Archive of ‘LGBTQ’ category

Kings & Queens: Tips from a Therapist on Coming Out

In honor of October being Coming Out Month, I wanted to write a blog very near and dear to my heart. Easily over half of my clients identify as LGBT, non-traditional, non-monogamous, and have some form of a coming out story. Whether they did not feel attracted to the opposite sex, they did not identify as the sex they were born, or the idea of a traditional monogamous marriage was not attractive to them, over 60% of my clients have had to go through the mystical, terrifying, and liberating experience of coming out. 

If you are questioning your sexuality, myself as well as the folks at Austin Family Counseling want to reassure you that you do not have to go through this alone. Coming out itself is a very isolating experience, and given the current pandemic, we need as little isolation as possible. Per my previous blog, social distancing does not mean emotional distancing. When a human comes out to their friends, family, and coworkers, their need for emotional support is so strong as it is one of the most vulnerable times of their lives. 

Below are helpful suggestions from an out-of-the-closet gay man turned therapist to the LGBT community of Texas who had his own share of struggles coming out in early adulthood. These tips are generalized as every person’s story is unique and beautifully different. 

Know Who Your Cheerleaders Are and Are Not

As the great Dr. Brene Brown talked about in her book “Daring Greatly”, all of us in some way, regardless of if we have a coming out history, are walking into some kind of arena in life. We are showing up and being seen, regardless of where we are. And in this metaphorical arena she has so beautifully drawn, all of us have the Support Section. This is the section closest to the arena where the cheerleaders in our lives belong—the people who get the closest and most intimate perspective of our struggles. And these people we absolutely need in our lives when we come out.  Siblings are often the first people who non-heteronormative people come out to first. They can also be parents, close friends, teachers, counselors, mentors, and close relatives. Consider who is going to be cheering you on and in your corner when you come out. Messages like “This does not change how much I love you”, “We are still your friends regardless”, “We love you no matter what” are messages that ideally should be told to someone who is so vulnerable when coming out. 

Being someone’s cheerleader when they come out does NOT sound like: “Well, just don’t hit on me if you are gay”, “It’s okay, I won’t tell anybody”, or “It’s okay, God will forgive you.” There are sadly still families who disown their children for coming out, and in lieu of the recent banning of Conversion Therapy this is a form of emotional and psychological abuse that has no place in our current climate. 

Be Mindful of What Could Change

Since coming out can be such a freeing and liberating experience, it is almost counterintuitive to say that there can be “consequences”. As mentioned above, some families disown their relatives for coming out (the amount of homeless LGBTQ youth makes up 40% of the entire minor homeless population). Some workplaces still discriminate against LGBTQ employees for coming out at the workplace. Though we should ALL be able to live authentically as our out and proud selves, I know several clients and several close friends who have had an adverse experience when coming out to their friends and family. 

Be Mindful of Mental Health

Bias aside, it is almost always better if you have a therapist to stay with you during the coming out process. As mentioned, coming out can be very isolating and is linked to depression, anxiety, compromised immune systems, suicidal thoughts, and drug and alcohol abuse. In extreme cases, some people never come out of the closet and suffer from very high anxiety and feel obligated to live a double life which can be very harmful for mental and physical health. 

Bullying Sadly Still Exists in 2020

I am filled in by a lot of my queer teens and early adults who sadly experience an enormously high level of bullying both in person and through apps like Instagram and Snapchat. Teens who are forcibly outed are prone to suicidal thoughts, feelings of humiliation and embarrassment, and lower senses of self esteem. Having gone through my own fair share of bullying in high school, I am fully empathetic to how painful and scary repetitive bullying can be. 

Bullying for queer people can also be present in the adult world. As women, racial and cultural minorities, and persons with special needs can empathize with, bullying in the workplace is alarmingly common. Workplace discrimination based on sexual identity is still sadly alive and well. However, if bullying in any capacity (from coworkers, managers, supervisors, bosses, etc) is present, it is NEVER okay and does not need to be tolerated. 

FOR TEENS:

If you are an in-the-closet teen and reading this, please know I am here, I am with you, and I am here to help. I have been through some of the worst parts about coming out (before and after) and I can probably relate to the struggles of coming out in a world that is more straight-friendly. Please let me reassure you that you do not have to go through the process by yourself. One of my favorite kind of client is a teen who is going through the coming-out process as I was there not TOO long ago. 😊 If you are not in a place to tell your parents why you need counseling for coming out, feel free to email me at [email protected] with questions about resources I can give you—and there are plenty in Austin! 

Written by: Ian Hammonds, LPC, LMFT

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Let’s Talk Pride

As a cisgender, heterosexual female, I cannot relate to and/or understand what it feels like to grow up in a world where I am not accepted and granted basic human rights because I do not meet expectations to love and live my life in a way that has been outlined for me, by my family and/or society.  Though I am not a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I am an ally–which means I support equal civil rights, gender equality, and social movements; I love people for who they are…not for who I think they should love or how they should live their lives and express themselves.  After listening to Same Love by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Born This Way by Lady Gaga AND in celebration of Pride Month, I figured it would only be appropriate to talk about the history of Pride and what it means for so many people.

What is Pride?

According to a quick Google search, the word “pride” is defined as, “a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired”.  While pride within the LGBTQ+ community means something different for each and every person, it generally relates to the general definition of “pride” in some way.  The following are just a few examples of what pride may mean to someone:

  • Love
  • Freedom
  • Visibility
  • Community
  • A celebration of diversity and authenticity
  • Equality
  • Support
The History of Pride

The LGBTQ+ community has been marginalized and discriminated against for many years.  As a result of being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, etc., people were faced with acts of discrimination, violence, brutality, and have been treated as less-than-human because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression.  The history of pride and pride-related events are tied to political activism and protests. On June 28, 1969, a riot broke out at The Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Greenwich Village in New York. Police had been known to raid The Stonewall Inn from time to time, which they did that night.  However, on that particular evening, patrons fought back, which resulted in a 3-day riot and protest against police discrimination that ignited the beginning of the LGBTQ+ movement.

One year later, in June 1970, the first gay pride event, called the Christopher Street Liberation Day (CSLD) March was organized to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall riots.  During this event, participants were seen holding signs and banners demanding equal rights and protections. After this first CSLD March in New York, commemorative marches in other big cities, such as Los Angeles, began to occur.  Chants such as “Say it clear, say it loud.  Gay is good, gay is proud” could be heard.  It wasn’t until the early 1990’s that Pride began to resemble what it is today: a celebration of LGBTQ+ life and sexuality in addition to a political and social demonstration.

How to Celebrate Pride

Ultimately, there isn’t ONE single way to celebrate Pride.  The following are different ways to celebrate…there isn’t a right or wrong way.

  • Be an activist and ally
    • Organizations such as Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation  (GLAAD) is a great resource for anyone and everyone.  GLAAD recommends being a listener, being aware of your own biases and assumptions, and not making derogatory comments or anti-LGBTQ+ jokes.
  • Create artwork with rainbows on it
    • The original flag had 8 colors–they all had a symbolic meaning (e.g.: sex, life, healing, sunlight, nature, magic, peace, and spirit), however, since 1979, the flag has had 6 colors on it.  It has been modified at different places at different times for more inclusion (e.g.: racial inclusivity and AIDs awareness).
    • Also, it is important to note that the rainbow flag is a common representation of LGBTQ+ pride, however, there are flags specifically for transgender pride, bisexual pride, and more.
  • Teach children love & acceptance
    • A main component of celebrating Pride includes setting the example of love & acceptance of everyone.  Have age-appropriate conversations with children about: inclusiveness, identity, and love.
  • Learn about LGBTQ+ Leaders in History
    • Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, Barbara Gittings, and Harvey Milk are just a few people you can start with.
  • Attend a City-Wide Pride Event
    • Whether it’s a festival or a march (or something in between), attending a pride event is a great way to show your support during Pride month.
  • Wear Inclusive Clothing  
    • Whether you’re wearing No H8 clothing or any of the garb from HRC, there are many options for inclusive clothing to purchase!
  • Host a Pride Movie Night
    • Different movies to watch include, but are not limited to: “Milk,” “Boys Don’t Cry,” and “Love, Simon”.  These films are not just entertaining & interesting to watch; they also educate viewers about the struggles people in the LGBTQ+ community face.
  • Read LGBTQ+ Literature
    • There are MANY LGBTQ+ books to choose from.  Whether you’re going to your local library or stocking up on books from Amazon, check out the following books/authors.  (Note: some books below are LGBTQ+ themed and some are written by LGBTQ+ authors).
      • Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
      • Eleanor and Hick by Susan Quinn
      • On Being Different by Merle Miller
      • Take Me With You by Andrea Gibson
      • Stung with Love by Sappho
      • Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt

Ultimately, it’s about accepting and loving LGBTQ+ friends and family.  Earlier I said there isn’t a right or wrong way to celebrate Pride…and while that is correct, if there is only one that you choose to do, this would be it.  Make sure your friends and family know that your love and support is unconditional, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. For anyone who needs additional resources to love and accept others,  Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) is a great place to start.

Wishing everyone a Happy Pride!

Julie Burke

By: Julie Burke, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Susan Gonzalez, LPC-S, LMFT-S


LGBT and Family During the Holidays

LGBT and Family during the holidays

LGBT and Family During the Holidays

By: Natalie Love, LPC, and LMFT-Associate
Supervised by Sabrina Kindell, LPC-S, LMFT-S

This time of year is full of nostalgic sights, sounds, & smells. At every turn there are windows filled with decorations, holiday songs pumping through the speakers, even a myriad of holiday flavored coffees in red & green cups. We want to think of this season as magical & joyful, but for many LGBTQ+ individuals, there can be a lot of anxiety and anticipation around seeing family for the holidays. It is not uncommon for shame to be associated with family during the holidays.

Multiple studies have shown that LGBTQ+ individuals have higher rates of depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse due to negative experiences around coming out, verbal & physical harassment, and isolation. During the holidays, emotional challenges can be magnified, especially when anticipating family gatherings. Even when family and friends are accepting, past emotional history, trauma, and the need to lessen or hide your true self can be persistent.

Having a self care plan can be a good way to prepare for the challenges that come with the holiday season.

1. Boundaries  

Try to set limits with yourself and others. Remember that you always have a choice. Sometimes it can feel like the holidays are full of obligations but you can always politely and firmly decline. If you choose to visit family, set clear boundaries. For instance, having your own place to stay can be a way to create comfort and safety for yourself.  This way if you feel uncomfortable or need a break you have a separate space to go.  You can always choose to stay with a friend, loved one, or in a hotel.  If tensions arise or you feel emotionally escalated, take a time out. Step outside, take a deep breath, go for a drive. Offer to walk the dog, run to the store for a forgotten item.  Whatever you need to get calm and take care of yourself.

2. Acceptance

Try to manage your expectations. You can bring acceptance to the table by remembering things are not perfect, nor do they have to be. You can only control your own behavior. Try to avoid heated arguments or debates, they rarely lead anywhere productive, instead attempt to let go and accept the situation as it is, even if it’s not ideal.

3. Compassion & Gratitude

Try to cultivate compassion by remembering that some of the family problems and attitudes you are now facing may have been going on for generations, and this may help you gain some perspective and diminish blame. This is the family you have been given, so try to find ways to understand and accept them while maintaining your own integrity. They may not be offering you the kind of acceptance you desire, but modeling acceptance can be a great step in showing them how to embrace differences.  Even if things don’t go according to plan, finding gratitude in even the smallest things, can serve your own well-being.  To keep things in perspective, try considering 1 or 2 moments you are thankful for at the end of each day.

Holiday events and celebrations often involve alcohol.  Remember that conversations and debates can get more emotionally charged when people are drinking.  Try to be responsible with consuming alcohol and keep in mind that others may say inappropriate things when drinking.  If you are able to stay clear headed it will be easier to take care of yourself and avoid getting pulled into an unproductive, possibly hurtful, alcohol driven debate.


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