Dealing with LGBT consumers’ anxiety this LGBT Pride Month
Note: The Beacon Lens blog does not always reflect the settled thinking of Beacon but rather represents the voices of our professionals on topical discussions.
Perhaps there’s a good reason it took me until late June, LGBT Pride Month, to write this blog. The fact is, as a gay man in 2017, I don’t feel proud; I feel anxious. As both a clinician and a consumer of behavioral health services, I’m in a unique position to appreciate why LGBT folks are increasingly nervous today. Not since the Stonewall Riots of 1969, which marked the beginning of Gay Liberation, or the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, have we experienced such a sense of “dis-ease” and disenfranchisement.
The June 11th Equality March for Unity and Pride in Washington D.C. was attended by hundreds of thousands of people. However, it received relatively little media coverage. There are some legitimate reasons: 1) the much larger Women’s March was the first in a series of such events that have desensitized the public; and 2) the Equality March took place the day before the first anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre, which got a lot of media attention.
Nevertheless, in light of the President’s refusal to release a proclamation recognizing Gay Pride Month (as has been the practice by presidents since 2000), the minimization of LGBT fears and hushed policy reversals has increased anxiety throughout our community.
Nevertheless, in light of the President’s refusal to release a proclamation recognizing Gay Pride Month (as has been the practice by presidents since 2000), the minimization of LGBT fears and hushed policy reversals has increased anxiety throughout our community. It feels like we’re being “ghosted”.
It’s a matter of public record
Regardless of one’s views on LGBT rights, the following actions are a matter of public record that reflect a rollback from previous administrations.
- The Republican Platform Committee did not include sexual orientation or gender identity in its listing of individuals who would be protected against discrimination, as was the case with our prior administration.
- The President has appointed a number of politicians with positions that negatively impact LGBT rights. Vice President Pence voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2007 that would have protected people based on their sexual orientation, stating it wages war on freedom and religion in the workplace. Last year, he signed the “religious liberty” law in Indiana and continues to support gay “conversion” therapy, a practice that the American Psychological Association (APA) has uniformly rejected as both ineffective and extremely harmful to gay and lesbian youth. There are numerous other examples beyond the scope of this blog.
- A recent executive order directs the attorney general to issue guidance “interpreting liberty protections in federal law,” thus invoking religious beliefs over individuals’ rights. The President also promised to sign the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which would allow for discrimination against LGBT people by government employers and others.
- The President has publicly stated he would appoint future Supreme Court justice who would overturn Marriage Equality.
Many LGBT Americans believe we will experience a wave of “other-ism” that groups, such as immigrants or non-Christians, have increasingly felt. Many in the LGBT community view the marginalization of “others” as a preview of what awaits us, a belief that lies in decades of discrimination, harassment, prejudice, and even violence, against us.
How we can help
As clinicians of LGBT individuals experiencing anxiety, we should use the appropriate tools to help them work through their feelings. These include:
- Evidence-based talk therapies
- Referrals for pharmacotherapy, where indicated
- Encouragement to talk through their fears with trusted friends and family
- Recommendation to limit media consumption and situations that may be triggering
- Encouragement to become involved, whether it’s politically or just volunteering in their communities in ways that support the LGBT community
- Encouragement to sublimate their angst into expression: art, writing, or speaking out
But most important, we must remember their feelings are valid. Regardless of your politics or news source, the fears of LGBT individuals are real and must be respected, not debated. Your ongoing knowledge of LGBT issues and empathy will be your most critical tools.