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Posts Tagged ‘LGBT’

LGBT people confront widespread hatred, yet each year take new strides towards equality. What’s the secret?

“Straight allies” – a concept every lawyer needs to understand.

As an LGBT person, you face a stark reality – there aren’t many of us. It might not seem like it, but we’re a tiny minority. And it’s a myth we recruit straight people to be gay – we would, but it’s impossible.

“Straight allies” are the folks who aren’t LGBT but – because they’re caring, patient, loving, open-minded and plain decent – they help LGBT people persevere in the struggle for equal rights.

What’s this got to do with lawyers?

You need some allies, too – allies who aren’t lawyers. It’s key to your survival.

Look around – all you see, probably, is lawyers – lawyers and more lawyers. That’s because you spend 90% of your waking hours at a law firm, where that’s all there is to see.

At some point in your day, or your week, or maybe your month, you’re going to have to see someone who isn’t a lawyer. And that person is going to have to put up with you. It may be your spouse, your romantic interest, your buddy from college or a member of your family.

That’s your non-lawyer ally. And you know deep in your heart it’s not a fun job. Whoever he is, he’s putting up with a lot – helping you keep it together.

One of my clients complained to me that he regrets coming back from work every night and grumping at his wife. I reminded him she might not be savoring the experience either. But it went further than that. The following week she blew up at him and gave him an earful of what being a non-lawyer ally is like.

Based on that earful – and other earfuls like it – here are a few tips for getting along with your non-lawyer allies:

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This month on “The Alternative” we celebrated Valentine’s Day with some lively – and racy – talk about dating and romance.  Terry LeGrand wasn’t feeling well, so his old friend Guy Windsor (who comes on every month to present LGBT theater reviews) stepped in to host the show (with plenty of help from Terry’s regular technician and sidekick, Andrew Holinsky.)

You can listen to the show here. My segment starts about 15 minutes in, but as always, it’s worth sticking around to the end. To find out more about Terry and “The Alternative” on LA Talk Radio, check out Terry’s website and the show’s website. And be sure to catch Terry’s new show “Journey to Recovery” which deals specifically with substance abuse and recovery issues.


If you enjoy his shows, you can become a Terry LeGrand “fan” on Facebook here.Thanks, Terry! See you next month.

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Check out The People’s Therapist’s new book: “Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy

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This month on “The Alternative” with Terry LeGrand, we talked about surviving the holiday season as an LGBT person, especially if you’re feeling alone and maybe a little blue.

You can listen to the show here.  My segment starts about eleven minutes in, but as always, it’s worth sticking around for the whole show.

To find out more about Terry and “The Alternative” on LA Talk Radio, check out Terry’s website and the show’s website.

If you enjoy his show, you can become a Terry LeGrand “fan” on Facebook here.

Thanks, Terry!  See you next month.

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This week on a special Halloween edition of “The Alternative” with Terry LeGrand, we talked about kinky sex, and how your therapist has to be able to accept your tastes in bed, if you’re going to work successfully together.

You can listen to the show here.  My segment starts about eleven minutes in, but as always, it’s worth sticking around for the whole show.

To find out more about Terry and “The Alternative” on LA Talk Radio, check out Terry’s website and the show’s website.

If you enjoy his show, you can become a Terry LeGrand “fan” on Facebook here.

Thanks, Terry!  See you next month.

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Sometimes I feel like I might be the greatest therapist in the world.

Like when I help a gay person out of the closet.

The results are amazing.  If I could put what happens to a gay person when he comes out of the closet into a bottle and sell it, I’d be a multimillionaire.

Depression lifts.  Anxiety disappears.  Authenticity is restored.  Self-esteem soars.  It’s like a super mental health tonic – it never fails.

How to account for this miracle?

A person in the closet is a liar.  He’s being forced to lie to everyone around him, and he is being forced to lie about who he is, which implies there is something wrong with him.

That’s incorrect because there is nothing – NOTHING – wrong with being gay.  In fact, it has many advantages – including admission into the gay community, a diverse collection of people with a proud history.

The lie of the closet isolates the closeted person.  No one knows him, so he doesn’t know himself – or them.  He’s living outside of the world, alone.

That isolation is devastating.  It is a terrible waste of a human life.

Coming out fixes everything in one easy step.  The results are astounding.

It isn’t easy to overcome the fear and take that leap.  Certain elements in our society are committed to keeping gay people from telling their truth, and to achieve that end they do their best to scold, frighten and intimidate LGBT people into hiding the beauty of their authentic souls.

Over the years I’ve heard every reason in the book for why it isn’t quite time yet – or why this particular patient is the exception and can’t come out like everyone else.

It’s all nonsense.  Everyone must come out.

Here’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the topic:

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

I’ve helped people of all ages, all religions, all ethnicities and from all over the world to come out.

To my knowledge not one single mother has clutched her chest and dropped dead of a heart attack (although a patient recently – and seriously – predicted to me that this would occur.)  Not one father has committed suicide upon hearing the news either (another patient’s grim prediction.)

At very worse, they might freak out, and it might take them a while to overcome their ignorance and become educated about the nature of sexual orientation.

But that’s their job.  They have a gay person in their lives, and they need to learn more about gay people.

One of the best things about coming out is that you stop apologizing.  You learn to look people in the eyes without shame. Suddenly you are truly present, authentically present.  It’s the real you.

For a gay person, when you come out is when your life truly begins.

A few weeks ago, President Obama promised he would dismantle Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – the military’s current policy towards its gay soldiers, pilots, marines and sailors.

The military has been functioning for nearly two decades under this rule, under which gay people are permitted to serve, so long as they live in the closet.

As a psychotherapist, I know that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell does more than endanger the careers of brave, hard-working American service members – it endangers their psyches as well.  Overturning this policy is not merely a matter of social justice – it is a matter of psychological well-being.

Many of these service members are young and impressionable, and grew up in a climate that was especially repressive around issues of sexual orientation.  In psychological terms, the military is in the position of a parent to these young soldiers.  By telling these young people to hide who they truly are, the commanding officers are telling them there is something wrong with their authentic selves.  If they believe this nonsense, they will become prime candidates to develop depression by bottling up their anger at the military – anger which they feel is forbidden – and turning that anger in on themselves, assaulting their self-esteem.

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is an insult to soldiers who put their lives on the line to protect our country.  It is also a real and present danger to their psyches.

It is an obscenity.  It must end now.

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The People’s Therapist had fun the other night on the radio, chatting with LA Talk Radio host Terry LeGrand about some common misconceptions that gay and straight people hold about one another.

Here’s the interview.  I come on about 10 minutes into the show.

Terry is an interesting guy – and his show – “The Alternative, with Terry LeGrand” is not to be missed.

Here’s where you can find a schedule and an archive of past shows.

Here’s Terry’s webpage.

and Here’s Terry’s fan page on Facebook.  Please become a fan!

Terry is not only an LGBT rights activist and popular radio personality – he’s also a retired physician and the Co-Chair of ACT UP Southern California.  He’s invited me to come back on the show again next month.  I’ll let you know when the interview is available online.

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When gay people come out of the closet, they usually run into some variation of the “but that’s unnatural” argument.  This is the apparently sensible claim that it doesn’t make sense to be gay.  Isn’t sex for procreation?  Why would two males or two females become romantically involved if they can’t have a child together?

It seems like a reasonable argument.  You can point out that some sort of gay behavior occurs in every species in the animal kingdom – which is true – or that gay sex is simply fun – also true.  But that only begs the question.  Why?  Why are there so many gay animals, and people, in the world when reproducing your own kind is the basis for a species’ success?  Having fun doesn’t seem to explain this apparent contradiction.

The answer is that gay people help nature hedge its bets.  A successful species typically keeps extra cards up its sleeve because the rules of the game can change without warning.  Gay people represent some important extra cards.  They are a natural, genetic variation that helps guarantee the successful raising of young.

Many species show wide genetic variation.  Dogs, for example.  You can breed a chihuahua that weighs 2 pounds.  Or you can breed an Old English Mastiff that weighs 300 pounds.

Why should canine genetic material be so mutable?  Because being tiny – or being huge – might come in handy.  You never know.

The ultimate disaster for a species – extinction – happens when its members fail to adapt to an altered environment.  That’s why you want to have as much flexibility as possible to respond and survive when something unexpected occurs.

It could be a meteor striking the Earth.  Or a volcano erupting.  Or a pandemic disease wiping out three-quarters of the population.  The game can change – and a species has to change too – sometimes a lot – in challenging new circumstances.

Having gay members of your species could make the difference between survival and extinction.  Gays are unique – and vitally important -because they do something no other members of that species will do.

I don’t mean have gay sex.

I mean raise other people’s children.

Gay animals are perfectly happy to pair-bond and mate with members of their own sex,  so their sexual relations are non-procreative.  They do not have children with their partner.  That means they are available to raise another animal’s children.

Say a heterosexual zebra, or otter, or muskrat or human is killed and leaves behind a helpless child.  Heterosexual animals, who can have  children of their own, will probably refuse to raise this other animal’s child, or at best do so grudgingly.  They have their own children, who are a higher priority because they will pass on their genetic material.  But a gay member of the species will happily step in and raise that helpless child.

He has no reason not to.  He is not caught up in the battle to mate and reproduce.  His preoccupation is caring and nurturing within a relationship.

If a male animal loses a female partner and is left with children who need care, he might have trouble locating another female willing to raise these children.  But a gay male would happily accept the job.

If a female animal loses her male partner and is left with young to raise, another male might reject the task of raising those children.  But a gay female would, similarly, be happy to help out.

Gays play a role in increasing the success rates for child-rearing in all species.  In the event of a large-scale disaster, resulting in many adult deaths, gays could fill an especially vital role in helping to raise the young.  They would not compete for sexual partners.  But they would help out with the kids.

It could make the difference to a species’ survival.

That’s what’s happening right now, with humans.

Many heterosexual human couples have children they are unable or unwilling to raise.  These children are put up for adoption – but there are too many of them to be cared for solely by heterosexual volunteers, who usually prefer to raise their own children.

That’s why, throughout the world, gays are the unofficial backbone of the adoption system.  Without them, many children would suffer terribly, never finding wiling, dedicated adoptive parents.

It is an open secret that in most states, the adoption system would collapse without the participation of gays and lesbians.  In 2007 it was estimated that there are 270,000 children living with same-sex couples in the USA.  Of these, one-quarter, or 65,000, have been adopted.  Gays are a small minority, perhaps as few as 4% of the general population.  But there is no question that gay people do a lot of adopting and provide loving homes for hundreds of thousands of children who desperately need them.

Unfortunately, in a few states, right-wing religious zealots have persuaded politicians to ban gay adoption.  It is not clear whether this misguided attack on children and the rights of gay people is constitutional.  A court battle is raging in Florida.

Meanwhile, these laws prevent gay people from playing a role nearly as ancient as life itself.  That is a tragedy, which could result in a calamity.

It’s also unnatural.

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