Divorce and Separation · homophobia · lesbian mom

The “Nice” Heterosexual Parenting Education Class Mandated for Divorcing Parents and My Non-hetero Feelings About It…(there are many feelings)

Per the state when two people divorce with children there is a mandatory “Parenting Education Class” that you both have to take. It’s six hours long. In my case taught by two LCSW’s. I’ve talked about sexual orientation as it pertains to me (lesbian mom more hetero-bendable identifying) and I’ll admit I was already salty going into this course because I had recently filled out after school program paperwork where by the end I ripped through the paper when I crossed out “Father’s name” so hard with the pen.

Really. You can’t just put Parent 1 and Parent 2? Really?!

Again, I was already salty. Then I come into this six hour hellacious class where I am taught basic concepts of being nice to the co-parent. And literally it’s a watered down version of what I council clients about daily. Not to say I knew all the content. But let’s say I didn’t learn anything new of value.

However, I will say I was also annoyed the entire six hours because the opener was as follows, “We will be referring to two parents as ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’. We know there can be other ways that families are made and different parenting situations but in our course this is the vocabulary we will use.” That was as close as they came to acknowledging LGBTQ+ parents. EVER. In six hours.

So literally in the first two minutes of the next six hours of my life I’m already told 1. You’re not important enough for us to use gender neutral language 2. There will be absolutely nothing in this course pertaining to LGBTQ parents and families 3. You are not seen by this course and the state of CT that mandates you take this course. Because w cannot even say the words “Two mom or two dad families” and God forbid anyone uses the word transgender.

I wanted the class to end. I wanted to be done before it even began because I felt like I shouldn’t be there taking up space with all the nice straight people. I may not identify as a lesbian but I sure as hell am a lesbian mom because my co-parent from conception is a woman. And you literally in six hours cannot even once use vocabulary that might validate my existence as a two mom family.

I had a lot of feelings. Clearly. Still do. One of the feelings that generally angers me is shame. In those moments I feel myself looking left and right like does any one know I’m a two mom parent? Can they tell? Because in that opener it was made very clear this is not a safe space for me to be.

I was calming down a bit toward the end counting the seconds. When he used an example that drove me right back up to eye twitching insanity.

“…What would be great in that moment is for the Dad to show up and support the Mom. The kid is being disrespectful and really unruly to Mom, Dad shows up and says, ‘you can’t talk to your mother that way’ dad lays down the discipline and takes a stand. That is what a Dad should do in that instance because the kid will really respect the Dad for stepping in for Mom and Mom will appreciate you too dad, you will win big points for this.”

Dude. Not only can you not acknowledge anything other than heterosexual parents but your example is literally the most gendered inaccurate stereotype I have ever heard. It took a lot. I mean A. LOT. to sit there and not 1. chew my lip off 2. keep my big mouth shut.

I needed to take some space. I needed to take a little walk. It didn’t help I had spent the better part of the day also on the phone fighting with my nemesis Anthem. I was wired to fight dirty after dealing with those heinous people all day.

So I didn’t say anything. I’m taking time to reflect. I’m going to say something. I may send a link to this blog. Because I don’t like the feelings I’m having. I don’t like feeling ashamed of the make up of my family because it seems like you are uncomfortable even saying the word lesbian let alone lesbian Moms and gay dads and trans dads and trans Moms. How about acknowledging that some of these divorces are happening because people in heterosexual marriages now want to explore their sexuality and you’ve just shamed them hardcore.

I have feelings of pain because it just feels like the micro aggressions and overt aggressions will never go away and my sons are going into kindergarten and I’m terrified that they will now be exposed to homophobia. As a lesbian mom you do a disservice by pretending we don’t exist. You lumped me in with the hetero mom’s in that class. You made analogies, jokes, and statements geared toward me that had no meaning and were absolutely useless to my lived experience. And you could not even say the words “two mom’s”.

I wanted to stand up and say I am here. I. AM. HERE. SEE. ME. But I didn’t. Because it’s a stupid class that I have to get through to finalize the divorce. But a class meant to support and empower positive coparenting should not overtly state they will be ignoring the entire population of LGBTQ+ parents who are legally required to take it.

Yeah I have a lot of feelings about this. Including but not limited to:

And by the way. Two Mom’s can actually effectively discipline their child without a man. I’ve never needed to be rescued by a man to step in and discipline my son if he’s being “unruly”. My sons live with a healthy dose of fear of me and I’ve never laid a finger on them in terms of spanking or any physical punishments.

I’m consistent. I follow through on what I say I’m going to do. Expectations are clear and I know my sons.

I will be writing a follow up letter to the organization who organizes these classes. The year is 2021. There are many different family make-ups and you do a disservice to people who are being forced to pay for and take this class by just a blanket statement that you recognize we exist somewhere out on earth but we won’t exist in the context of your six hour class.

Because that my friends is homophobia. Big bad homophobia. It’s micro aggressions and it’s shaming and it’s a symptom of minority stress where we know we are in an unsafe space and we struggle the entire six hours with do we tell them or do we not. Are we physically safe if we tell them. Etc. Etc. I’ll say it again for friends in the back- not acknowledging us is homophobic. Not acknowledging that our coparenting is going to be maybe different from heterosexuals that’s also a micro aggression and just plain ignorant.

Do better. Be better. And be the voice in the crowd saying I AM HERE. Even if it’s after the fact. Because in the moment I would have been unpleasant. Afterward with time space and objectivity is totally fine. I’ll keep y’all posted.

homophobia · Mental Health Stigma Suicide

Won’t Back Down

This week has been rough. It’s only Wednesday. On top of single mom-ing it, dealing with a sick cat, and running a mental health practice…it’s been busy. The cat is doing better. My kids are…giving me a lot of greys but otherwise okay…and I was threatened by a disgruntled patient.

I think it’s easy to surround ourselves with safe bubbles. Liberal or conservative, gay or straight, we often surround ourselves with people who make us feel safe. I do this in my own life personally and professionally. It’s rare for me to be threatened and as I’ve gotten better at screening patients it’s happened less and less. In fact it had been a few years.

I’ve never called the police but I called them this week. The threat felt calculated and also quite unhinged. And I’m sick of people trying to bully me because they see rainbows on my website and figure out we are Queer. And I was actually threatened. You can’t do that to people. It’s not okay. I felt violated and shaken.

I’ve actually had a knife drawn in my office before. Twice. And I didn’t call the police then. I never actually felt threatened. Sounds a little crazy I know. But the knives were more statements not necessarily pointed at me. And I shrugged and asked them to put it away. They did. This career is voluntary and in moments like those with the knives and years later with being threatened over the phone I always have thoughts of walking away. I don’t need this.

But I don’t walk away. Because that also irritates me. Because why should I give up what I love to do because of a few threats here and there? I didn’t feel good filing a police report. I felt annoyed generally that I had to do it annoyed at the threat, annoyed at myself for being shaken and forgetting how I lived protected in my bubble until it was burst.

I’ve never shared publicly threats in the past but again, I’m sick of being bullied. As a Queer female business owner who is not an MD, but an APRN, people generally feel more entitled to speak down to me or to raise their voice or in this case to threaten me.

The threat would not have been made had I been a straight white male MD with a boring website without rainbows. That kind of enrages and saddens me.

When I’ve been threatened in the past and with the knives it was never about being Queer it was patients who wanted certain medications that I declined to give them. This was different. This was plain old hate and discrimination.

There is not much more to say about it except that it happened. That I know all too well this comes with the territory of being an openly affirming Queer owned practice. But it still feels bad. I feel afraid at times and I don’t like that feeling. I had to tell my employees what happened and I am so grateful that they are part of my protective bubble. Because there was never a question from them about the severity or degree. No doubts just validation. They also work for me at this super Queer practice and put their safety at risk because they believe in what we do and me. They believe in me. I’ve felt a lot of feelings this week. Incredible gratitude for all of them was one feeling.

I’ve listened to a lot of Eminem. He’s my go-to. His songs are gritty and all about survival. Well minus the really messed up ones that are about murder and drugs and rape…I gotta be honest I dig some of those songs, like 3 A.M. so messed up, but probably in my top five favorites. But I digress. I’ll get through this with time and Eminem and as much as I want to walk away from the work I never could and seeing clients helps remind why I do this. Why I stick with it through the bad and the ugly. Because most people want help. Most people are trying so hard to get through and I can help.

Bubbles are great when you are in them, but rough when they burst.

Ironically this is all happening during Pride month. A celebration based out of hate and discrimination.

To any Queer people reading this. I see you. We are stronger together.

Divorce and Separation · homophobia · lesbian mom

Happy Pride & Why it’s Important to Me

Pride month.

An administration that recognizes Pride month. Amaze-balls.

Why is Pride month a big deal? Why do we need Pride month? Why can’t you have heterosexual day or month? Blah blah blah. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. We literally live in closets. For one month we can be in public spaces and not be scared to hold hands with partners. We can be at parades where we see and are seen. We can be unequivocally and unapologetically who we are. We get one month to be comfortably out. The rest of the year there are not many spaces we can all be comfortably out. Visibility is important.

Let me tell you some stories. I have a trans client whose Mom has been intermittently transphobic and had a hard time coming to terms with her son’s transition. It brought tears to both our eyes as they recounted their Mom at the NYC Pride parade, wearing a t-shirt that said, “I love my trans son” and a random trans female walking out of their spot in the parade. Beelining straight for my clients Mom and asking for a hug who enthusiastically gave her one. That moment still brings tears to my eyes. I wasn’t even there.

Pride allows us these moments.

I have many clients who first saw other people like them at Pride events. “I didn’t even know people like me existed, then I went to my first Pride parade and was like wow. I want to be them.”

I know people who were physically assaulted when they came out to family. I know people who were sexually assaulted and physically assaulted for just existing as they are. Pride allows all of us a place to find love, acceptance, peace, and most of all hope.

Have you ever been physically or sexually assaulted because you identify as heterosexual? Likely not. You can exist in any space without fear of being victimized because of your sexual orientation and gender identity. That’s why you don’t get a month. Because you get every freaking day.

I saw a guy for a few dates. At the second date he 1. expected I would have sex with him. 2. Wanted to know when we could have a threesome. 3. Was annoyed and perplexed when I declined both options and told him where he could stick it. He made a lot of assumptions based on the fact I had been with a woman: he thought I would hop into bed. He also thought I would want to hop into bed with both genders. Obviously. He didn’t get a third date. Would he have acted that way with a heterosexual woman? My guess is no.

The best part of Pride month for me this year is my practice. I spent June 1st in my brand spanking new office. It was built for us. There are four offices, a waiting area, kitchen area, and bathroom. The Landlord designed it with me, tolerated my multiple significantly more expensive demands, and now we all have windows. We all have sheetrock ceilings and heavy doors and the more expensive soundproofed sheetrock. We also have excessive numbers of outlets, dimmers on all the lights, and a thermostat for each individual office.

I commissioned an artist to make a “super classy, super Queer, not stupid, no unicorns, but obviously gay, massive painting” for a wall in the waiting area. She laughed when I said not stupid. She said, “I actually know exactly what you mean. It can get excessive fast with the rainbows.”

It feels amazing to own a space, make it mine, to have built a practice of people who are on board with the super Queer mission of the practice. One of my employees was there decorating and said she didn’t buy a print because she thought maybe it would be too much in terms of too gay. I told her if any one thinks it’s too gay friendly they are not meant to be at this practice. She agreed.

I want my practice to embody Pride month. I want that energy of hope and acceptance to be oozing out of my group. It’s incredibly freeing to be able to pursue this without any boundaries or people trying to hold me back.

I’m surrounded by Queer people. Which means I have been touched by homophobia and have witnessed transphobia firsthand. I hear about it all second hand also. My best friend and my sister are both lesbians. My ex is obviously a lesbian. I’m pleasantly curved. I have other Queer folks in my family and many many more in my friends. Then there’s my clients. I looked at my day recently and 8 out of 12 were Queer in some way. I remember smiling. I built it. They came. I love it. Pride month brings visibility but it also brings up the dark side. It brings up Stonewall. It brings up all the LGBTQ individuals who have been victims of hate. It reminds me of my sister sinking two foul shots at our state finals as the opposing crowd chanted “DYKE DYKE”. It reminds me of countless restaurant experiences of being stared at and talked about sometimes quite overtly. It reminds me that my sons have never met their grandparents on my ex’s side.

Hate drives homophobia and transphobia. The opposite of hate isn’t love. In this case it’s acceptance.

Nothing prepared me to date men again and realize after the first date why it felt so different. It wasn’t because it was a man. It was because I didn’t have the constant worry and hyper-vigilance that comes with a same-sex relationship. I was relaxed. I didn’t think the waiter or the people on the street or at the restaurant would come after us. I could let my guard down. The external minority stress was absent. I remember feeling relief. But also such deep sadness and grief. That stress was there every time I went out with my ex. It was such a part of us that I wasn’t even aware of it until it was gone. Minority couples do not go through less stress. They go through more. Because on top of normal couple stuff we have to worry about being targeted every time we step out the door.

Pride month is important because it’s the antithesis of every other day of our lives.

Be you. Love you. Happy Pride Month!

#COVID-19 · Divorce and Separation · homophobia

“Yeah It’s Been a Little Rough”. 2021.

I feel like 2021 is just a wicked continuation of 2020. It’s been an emotional roller coaster for me. Watching the Derek Chauvin trial has been horrific. Death doesn’t frighten me. I’m intimately acquainted with death of all kind. Traumatic, planned, old, young…personally and professionally I’ve known death of all kinds. George Floyd’s death gets to me. It was so preventable. It was traumatic.

You ever watch Bad Boys II Marcus- “This has got to be the worst most emotional cop week of my life.” Mike- “Yeah it’s been a lil’ rough”. If you are familiar with Marcus and Mike you know that is the expected reaction of each to a horrible week of people being murdered and trying to crack the biggest case of their career.

I feel that. I feel Marcus’ drama and Mike’s calm acceptance. I feel like a constant mix of those two. I watched a documentary about systemic racism told by a white man who was descended from slave owners. He said, “Doing nothing was not option,” very softly and humbly but looking directly into the camera as he explained why he was making this documentary. It’s his reckoning with his families relationship with slavery and human trafficking. Parallel to his story is the narrative of a Black man who imparts such wisdom about white supremacy and the system that exists. I couldn’t look away when he spoke and I replayed his scenes several times to really hear him.

One of his quotes that hit me is below:

“Something has to happen in your mind for you to look at a person or child and say well that’s gonna be sold to Mr so and so and you never look at them as human and that’s what this country is built on. The Indians were treated that way…we want it and we have a right to take it. So you gotta do something in your mind to treat people; humans that way. You make them heathens, so you can treat them any way you want.”

I never learned about the Tulsa massacre in 1921 and it angers me. I hold a deep anger at the white education I received and I fear the white education my sons will receive and know I will have to provide them extra curriculum. Why didn’t I learn about Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with a young female slave? She was a child. She had his children. Because it doesn’t suit white people to educate white people in a way that paints Black people as victims and survivors. They don’t get to be the heroes of their own stories.

Why did I not learn about the violence that white people have perpetrated against Black people since the days we first landed in America? Has it escaped no one that if perhaps any of these white police officers had any education about systemic racism that maybe they would not have killed innocent Black people? Why did it take until 2021 to hold a white police officer accountable for the death of a Black man?

I treat police officers. I treat young Black men. I treat young Black boys. It’s been a little rough.

Add in some of the toughest most anti-trans legislation in at least 33 states. I treat transgender clients. I am Queer. I can’t possibly describe the disgust, fear, pain, visceral pain that I feel when I see these bills becoming laws. The law in Arkansas targets children. Children with higher risks of suicide. Children across the country are seeing these laws pass. Children with transphobic parents are being pushed further into the closet. Or closer to running away and being homeless.

The mass shootings. Suddenly are rampant. In the town where my practice is located there was an active and armed shooter.

The environmental and cultural stress happening right now is indescribable.

Add in divorce, online dating, mom of twins, and owner of mental health practice during a global pandemic…yeah. 2021. I feel like I’ve been punk’d.

There are moments that make me remember I am just a Mom and life feels chaotic in a normal type of way. Like when I was talking to one of my employees about a rather serious case, and one of my sons started screaming as if he were dying, and came running in, still screaming to the degree that I thought there would be a bone sticking out somewhere…but he showed me his shoulder. Which now sported a bite mark. I had to hang up on my employee because 1. he was screaming 2. I had to deal with one of my sons biting my other son because as I would find out the biter didn’t want the bite-y to take the pair of Spiderman in the Memory game they were playing together.

Another day I was on the phone with a therapist collaborating on a different tough case and I ran around the house trying to get the boys ready to leave for school, and I’d intermittently hit the mute button so I could yell, “GET YOUR SOCKS ON” Son- “WHY ARE YOU YELLING???” Me-“BECAUSE I ASKED YOU NICELY FIVE TIMES AND NOW I’M ANNOYED!!!!” un-mute, “uh huh, yes I totally agree” in my most professional voice.

I literally should be a reality show.

I was crying watching the phone call with Biden with George Floyd’s family. Because he sounded sincere and because it took their son being publicly murdered for the President to speak with them. It just all sucks.

I hug my sons. I try and teach them right from wrong. I try and teach them not to be colorblind but to see color because diversity is a strength. I mean right now we are working on not biting and handling losing at Memory…so baby steps.

Don’t look away. Don’t bury your head. It’s so hard. So painful. But we can’t pretend it’s not happening. Racism. Transphobia. It’s all happening. Don’t look away. And 2021…just keep bringing it. I’m still here.

#COVID-19 · homophobia · Mental Health Stigma Suicide · Nursing

Ten Things I’ve Learned as a Mental Health Provider During COVID-19

  1. People can only handle stress for just so long. When I explain chronic anxiety and depression to patients I often use the analogy of a teapot. When you are walking around filled up with stress/anxiety/trauma/depression for years eventually you do not have room for normal every day stressors. This leads to epic breakdowns over seemingly innocuous things. Did you ever cry when you couldn’t open a jar of sauce? Or start screaming when you can’t find your keys? We all have a boiling over point. February 2021, about eleven months in, seemed to be most peoples boiling point. In the Northeast we had a lot of snowstorms which I think compounded things for many of us. My practice received upwards of ten-fifteen calls a day just from new referrals, not counting our five hundred plus current patients who also all started to melt. These calls were desperate. Crying into voicemails. There were suicides in our communities. There were drug overdoses and relapses. February 2021 honestly was one of my hardest months as a mental health provider.
  2. Women bear the brunt of childcare and homeschooling responsibilities. This is a gross generalization. Please note I know that there are many wonderful Fathers and husbands who have supported their families during the pandemic in every way imaginable. But in my own practice I have seen my female clients taking responsibility for the organizing of homeschooling. They have described screaming matches with their partners about who has to sacrifice work time. I’ve had women clients leave their full time jobs, drop to part-time, and/or change positions in order to accommodate their children suddenly being home full or part time. I have seen women making sacrifices and publicly smiling but privately falling apart with grief, anger, and sadness.
  3. Minorities are under more minority stress. From the LGBTQ community to POC to children to the elderly. All vulnerable populations have been made more vulnerable. The death rates of COVID-19 are disproportionately higher in the African American communities. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/health-equity/racial-ethnic-disparities/disparities-deaths.html Does a nice job of objectively presenting this evidence. The LGBTQ individuals who have lost jobs and been forced to move back in with homophobic and transphobic families are real. LGBTQ children, teenagers, and college aged individuals who have to live with homophobic and transphobic families is real. Suicide risk is high in this population already. The social isolation and inability to be “out” due to COVID-19 has added to these already significant issues for minorities. I literally have had telehealth sessions with a client crouched in a dark closet (and the irony of them being in a closet is not lost on us) in order to obtain privacy in order to cry in despair at not being able to be “out” and to have to experience homophobia and/or transphobia in every day life with their family. These sessions are gut-wrenching.
  4. Postpartum Moms and Dads have stress you can’t understand. I’ve often said the most unsolicited advice I ever received was during my pregnancy and in the first year of my twin boy’s lives. People who have been parents or not have opinions and stories and think everyone should hear them. Being postpartum regularly is hard. Being post partum during a pandemic when so little is known about the impact on newborn health is terrifying. Newborns can’t wear masks. Babies in daycares crawl and touch each other’s boogers. Parents have delayed putting their children in daycare because there is no true protection against exposure for infants. They are told that they are right, wrong, stupid, smart, and everything in between by people around them. I have never treated as many postpartum women as I have in the last year. SO much of it is providing reassurance that they are doing everything right. That there is no one right decision. That they know their baby and their lives best and they have to make the best decision for themselves. I offer validation and objectivity and I have seen them cry when I’ve told them they are doing everything right. Because no one has validated them since they gave birth. Unless you sit with people who have newborns day in and day out and see the agonizing choices they have to make; you don’t understand. And you shouldn’t be offering anything except validation and support.
  5. People NEED people. I’ve also said before I’m not a hugger. But the first time my friend and I hung out after we were both vaccinated and she asked if she could give me a hug and I enthusiastically consented. We weren’t big huggers before COVID-19 but after a year of isolation we unashamedly and laughingly embraced. One of the most poignant sessions in the last year, that has consistently stuck with me, was a young adult who lived alone and who did a Zoom with her family for Thanksgiving. Through tears she said, “I had to do a Zoom with my family. I just. want. to. hug. them.” Her breath hitched with each word and the tears turned to sobs and we sat for several minutes with her sobbing and me watching; neither of us speaking. I held back tears of my own as I wanted to reach through the screen and pat her shoulder and tell her it would all be okay. I heard so many of these stories but her vulnerable and raw pain in that moment touched my core. I had clients tell me their parents cried during their Zoom Christmas’ and they couldn’t stand to see their Mom cry. I sat with them through that pain. I offered nothing but space and understanding to feel pain. I have never known with such certainty after the holiday season of 2020 that we need physical touch to survive. We need our families. We need connection. Of all the long term sequelae that COVID caused, the isolation and desolation of being alone is by far the worst.
  6. Never underestimate the power of pets. I don’t have to explain much about this. If you have animals then you know what I am referencing. The isolation of this past year has made people get new pets and appreciate the ones they have. Pets are some of my clients purpose in getting out of bed every morning. They have truly saved lives this past year just by existing and offering unconditional love. To all our four legged friends, you have my true admiration and thanks.
  7. People who treated their mental illness before COVID faired better. One of my clients who was extremely ill a few years ago, but has since stabilized, greeted me smiling at our six month check in. She was doing great, and felt validated in her own experience of mental illness. “People know now how it feels to live with anxiety. I can now explain to people mental illness and they get it. Because their anxieties about COVID are exactly how I felt about everything all the time.” She wasn’t my only client who had severe mental illness in the past and stabilized with medication and therapy who have done excellent during the pandemic. They had coping skills, we knew what medications work for them, and they were connected to providers. My takeaway from them is to deal with your mental illness before you boil over.
  8. After people boil over Desperation sets in. I think it’s hard for some one to truly understand desperation until they have experienced it. Desperation is finding cuts on your childs arms or legs and bringing them to a hospital and being told they are not sick enough to be admitted and to connect to outpatient care, then calling forty providers and being told no one is accepting patients. Desperation is watching your loved one suffer and struggle and slip away and not be able to find them help. The mental health system’s flaws are fully exposed now. There are not enough providers. The providers that are in practice are un-paneling from insurance because insurers have made the last year so much worse than it needed to be for small practice owners. I have been screamed at on the phone more times than ever in my career when I call to tell people I am full or not accepting their insurance or not taking pediatric referrals. I have been threatened. I have been told through tears that they are desperate. I have been begged and pleaded with. I have been offered twice my normal rate just to fit some one in. I had to not return every phone call because I became fearful of what would be said to me when I told them I was not accepting patients. I had to hold my own boundaries and not take new patients in reaction to other people’s desperation. Because I was becoming burned out. I grew as a clinician and a business owner in the last year in more ways than I ever imagined. I also heard and saw desperation in ways I never imagined I would.
  9. I will always accept Medicaid. So many of my clients have been on and off Medicaid and commercial plans this year. Medicaid’s rates of reimbursement in my state are disgustingly low. But I will always have it as a plan I accept because my patients who lost commercial plans this year with job loss needed to have continuity with their mental health provider. I do not want my practice to be fully medicaid as that’s not sustainable revenue wise for a small practice. However, it will always make up a stream of our revenue because it has to be an option when clients lose jobs.
  10. Everyone has it bad. In the past year I’ve heard why the people in their 50’s and 60’s have it the worst. I have also heard why kids in high school, college, in their twenties, single people, married people, parents and non-parents all have it the worst. Every one thinks their lot is the worst. Young people are missing out on proms, college admission is being delayed in some cases, parents are overly burdened with childcare duties, single people are the most isolated, etc. I’m just throwing this out here; it’s been a shit year for everyone. There have been highs and lows for all ages all social statuses and in every way imaginable everyone has undergone stress, loss, and an understanding that things will never be like before. There is a before and there is a now and there will be an after but life will never be the same.

Through this past year of COVID-19 I have lived history. I am a front lines provider during a global pandemic. I have been through more personally and professionally than I could have imagined. My biggest and best takeaway from this past year though is to be grateful. I am grateful for my children. I am grateful for our health. I am grateful that I have been able to see my mom and sister, sister-in-law and niece, throughout the last year. I have known loss. I have grieved. I have cried. I have hoped.

About a month ago, I went to the office. I saw a long term therapy client for the first time in person for several months. He sat down, and I sat down. We both removed our masks. And we smiled. We were both vaccinated. The window was open. We sat eight feet apart. And then we had a therapy session in person without masks. It was possibly the most beautiful moment of the last twelve months.

#COVID-19 · homophobia · politics

Why I’m Grateful for #45

These last few weeks have been turbulent. I went to sleep on election day thinking I would wake to a repeat of 2016. Then I woke up at midnight. 2 AM. 4 AM. 5:30 AM. Nothing was called. What a long week. Waiting to catch COVID. Waiting to see who would be elected President. Never giving up hope on PA and GA.

In that time I saw my small little Republican heavy town voted for Trump by about 100 votes. They did a recount. I found out today my town voted for Biden by 33 votes. 33. Our population is about 7,000. Roughly 5,000 people voted. If my town can go blue it’s possible anywhere.

I cried most of the day Saturday after it was called. Sunday I scrolled through social media and cried seeing the posts about Kamala and the projected appointees to their cabinet. They are Black. Women. Thank God.

I spoke to some one today at work who fears a Biden presidency. I don’t get it. I tried to. But I don’t. I have lived in fear for the past four years. I feel a weight lifted. I’ve been seeing Biden’s appointees for the COVID task force and there are scientists.

Not family members.

Scientists. Not family members.

Scientists on a pandemic task force should not be a novelty. It should be the expectation.

Black women in a cabinet should not be a novelty. It should be an expectation.

I don’t believe there was voter fraud. I believe in our democracy.

I told some one recently I never ended a friendship or relationship because some one voted for Bush. I never felt unsafe around a Republican until this administration. The hate and the lies are overwhelming. I’m not ready to mend those relationships that I have lost. But I’m glad we have elected a President who is a better than I am.

Some one told me we should be grateful for #45. I am grateful. I am grateful to have the most caustic homophobic and transphobic administration come to power in a time when I had the ability to do something to create change. Without #45 I would never have opened my own practice. I would never have decorated my business website in rainbows. I would never have discharged clients for being overtly racist. I would never have started this blog. I would never have taken a stand for what is right.

I am grateful for #45 because his administration showed me how much hatred and discrimination still exists in our country. He made me examine my whiteness in ways I never have before. He made me have hard talks with myself and with my friends and family members. He made me understand white supremacy in ways I never could before. He made me research, read, learn, and grow in ways I never would have been challenged to under a Democratic Presidency.

Could I have done without him? Sure. But the silver lining of his presidency has been the activism, education, and awareness that erupted in response to him.

Except in Florida apparently. Seriously. Parkland and Pulse…you all seriously couldn’t turn blue after being the site of two mass murders??? The work is not done.

But as I scrolled social media and saw all the pictures of all the children of all my friends watching Biden and Kamala’s speeches on Saturday I thought yes. For the first time in four years there are people we can allow our children to watch because they speak with respect and unity.

I am grateful to #45 for showing me exactly the man I don’t want my son’s to become.

I am grateful to see my niece’s face as she watched Kamala’s speech and think that she will grow up in a world where women can Become.

Mostly I am grateful because while I have seen true hatred in the last four years and pure prejudice I have also seen true bravery. True courage. I am grateful because I have the privilege of attending to the mental health of the Queer community in a time when they are most vulnerable.

In the face of hatred and murder transgender individuals still went forward with transitioning. I have seen Queer people come out to their Trump loving family members. They were terrified but they did it anyway because it was more important that they Become who they needed to be than to give in to the fear of hate. I am grateful to bear witness to some of the most courageous quietly stalwart individuals as they took stands for who they are and who they would be.

#45 I am grateful for your hate because it showed me the bravest most loving souls.

#45 I am grateful for your lies because out of them came monumental truths for so many in my life personally and professionally.

#45 I am grateful for your chatter because out of the chatter came a silent majority.

#45 I am grateful for your division because out of it I was able to feel total unity with my Queer community.

#45 I am grateful for your racism because it revealed to me my own engagement with a white supremacist system and allowed me to start taking steps to dismantle it.

#45 I am grateful to all the family members and friends of the 200,000+ lives lost to this pandemic for calling you out. I am grateful for this disease because it showed the lengths you would go, the lives you would sacrifice, to cling to your backward belief system where you come first and the lives of “your” people are disposable.

#45 on a personal note, I’m grateful to your homophobia for showing me the people in my life who understood, without me saying a word, that the Queer community needed allies and that I specifically needed allies. I am grateful for all my friends and family members who not only flipped you the bird in order to stand by my side, but also stood up to their own family members and friends for minorities. If ever I had doubts of how well supported I was the last four years have shown me I am not alone. For that I am eternally humbled and grateful.

homophobia · Mental Health Stigma Suicide

To the white Hetero’s,

Our neighbor put up Trump flags. Our neighbors behind us clearly are also supporters they just don’t have the flags up. Our neighbors to our left are on the Blue team. Our neighbors to our right have never spoken to us…so assuming they are on the Red team. We’ve literally waved, run over to greet them, and our kids have tried engaging them, and nada. So we are assuming it’s homophobia and conservatism.

I’ve had to start turning away referrals lately because I’m booked; specifically teenage and kid referrals. I like to keep them at half or less of my caseload as they are more labor intensive (aka their parents are more labor intensive), and I’m finding the younger kids struggle with the telehealth. I also would rather invest my time and energy into the Queer folk.

I never want to have to turn away a Queer referral, so I have to turn away the hetero’s to keep some space.

Some people get salty. I get it. They want what they want, they’ve often been referred to me by some one they know, and have heard from some one that I know what I’m doing. All good things. But I have to set my own boundaries as a practitioner. I won’t be a good practitioner if I take on too many clients who require too much of my time and energy. New teens always require a lot of my time and energy. I need to reserve it for the Queer people.

I know that being very up front about who I’m reserving my time and emotional space for, especially when they don’t fit that criteria, rubs some people the wrong way. It rubs practitioners who want me to take referrals and patients the wrong way. Especially when they are white and straight.

I say this with love. Because I used to be white and straight. I get it.

What I’ve learned is that if a practitioner has basic training and skills they can treat any one who is white and straight. I’ve also learned that it takes more training, more empathy, and more skills to treat niche and minority populations. I reserve my time for Queer people because I know they are mistreated by the general medical and psychiatric community. I know this because I am a Queer person who has been mistreated and discriminated against by the general medical and psychiatric community in my area.

Some one asked me recently if I treat any #45 supporters. I responded that to my knowledge only 1 out of 500. They didn’t really believe me. I said it used to be more before I made clear my priorities to myself.

Let’s talk statistics.

Queers have up to 6-8 times more likelihood of committing suicide. I can cite about a dozen studies. Gay men have 3 times higher risk of suicide. Trans individuals up to 8 times higher liklihood of suicide attempts and completed suicide.

Gays, lesbians, and trans folk have 3-6 times higher rates of depression than the general heterosexual population. Again this is in multiple studies. I have a bibliography from a presentation I have on Queer mental health that I am happy to provide.

13 states do not recognize crimes perpetrated against the LGBTQ population as hate crimes and they all have actively voted down legislation to say otherwise.

5 states have “Don’t say gay” education laws and policies

2 states do not allow changing your gender on your birth certificate. Period.

About 50% of the LGBTQ population is protected by current laws. Meaning 50% of the Queer population have NO legal protections related to discrimination.

Make no mistake the Queer population faces violence, murders, rape, and many other overt and covert aggressions on a daily basis no matter where we are located geographically.

So when I say I keep room open for my Queer folk this is why. Because we are put down, we are killed for being who we are. Why would I not prioritize the mental healthcare of my own minority status community?

Knowing three out of my four neighbors support our current administration makes me feel unsafe and unsupported. Every Queer person living with a Red flag next door is feeling unsafe and unsupported. My Queer clients are cutting off family members or being cut off by family members during this election year. My Queer clients are cutting themselves with self loathing and abusing substances at higher rates, and are homeless at higher rates than their heterosexual peers.

I shouldn’t have to justify prioritizing a minority population that is suffering. But I find myself doing just that.

Recognize your privilege and stop. Stop and think. Do you need specialized care? Are you a minority? Do you have minority stress on top of baseline mental health issues?

I’m not trying to minimize the plight of the white heterosexual who suffers from mental illness. I’m pointing out that your needs may be met at any number of practices and with any number of practitioners. If you try to insist on seeing a practitioner who specializes in any minority when they have explicitly said no, just stop. Ask for referrals to other providers. Recognize that you do not need a specialty provider.

If this makes you uncomfortable it’s because you have not examined your privilege and are guilty of acting out with entitlement.

I’d suggest you examine your privilege and stop acting out of entitlement.

homophobia

Why I Don’t Respond to People Studying Queer People.

It’s tiring being a minority. Especially during four years of a homophobic and transphobic administration which emboldens people to discriminate. Especially during a time when heterosexual-cis-white people are waking to the fact that racism, homophobia, and transphobia actively exist.

I was talking to my best friend. Also a lesbian. I was saying how researchers will some times sneak into lesbian groups I’m in or post in therapist groups about the latest research they are doing about Queer parents, lesbian mom’s, etc. etc. They are usually seeking information about our “experience” of getting pregnant, giving birth, raising kids.

I was saying to my friend that these posts and queries irk me. I couldn’t pinpoint why at the moment. My friend, in her way, was like “Well then don’t respond,” shrug. I was like well duh I don’t. But I also don’t want to see those posts. I don’t want people researching me/us/lesbians/Queers. She was like why not? I think it’s good.

I had difficulty putting it into words at the time. The way the research questions are phrased usually indicate that we, as Queer people, had different experiences from heterosexual people. And I’m thinking. Uh yeah. Duh. We did have different experiences because we have to worry about discrimination. All. The. Time.

We worry about it when we look for a fertility doctor. We worry about it when we order sperm. We worry about it when we get all the stupid tests done in order to even try to get pregnant. We worry about it when we have to deal with our insurance companies. We worry about it when we have to figure out if we should do a second parent adoption. We do. We still do. Because there are cases (in Texas and other states) where non-bio Mom’s lose their children to bio Mom’s and/or bio Mom’s family because the non-bio mom has “no legal claim” to the children.

We worry about raising kids in a Queer family and if we will cause some long lasting mental damage to them by subjecting them to homophobia and Queer Family-phobia. I don’t know one lesbian or woman in a lesbian relationship while pregnant who did not get asked some fucked up question about how they got pregnant. Often by a healthcare professional or family member. Those people we are all supposed to trust most.

To do a study looking at the Queer experience of any aspect to the child conceiving, child bearing, and child raising process…seems insulting? Redundant? What are you looking for? Usually you are looking for some shock factor. Some homophobia. You are using my lived experience and my emotional hurt to what…teach? To profit off of?

I feel the Queer community could be saved these potentially re-traumatizing experiences. Just accept that it’s been hard for anyone who identifies under the Queer umbrella. Accept that homophobia and transphobia exists and is rampant in our society.

Don’t ask me to share my experience so you can get some emotional experience from me recounting homophobia. Don’t ask me to share my experience for you to profit off of.

Guess when I share my story? I share my story with Queer youths who are struggling with their identity. Who fear they will never be “normal”. I share it with young adults in their first lesbian relationship struggling with how to tell their parents. I share it with Queer people who have a shared experience who want to feel a connection and hope that they have a community bigger than themselves. That there are people out there who are living the life they are dreaming of in the closet.

We don’t need research papers for that. Why don’t you start researching straight people and their attitudes toward minorities? Why not make them do the work instead of counting on us to provide it all.

Yes I feel salty about it. Not all Queers do. Which is fine. You do you. As for me. I’ll not be participating in any studies trying to identify the Queer experience. I’ll just tell you straight up (pun intended)…we are discriminated against.

Some one some time said something horrible that made us question the decision to have children. We had children. Some one some time said something horrible right after they were born. We agonized over doing a second parent adoption. Then we scoured google to find a non-homophobic attorney.

We parent just like hetero’s. Our kids are the same as all other kids except this morning when one of my 4 year olds yelled at his brother, “I’m bringing it to the Mom’s!” Aside from being able to mention his parents in plural he is exactly the same as other 4 year olds.

Some one some time told us we shouldn’t parent kids without a Father and we would both go to Hell.

Some one some time told us we are not a real family because we are two women.

Some one some time side-eyed us and we feared for our safety with our children.

Some one some time denied us service for goods and we had to deal with that in front of our children.

We’ve been told not to take our children to Pride events due to concerns for their safety.

We’ve been questioned as to the validity of our relationship to our children by healthcare providers who want to know who the “real” mom is.

Then after all this hatred and discrimination we experience we find a safe space in lesbian mom groups and mental health spaces and we are bombarded by people who want to study us.

These are all shared experiences of all Queer parents. I promise you. You don’t need to study us. You need to study the hatred perpetrated against us. You need to spread acceptance toward us. You need to stop depending on Queer individuals sharing our experiences of homophobia to show that homophobia exists. It exists.

 

 

 

 

 

#COVID-19 · homophobia

COVID Week 12?! Queer Black Lives Matter.

Everyone talked about the protests and the murders the past two weeks. From my ten year olds to my fifty year olds. The Mom’s, Dad’s, children, teens, white, Black, gay, straight…every one. We shifted from being inundated with COVID information to being inundated with who in our social media outed themselves as racist this week.

Have you ever had to look into the eyes of a young Black boy and watch as they cry because they are scared they will be murdered?

Because I have. More than once.

I didn’t realize the number of Black individuals I have on my caseload until the world fell apart over the last few weeks. It’s weird to be a white provider asking my Black clients how they have been coping knowing that I have little to no idea what it is like to wear my minority status on my skin.

I have a complicated relationship with the African American community as a lesbian.

I’ve had many conservative families over the years who do not follow up with me when they realize I am married to a woman. Many of whom were Black. I’ve had friends who are Jamaican and Haitian and they have been very up front with the fact that I would not be acceptable to their parents.

There also seems to be a general skepticism toward mental health among certain parts of the Black community that is around me geographically. I’ve had parents tear me apart because they are angry at my recommendation for their depressed child to take anti-depressants.

I’ve also taken care of many Black Queers and trans individuals who have been disowned because their family is not accepting of their “lifestyle.”

I’m sure you can imagine all of these experiences have led me to have a complicated relationship with the Black community in my area.

Because 1- I am a mental health provider. 2- I am Queer. 3- I am white. 4- I am not religious.

All four of those things together make relationships with certain Black clients and friends in my personal life…complicated.

When I hear Black Lives Matter I think of my young Black clients who are beautiful and some times geeky, and fun, and some of whom I’ve treated for more than five years now. I think that I can’t imagine the world without them and it hurts my heart to think their lives are endangered just by existing in their skin.

But sometimes when I hear Black Lives Matter I instinctively think; Queer Black Lives Matter too.

Martin Luther King Jr is one of my personal heroes. His written works are scattered around my house and I am always down to watch a documentary about MLK. At some point over the years I learned about Bayard Rustin. A “close advisor” to MLK. He was gay. He had a husband of over 20 years. He is not well known and I did not learn about him in history class. Ever.

MLK was known to have to multiple affairs. They both were incredibly intelligent and eloquent. Yet one of them is a legend and one is barely known. One had a long term monogamous relationship, and one had multiple affairs during his marriage. But the affairs were overlooked because MLK was heterosexual. Rustin is not a legend because he was gay.

I think I feel a certain type of way because when I hear Black Lives Matter I wonder if the people saying it truly believe all Black Lives Matter. Queer Black lives too. Because I’ve had experiences that have told me otherwise.

I challenge myself to do the work of white privilege and all that affords me. Because I do benefit from being white. I do not know the fears of having a Black son as I have two white sons.

I am a minority so I do have experiences of being discriminated against due to being a lesbian.

I am encouraged by this new generation of people. My young Black and white children talking about protests. Attending protests. Speaking out and engaging in mental healthcare…it provides me hope. Hope that there is a generation of people who will agree that all Black Lives matter. Not just heterosexual Black Lives. But Queer & Trans Black Lives Matter too.

These past weeks have been emotionally draining in so many ways. I cannot imagine the emotions running through the Black community if white me on the periphery has been feeling this drained.

I do know that I’ve looked into the eyes of people as they cry with fear and anger. A fear and anger that can only be felt by walking the shoes daily from birth as a minority. I know I’ve done this through screens because of a damn pandemic that just keeps marching on.

I know I’ve heard from Black women that they have been raped and not taken seriously by police. I’ve heard from Black men that they have been told to put stuffed animals in the back of their car and a carseat to make it seem like they have children because it may make a police officer view them differently when pulled over if they think they are a Father. I’ve met with Black boys who are literally some of my favorite people on my caseload and felt absolute grief and horror that their lives are endangered and if they become a hashtag I would be…I cannot put into words what I would be. Grief. Anger. Tears.

So you can hopefully see through my ramblings why one Queer woman has a complicated relationship with the slogan Black Lives Matter. I fervently believe white supremacy exists. I absolutely have benefited from this system and actively work to educate myself and challenge my own beliefs and life and educate my sons to not become more products of a white system.

But I also know Queerness. I also know homophobia and transphobia runs rampant in all communities Black and white. So when I say Black Lives Matter I mean ALL Black Lives Matter. I mean Queer Black lives are BEAUTIFUL and WORTHY.

Yeah I went all caps with that. You know I just yelled it.

I’m watching Douglas. Gadsby is great at yelling and I imagine half her show to be all caps.

I don’t think there’s a great way to wrap this up. Sometimes we just have to sit with the tension I’ve created for you. I’ve been sitting with it for two weeks and struggled with how to write about it. So I’m not going to wrap it up nicely for you. I’ll leave you with it. Ask yourself. Do you mean all Black Lives Matter? Or just the straight ones?

 

*** I am very aware that the BLM movement was created in 2013 in response to the acquittal of the murderer of Trayvon Martin. I’m aware part of their tagline is that they value Trans Black Lives. I’m not questioning the literal movement of BLM. I’m questioning each individual who utilizes that slogan. As my own personal experiences have shown me that not all people are accepting of Queer people of any race or ethnicity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#COVID-19 · homophobia

Week 11. COVID-19. #BlackLivesMatter

Dude. What the ever-loving fuck. I’ve sat down to write a blog post multiple times. I skipped week 10 if you noticed. Because I literally couldn’t formulate coherent thoughts about the shit-show that is happening in this country.

I finally funneled it down into a few significant moments in my own little lesbian life.

My wife bought my son’s water guns. They came home very excited to show me. They also looked somewhat nervous because they knew I would never have bought them anything with the word gun in it. I couldn’t see my facial expression but I know I raised an eyebrow and looked up at my wife who sighed and shrugged in resignation, and my sons looked a mixture of excited and nervous.

They all knew I was gearing up for my soapbox. I remember thinking of a beautiful line from my favorite classic, The Long Hot Summer (Paul Newman version, don’t even talk to me about the 80’s version. It doesn’t exist in my head), when the Southern Daddy says “I get preached to on Sunday….” and young hot Paul Newman interrupts and says, “Yeah and you don’t listen…”

Because I was gearing up to preach. And they all knew it.

I’ll shorten it here. But I basically said until young Black men and boys can play with toy guns I’ll be damned if my sons will use their white privilege to play with toy guns.

It was said in a semi-four-year-old version. I tried explaining that police sometimes go after the wrong person. My sons were quick to interrupt and tell me police officers get “the bad guys”. I had to try and explain that some times they get the “wrong bad guys” and just because some one has different color skin doesn’t mean they are bad.

My wife cut me off when I was about to get a bit too graphic. I forget to keep it rated G when I’m in full on soapbox preacher mode. But I want them to get it. I want them to understand it is a privilege that they could carry those damn water guns. I mean I think they got it.

Then when we watched Out on Disney+ and I was silently sobbing and asked Declan what he thought it was about; he told me it was about the dog causing trouble, and then they got it to stop and could we please just watch Scooby Doo now?!

So yeah…who knows. At some point they will be of an age when they will get it though. Because I’m going to drill it into their heads. Because if Black and women and men have to have these horrible conversations with their kids; I’m having them with mine. If young Black men cannot have toy guns; my sons won’t either.

Because until they feel some discomfort nothing will change. White heterosexual men and women have to feel some discomfort for change to occur. My sons are going to feel it. Because I feel it. Because I am horrified by the state of racism in this country. I am horrified by how the administration condones it. I am horrified by the amount of white people who do not feel at the very least discomfort with these deaths.

Meanwhile let me insert a screenshot of a Facebook post. No, I’m not deleting the person’s name. It was a response to a person asking about LGBTQ resources for online groups for teens who are stranded due to COVID with potentially homophobic and/or transphobic families.

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This is the shit. This is the reason I cried watching She-Ra and Cattra kissing and saving the universe with a lesbian kiss. This is the reason I sobbed watching Out. This is the reason I feel horrified not just minor discomfort by Black boys and men dying. Because homophobia is real. Because micro aggressions and overt aggressions are a part of my every day life because I’m married to a woman.

But I can hide it. I can’t imagine wearing it on my skin.

I find being married to a woman possibly the most challenging part of my life. Because it defines who I am. It makes me vulnerable. It makes me strong, while also wishing there were times I could just break. Could I just be part of a FB group for therapists and not have to experience homophobia? Could I just be a part of society in general and not experience homophobia? Could Black men walk down the street and not be killed?

Could we just co-exist? It seems we can’t.

I know my sons at age four don’t need to know certain things. But I also know some day they will be old enough to know things. And I will tell them.

Another therapy group I’m in asked recently what people do when clients are homophobic and/or racist. I replied I discharge them. There were a lot of therapist-y responses. That’s when I really feel the nurse part of my training come through. I’m not flowery and I don’t feel I owe it to a racist to “try and understand where these feelings come from,” I feel I owe it to myself to take space for my work and allow myself to work with clients I feel I can help without any transference or counter-transference negatively impacting that work.

Week 11. COVID-19. We started hiring baby-sitters because who knows when daycare is going to open. Black men and women are still being killed when they are innocent of any wrong-doing simply because they are Black. And white people still suck. Watch Nanette. “It is dangerous to be different.” Read “Me & White Supremacy” by Layla Saad. Do your work.

And until all children of all colors can play with toy guns; don’t freaking buy them. And when you don’t buy them. Explain why.

“Diversity is strength. Hindsight is a gift.” Hannah Gadsby