By Daniel Blausey, ATR-BC, LCAT | June 21, 2018 | #WeAreArtTherapists

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“June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. The Library’s month-long celebration demonstrates how Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Americans have strengthened our country, by using their talent and creativity to help create awareness and goodwill.”

Library of Congress

For art therapists, Pride Month is not only a time to celebrate, commemorate, and march proudly in solidarity, it is also a time to reflect on the shifting political and cultural fronts impacting our clients within the LGBTQIA community on a day-to-day basis. It is important to recognize the varying social locations cultural backgrounds such as religion, language, cuisine, social habits, arts, and specific family history of race, gender, socio-economic status, and education that intersect for each of our clients, potentially manifesting as depression, suicidality, anger, low self-worth or any combination of emotions.

To improve clinical work with individuals, children, and families within the LGBTQIA community, it is vital that art therapists learn and integrate proper terminology within a cultural context to assist clients as they differentiate between sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. These distinctions are an essential component of engagement and attunement in the therapeutic relationship.

Just as importantly, we must bring awareness to any conscious or unconscious bias of the art therapist and address the potential impact our attitudes, beliefs, and values have when working with clients.  The following vignette demonstrates the process of acknowledging bias while upholding professional ethics.  Witnessed in the late 1990’s, this interaction remains extremely relevant today with the renewed effort to thwart the human rights of the LGBTBIA community.

Early in my career at a comprehensive youth agency, I happened to overhear an animated, yet intense, discussion between a staff therapist and a pregnant, mental health intern. Both were women of color in their 40’s and each held strong, conservative religious views.  The intern, as she rubbed her belly, was struggling with providing our LGBTQIA young people with the life-affirming mental health services they were seeking. For the intern, providing this inspiring message seemed in direct conflict with her deep religious beliefs; the LGBTQIA community is damned to hell. In true mentorship form, the staff therapist provided guidance and an openhearted space for the intern to explore the difference between her personal beliefs and professional responsibilities. To accomplish this, the staff therapist shared her previous struggle and present comfortability maintaining her faith while advocating for the LGBTQIA community. “How would you like this child to be welcomed into the world if they’re part of the (LGBTIA) community?” she askedwhile gesturing to the expecting intern’s abdomen.  By establishing this personal/professional boundary, the intern was able to fully inhabit her role as intern with appropriate professional ethics, values, and her interventions cultivated a positive and empowered sense of identity. This was a true growing experience as she developed an appreciation, rather than fear, for the LGBTQIA community.

As art therapists, we strive to create a sense of safety, be present without judgment, and lead with openness. It is essential to know LGBTQIA terminology, to understand the impact of the intersecting identities of our clients and ourselves, and to align the combined intersections within the therapeutic alliance. In the belowe video, I share further thoughts on working with clients from the LGBTQIA community. Please also explore the below resources.

Resources and News

(Descriptions taken from sources)

 

LGBTQIA Resource Center Glossary The terms and definitions below are always evolving and changing and often mean different things to different people.  They are provided below as a starting point for discussion and understanding.  This Glossary has been collectively built and collected by the staff members of the LGBTQIA+ Resource Center since the early 2000s. https://lgbtqia.ucdavis.edu/educated/glossary.html

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

The Trevor Project: Trained counselors are here to support you 24/7. If you are a young person in crisis, feeling suicidal, or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, call the TrevorLifeline now at 866-488-7386.https://www.thetrevorproject.org/#sm.0000exbqm9hsffh2t9i2al1sxepdu

Trans Lifeline: A 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to the well being of transgender people. The hotline is staffed by transgender people for transgender people. Trans Lifeline volunteers are ready to respond to whatever support needs members of the community might have. Trans Lifeline is accredited by Contact USAhttps://www.translifeline.org

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) National Help Center: A non-profit organization that provides vital peer-support, community connections and resource information to people with questions regarding sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Three national hotlines are operated by a diverse group of LGBT volunteers LGBT National Hotline, the LGBT National Youth Talkline, and the SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline. A private, volunteer one-to-one online chat is also available that helps both youth and adults with coming-out issues, safer-sex information, school bullying, family concerns, relationship problems and a lot more.https://www.glbthotline.org

It Gets Better: Identified over 1100 organizations in 40+ countries around the world offering support to LGBTQ+ youth like you. https://itgetsbetter.org/get-help/

APA Office on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity: The mission of the APA Office on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity is to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge on gender identity and sexual orientation to benefit society and improve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people’s lives.http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/about/index.aspx

In schools and classrooms: LGBT Pride Month is an excellent time to talk with students about LGBT people and their struggles to achieve equal rights and treatment in all aspects of their lives. It is an opportunity to discover important LGBT people in history, read literature that features LGBT people, analyze homophobia/heterosexism and explore its causes and solutions.https://www.adl.org/resources/tools-and-strategies/lgbtq-pride-month

Impact of current administration: The Trump Administration removed information about LGBT rights from the White House website, ended certain protections for transgender schoolchildren and issued a ban on transgender people serving in the military. Additionally, the Trump White House ignored World AIDS Day, and the Administration’s budget proposed a cut to AIDS and HIV research funding. http://www.newsweek.com/lgbtq-pride-month-trump-administration-white-house-982266

Black Pride: In the early 1990s, Black Prides emerged as a powerful force and now take place in more than 30 major cities nationwide. Black Pride events offer a unique opportunity for LGBT communities of African descent to celebrate their myriad of experiences and identities with their allies, friends and families. Black Pride celebrations originated from the dissatisfaction of Black LGBT people who did not identify with the entertainment or cultural programming at other Pride events. For a list of more Black Pride events, please visit the International Federation of Black Prides. In recent years, other Pride events specifically targeted to other communities of color, specifically for the Latino/a community, have also occurred in some cities. https://www.glaad.org/publications/pridekit