changing your sexual preference.The issue is more serious when it comes to youth since they do no have the legal right to oppose their parents’ decisions. Well, for now a victory!

Samantha Ames, Esq. Staff Attorney & Born Perfect Campaign Coordinator for NCLR  just announced, moments ago, the District of Columbia Council unanimously approved a bill that will protect LGBT youth from conversion therapy.  When signed into law, Washington, D.C. will become the third jurisdiction—behind California and New Jersey—to pass legislation protecting LGBT youth from ineffective and harmful practices designed to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. Counsel Ames, explains “… today, the Council sent a powerful message to LGBT youth and their families that they are accepted, supported, and loved. It has used its power to protect the most vulnerable from a dangerous pseudoscience that tells them that who they are is wrong, and reaffirmed the consensus of every major medical and mental health organization in the country that all children are born perfect, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Earlier this year, NCLR launched the Born Perfect campaign to end conversion therapy across the country over the next five years by passing laws, fighting in courtrooms to ensure the safety of LGBT youth, and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by these dangerous and discredited practices Their site explains that in the past” …In the past, some mental health professionals resorted to extreme measures such as institutionalization, castration, and electro-convulsive shock therapy to try to stop people from being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Today, while some counselors still use physical treatments like aversive conditioning, the techniques most commonly used include a variety of behavioral, cognitive, psychoanalytic, and other practices that try to change or reduce same-sex attraction or alter a person’s gender identity…” Learn More about the Born Perfect Campaign.


Latinas’ Challenges to Come Out of The Closet

Copyright : Bogdan Ionescu

Copyright : Bogdan Ionescu

In the Latin culture the role of women is sometimes defined narrowly and women are brought up to be “super” moms and dedicated wives. The family pressure to keep a clean home, raise well-mannered children and be fabulous cooks can be a little overwhelming. You can add onto that pressure that to be a good “wife” and “mother” implies being heterosexual, and find the right “husband” not the right wife.

Latinas,  are professionals, blue collar workers, students, artists, and they all face their own struggles, successes, and secrets.  For we Latinas are as diverse, as shallow, and as deep as our dominant-culture counterparts. Our stories of immigration and oppression are gripping, but they are not only stories of discrimination or acculturation to tell, we also have our gender struggle stories to tell. Some are wives and mothers, yet individuals, too and some of us are lesbians and proud of it. Yet our culture and family does not welcome, always, our “coming out of the closet”. Our stories are as wide and as varied as the hues we come in.

Even the Spanish language conspires against those women who called themselves lesbians or bi-sexuals, because most of the counterpart words in Spanish have a negative connotation. Activists at the Human Rights Campaign had written that “…Although “gay” has the same meaning in Spanish as in English, the word “lesbiana” still has negative connotations. Many Latina women who love women, however, are purposely using the word to reclaim it from those who would use it against them…” (Read More)

On another article HRC states “… Although Latina/o Americans come from various cultural backgrounds, many who come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender share similar experiences and challenges. Some, who were raised Roman Catholic, must reconcile themselves with the church’s teachings that acting on one’s homosexuality is sinful. Language differences often make finding resources and support difficult, and a lack of LGBT Latinas/os in media and entertainment perpetuates invisibility. Fortunately, however, anecdotal evidence suggests that a growing number of Latinas/os are coming out…”

Find more resources for Latinas y Latinos “coming out of the closet” on HRC: Guía de Recursos Para Salir Del Clóset

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Same Sex Couples: More Stability? More Resilience? More Trouble?

Copyright : Mahdees Mahjoob

Copyright : Mahdees Mahjoob

Research has shown that behavioral differentiation of the sexes is minimal in children. Sex differences emerge primarily in social situations, and their nature varies with the gender composition during socialization. Patterns of mutual influence can become more symmetrical in intimate male–female dyads, but the distinctive styles of the two sexes can still be seen in such dyads and are subsequently manifested in the roles and relationships of parenthood.

On the other hand, research has found that same sex couples develop, in general, a certain resilience that brings more stability to their lives, there are always exceptions but for instance, Drs. John & Julie Gottman, founders of  The Gottman Institute, an institute in Seattle, WA dedicated to an ongoing program of research that increases the understanding of relationships and adds to the development of interventions that have been carefully evaluated.

The Gottmans undertook a 12-year study that revealed same sex couples developed more resilience than some straight couples. have a commitment to assuring that lesbian and gay couples have resources to help strengthen and support their relationships. Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman made a key contribution to research on daughters of lesbians: her work showed that daughters with lesbian moms do just as well as those raised by straight moms. Dr. John Gottman conducted the first longitudinal study of its kind of gay and lesbian relationships using multiple methods and measures. He was able assess the emotional strengths and weaknesses of the relationships, and to learn what makes these relationships more or less stable.Read More About The Study

Same sex parenthood is not an isolated case, studies estimate that between 1 and 9 million children in the United States have at least one parent who is lesbian or gay. There are approximately 594,000 same-sex partner households, according to the 2000 Census, and there are children living in approximately 27 percent of those households. However, we do find many challenges when it comes to fight homophobia and raising a family, one of the biggest challenges facing same-sex parented families is that they must live in a culture that supports heterosexist and homophobic attitudes and beliefs, which can affect these families in a variety of ways. A second complication is that these families are usually part of a blended family and include children from previous heterosexual marriages. Some of these families may deal with disagreement from other family members about the authenticity and validity of their family patterns. Lack of support from a previous heterosexual partner or the other biological parent can cause major conflict and distress within the family system. Today, there are many therapists available who specialize in gay and lesbian issues and provide a safe, nonjudgmental and understanding environment for the family. Frequently, gay and lesbian parented families will seek therapeutic help for guidance, support, and recognition that they may not be receiving from the broader social arena. The AAMFT suggests that psychotherapy could help. (Read More How Therapy Can Help)

 


The Closet: Psychological Issues and Psychotherapy of Coming Out for LGBT

© Lee Serenethos

© Lee Serenethos

A very commonly used terms in our society, nowadays, gay or not gay is “coming out” that refers to disclose something that has been otherwise hidden. Dr. Jack Drescher, MD in 2004 already said the experience could be extremely dissociative for the individual “in the closet”. He said: … Coming out may be the most commonly shared cultural experience that defines the modern gay identity. Historically, the term was an ironic reference to debutantes “coming out into society” (Chauncey, 1994). In contemporary usage, “coming out of the closet” means telling another person that one is gay…Years spent in the closet can make the prospect of revealing oneself an emotionally charged experience. However, the process is not just about revealing oneself to others–in coming out, gay people integrate, as best they can, dissociated aspects of the self…” Many LGBT clients had expressed their relief after coming out and finding themselves able to live a life they could not live freely while “in-the-closet”. The University of Montreal published an article in 2013 supporting the health benefits of coming out. They found:…” Lesbians, gays and bisexuals (LGBs) who are out to others have lower stress hormone levels and fewer symptoms of anxiety, depression, and burnout, according to researchers. Cortisol is a stress hormone in our body. When chronically strained, cortisol contributes to the ‘wear and tear’ exerted on multiple biological systems…Contrary to our expectations, gay and bisexual men had lower depressive symptoms and allostatic load levels than heterosexual men. Lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals who were out to family and friends had lower levels of psychiatric symptoms and lower morning cortisol levels than those who were still in the closet…”

The study found that LGBT people who needs to ‘fight-for-life” and their rights develop better coping skills and strategies to deal with social stressors. Coming out is a major milestone in our lives as LGBT and sometimes supportive guidance through the process makes it easier and really meaningful.

The Association of Gay & Lesbian Psychiatrists stresses that coming out is a very individual process and that “… the therapist needs to become familiar with issues specific to being GLB, and in particular the issue of coming out. The assumption that GLB identities are normal need not lead to “cheer leading,” nor should the therapist encourage patients who are questioning their identities to come out prematurely or to simply reassure them that “it is ok to be gay.” Therapists can be most helpful if they have no agenda as to how patients resolve complex issues of identity, affiliation, and openness, and do not push for premature resolution in these areas… The process of coming out is complex and can take years. The process is not linear. In therapy, there can be times of great movement and change interspersed with long, seemingly quiescent periods. Therapists need to be patient, respectful and open to many possible end points – including a straight identity, a gay or lesbian identity, bisexual experiences and identity, or even the patient’s rejection of a traditional identity label altogether…” (Read more)

Respecting the client’s tempo and examining his societal circumstances (family, workplace, profession), relationships, clinical stance, and psychological assets and challenges need to be part of the coming-out assessment to guide the process towards the client wants to guide it at her/his own pace. Remember one size does not fit all and what suits one client can be very risky and detrimental to other person’s reality and life experience. Supportive? Yes, Overbearing? Never.

ack Drescher,: “…Coming out may be the most commonly shared cultural experience that defines the modern gay identity. Historically, the term was an ironic reference to debutantes “coming out into society” (Chauncey, 1994). In contemporary usage, “coming out of the closet” means telling another person that one is gayYears spent in the closet can make the prospect of revealing oneself an emotionally charged experience. However, the process is not just about revealing oneself to others–in coming out, gay people integrate, as best they can, dissociated aspects of the self.

Coming out may be the most commonly shared cultural experience that defines the modern gay identity. Historically, the term was an ironic reference to debutantes “coming out into society” (Chauncey, 1994). In contemporary usage, “coming out of the closet” means telling another person that one is gay.

Years spent in the closet can make the prospect of revealing oneself an emotionally charged experience. However, the process is not just about revealing oneself to others–in coming out, gay people integrate, as best they can, dissociated aspects of the self.

– See more at: http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/articles/closet-psychological-issues-being-and-coming-out/page/0/2#sthash.4EU15UvJ.dpuf

Coming out may be the most commonly shared cultural experience that defines the modern gay identity. Historically, the term was an ironic reference to debutantes “coming out into society” (Chauncey, 1994). In contemporary usage, “coming out of the closet” means telling another person that one is gay.

Years spent in the closet can make the prospect of revealing oneself an emotionally charged experience. However, the process is not just about revealing oneself to others–in coming out, gay people integrate, as best they can, dissociated aspects of the self.

– See more at: http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/articles/closet-psychological-issues-being-and-coming-out/page/0/2#sthash.4EU15UvJ.dpuf

 


A Victory for Therapists and LGBT: U.S. Supreme Court Says No To Conversion Therapy

NCLR June 30, 2014

NCLR June 30, 2014

I was so happy when earlier today, I received, like many of us, an email from Kate Kendell, Esq, the fabulous executive Director for The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) saying “…Earlier today, the United States Supreme Court declined to review a challenge to California’s law—which NCLR and Equality California helped draft, pass, and defend—that protects LGBT children from conversion therapists. The decision clears the way for enforcement of the first law in the nation that protects kids from unethical counselors and therapists who engage in these dangerous practices to try to change their sexual orientation or gender expression.

For therapists all around the globe these are GREAT NEWS, as NCLR picture shows “…you can not switch off who you are…” While as many as 1 in 3 LGBT people have been subjected to conversion therapy, whether by a licensed clinician, a religious leader, or another trusted adult, the trauma of these experiences can make it difficult to come forward. (Read some survivor stories)

It is really scaring to think that professionals who had studied the harmful effects of pushing a personal agenda into a psychotherapy client can be unethically oblivious of the devastating effects of conversion therapy (Read More About Conversion Therapy

What is next? Converting people of color into white or converting right brain people onto left-brain for the sake of somebody’s new agenda or bias? Give me a break. We therapists are supposed not to harm and be the catalyst for our clients’ process, it is not our place to change anybody but help them to explore their path and desires.

NCLR has launched the project NCLR has launched Born Perfect: The Campaign to End Conversion Therapyin the next five years by passing laws across the country to protect LGBT kids, fighting in courtrooms to ensure their safety, and raising awareness about the serious harms caused by these dangerous practices.


Therapy for older LGBT individuals

happy lesbian couple.When addressing the needs for counseling and therapy for the LGBT population, we are already stressing the importance of this segment of our society, however like with any group of people, we cannot just compile ALL issues for all of the group in only one issue or set of issues as the solutions are not one size fits all, either. In 2011, David Richards’ article ‘Working with older LGBT people’ (http://www.therapytoday.net/article/show/2830/)  explores the challenges of working therapeutically with older LGBT men and women, for gay, lesbian and heterosexual practitioners”. He stresses the generalities of working with this population but as expressed by Carly Hall: “… there are some issues that I would like to raise in the interests of older lesbians. I speak as a lesbian growing older, a client, a healthcare professional and a researcher…First, to address LGBT as one general group I believe is incorrect. Even taking out the bisexual and transgender, one is still left with two hugely diverse groups. Political, sociological and economic influences over the years, combined with the biology of being a woman, will inevitably make older lesbians’ experiences markedly different from those of gay men of a similar age.Women who today are over 65 (born pre-1947) and identify as lesbians are acknowledged by health and social care researchers to be a difficult group to reach; ‘convenience’ samples may not always be representative of the wide group. But there are findings from pertinent research studies, including my own, which may have relevance for the therapist.  Read Carly Hall’s article (http://www.therapytoday.net/article/show/2972/)


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