Why I am teaching an LGBTQI Seminar on Friday, January 20, 2017

During the mid-1980’s, I was rather despondent isolating myself in the closet that most LGBT persons hide in during the early stages of coming out.  A pastor had referred me to Exodus Ministries, a conversation therapy organization that is now defunct, but I resisted that recommendation and entered a therapist’s office instead. 

The therapist was a kind, competent, and compassionate professional, as well as a father of two kids, who taught me that homosexuality was not a sickness, let alone a diagnosis that had no place in the DSM.  He helped me recognize that I was not amid a major depression requiring hospitalization or medication, but rather coping with an adjustment disorder manifesting with anxiety that could be treated in outpatient therapy and reframing my homophobic thoughts.

Over my time in therapy, I came out to close friends and several family members, engaged in a faith community where I was affirmed, joined athletic organizations with other gay men, and truly learned how to love myself.   The therapist encouraged me to develop coping skills for dealing with homophobia, as well as to emotionally prepare for my first long-term same-gender relationship.

Hence, on Friday morning when a new Vice President, who has a history of advocating conversation therapy for LGBT persons, is inaugurated, I will be collaborating with colleague Katharine Campbell, presenting a three-hour continuing education seminar entitled, “LGBTQI 101: Ensuring Equality in Clinical Settings,” that is designed for mental health and substance abuse professionals throughout the continuum of care. 

Know this, I am absolutely dedicated to ensure practices such as conversion therapy remain defined as unethical by professional organizations and illegal by many jurisdictions, as well as to mentor to other clinicians the strategies and standards of care required for competent treatment.  I remain grateful to my therapist from the mid-1980’s who ensured that I would not head down a path in conversation therapy that could have easily resulted in a sham marriage or even worse, suicidal thinking or planning.  On Friday morning, there is no better place for me to be than co-facilitating with Katharine.   Please join us.

Never Forget: Fifteen Year Anniversary of 9/11

Never Forget…

Fifteen years ago, terrorists boarded four planes, hijacked the pilots, and killed thousands when attempting to destroy several national treasures, including the World Trade Center in New York City.  In spite of those horrific actions, police officers, firefighters, and rescue crews saved thousands more lives with their heroic bravery throughout NYC and DC in which every American life mattered.  That day and the time following, there were no concerns about race, gender or political beliefs when reaching out to help someone or save someone’s life.

Never Forget…

This past weekend, I experienced a variety of emotions during a visit to California due to the passing of one of my family members.   Many a tear was shed missing her; yet we managed to laugh, smile, and hug through lots of stories, memories, and other sharing.   While there is still great sadness in the grief process, her husband and daughter are coping with their grief and letting several family members, including me, love them through the bereavement process as best as we can.

Never Forget…

On the morning of 9/11, we took pictures in front of the tree my cousin planted in honor of my grandfather.  We also reminisced about Grandpa with many stories.  He spent part of his career as a football coach who taught his players, his sons and his grandchildren about teamwork, discipline, and loyalty.  Grandpa also was a role model for being a person of faith.   I fondly recalled how he supported my career choice to become a counselor; he certainly would have been proud of my work fifteen years ago.

Never forget…

The Saturday following 9/11/01, I was assigned to Baltimore-Washington Airport to one of the airlines where my role was to assess and assure pilots and flight attendants of their bravery ensuring that the skies over the United States were ready to resume safe aviation flights home post 9/11 attacks.   Resuming flights was one of the key steps to resuming “normalcy” with our American lives… the ability to travel anywhere in the country without worry.   And this evening on the 15th anniversary, I ensure that my smile and cooperation is readily available to each security officer, TSA agent, airline pilot and flight attendant who will ensure my safety home after a cathartic visit with family.

Never forget…

On a weekend in which many Americans recollect the tragedy associated with 9/11, I was certainly in the right place: traveled by plane across the US to spend time with family that I love with a purpose to help them cope and to honor my cousin’s wife.   I remain very proud of my heritage as a Nelson family member.  And now, I’m heading home to be present with clients that allow me the privilege to support them with their emotional concerns.  And ever grateful to live in the United States, where freedom allows me to travel safely, visit loved ones, pursue a career, and remember and honor those who have touched my life.

Never forget…

Responding to the Orlando Tragedy

Shock and disbelief learning that fifty persons had been murdered while celebrating and dancing during the early morning hours of June 12, 2016.   Another act of gun violence with an assault weapon occurred at a nightclub in a similar vein to prior incidents at a local school, a movie theatre, a house of worship, a college campus, or a workplace.   This incident took place at a place where LGBT inclusiveness is honored and celebrated.    So what is next for us here in Fort Lauderdale?

Many persons surrounded themselves with loved ones to mourn.   Sun Serve offered free bereavement counseling.   The Pride Center organized a memorial service attended by more than 1000 local residents.   Patrons packed the local LGBT bars and restaurants to demonstrate solidarity.   The Tony Awards paid their respect and offered a showcase of performances dedicated to those whose lives have been lost.  

What many people have chosen to do is to keep living and loving.  Rather than isolate, people are expressing their grief, whether it is based in shock, anger, sadness, worry or a combination of all of those feelings.   People are hugging each other, letting family and friends know they are loved.  

Again, my heartfelt recommendation to clients, colleagues, and friends is to keep living and loving.   Let those who love you know how you feel.   Pray for the people of Orlando.   Be compassionate and listen to those who are overwhelmed.   Refer to the local resources providing assistance.   Collaborate with local law enforcement if you suspect someone is in danger.   Lend your support to an organization opposed to gun violence.  

Our LGBT community has been growing with millions of allies.   We continue to have the right to marry.  Speak your truth about the importance of living in a country where we value the lives of all colors, genders, orientations, creeds and beliefs.   Be safe, be genuine, and be loved.