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.