Mental Health Warriors: An Interview with John Duran

John Duran head shot quote

Mental Health Month may be over, but we are still dedicated to empowering individuals to “light their way” to better mental health, happiness, and improved well-being. As part of this commitment, we are continuing to profile “Mental Health Warriors,” or individuals who have been outspoken in their advocacy and support for mental health issues. This week, we caught up with West Hollywood city councilor, human rights lawyer, and LGBTQ activist, John Duran.

Talkspace: How did you first get involved in advocating for equal rights and mental health?

John Duran: I first got involved in June of 1985, when a close friend of mine named Scott Fleener died very suddenly of HIV related pneumonia. I hadn’t been very politically involved up to that point. I couldn’t tell you who my member of Congress was or how he or she voted on issues regarding equal rights or mental health. His unexpected death at 26 years of age rocked my world. Continue reading Mental Health Warriors: An Interview with John Duran

Addressing the Clash Between Generations of LGBTQ Activists

lgbtq activist pride parade make america gay again flag

To start a discussion on LGBTQ activism and mental health during Pride Week, we asked two LGBTQ activists of different generations to meet and discuss their views, experiences, and perspectives. Michael Noker, a millennial who has written about LGBTQ issues, interviewed Patrick Cleary, a long-time LGBTQ activist who fought for gay rights during the AIDS epidemic and beyond. The two discuss the grief and mental health implications of losing a generation as well as the critical need for activism.

Noker: What would you say was the most monumental moment for the LGBTQ movement in your lifetime?

Cleary: There are a few, so forgive me for not picking only one. The 1987 FDA approval of AZT, a drug for treating HIV/AIDS is the most monumental thing I can think of as a gay man, because it meant that my friends stopped dying so often.

Ronald Reagan hadn’t even said the word “AIDS” until the year before. The honest opinion of most of the country was that AIDS was something that should burn itself out. It only affected gay guys and drug addicts, and we weren’t worth the trouble. Continue reading Addressing the Clash Between Generations of LGBTQ Activists

What Does LGBTQ Pride Mean to You?

stonewall inn memorial LGBT pride

Every June, communities across the world celebrate Pride, also known as “Gay Pride” or “LGBTQ Pride.” For many it’s a celebration of identity, representing freedom of expression and freedom from social oppression. For others Pride represents a time in which they can watch from afar those who have been able to live their lives in an “out and proud” way. For people not in the LGBTQ communities, the month’s events may represent something different.

Pride began as a movement to solidify the rights and existence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s-1960s — in which Black communities fought for the same legal and civil rights of their white counterparts — spawned its creation.

There are differing stories as to how Pride actually began, yet people commonly think it originated in New York City. Like other activist movements, the modern gay liberation or civil rights movement included violent interactions with police. Most people think of the Stonewall Rebellion (also referred to as riots) as the catalyst for the modern march for civil rights for LGBTQ folks. Continue reading What Does LGBTQ Pride Mean to You?

The History of LGBTQ Conversion Therapy

gay man rainbow paint couch therapist

In 1965, TIME magazine published an article titled “Homosexuals Can Be Cured.” The article focused on the “triumphant” results of group therapy work led by psychiatrist Samuel Hadden, who was also a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School at the time. Hadden had been leading long-term (four to eight year) therapy sessions for men who identified as homosexual in the hopes of “curing” them of their sexual “perversions.”

TIME’s article celebrated Hadden’s ability to help men work through their “symptoms” of “illness”—whether that was wearing inappropriately feminine clothing or being sexually interested in men instead of women. Hadden was only one of many esteemed psychiatrists and psychologists to consider — and treat — homosexuality as a sickness during the 1960s. In fact, homosexuality was not removed from the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” [DSM] until 1973.

The pathologizing of homosexuality was not, however, contextually specific to 20th century America. Many of the earliest writings condemning homosexual acts as “unnatural” caught on in 12th century Europe, when religious leaders like Saint Thomas Aquinas denounced homosexuality as a sin in their early writings. Popular disdain against homosexuality, began in the realm of religion, but it quickly moved into the legal arena in centuries to come. Continue reading The History of LGBTQ Conversion Therapy

The Pain of Anti-LGBTQ Bullying: Ending the Silence

sad woman sitting on floor

April 24, 2017 was GLSEN’s Day of Silence, an annual campaign that brings awareness to the silencing effects of anti-LGBTQ bullying and harassment. To participate in this campaign, we decided to share the stories (anonymously) of Talkspace clients who faced anti-LGBTQ bullying and used therapy to heal.

How Childhood Bullying Has Lasting Effects

When people face anti-LGBTQ bullying — or any other form of bullying — during their youth, it can affect them for the rest of their lives. One of our therapists worked with a client who was bullied in school because he was gay. His peers also taunted and teased him because he was quiet and shy. Rather than supporting him and being compassionate, his parents told him to “toughen up.”

This had profound effects on the course of the client’s life. Now in his 40s, the client has trouble making friends and believing he is likeable. He finds it hard to believe that anyone would want to spend time with him. He often takes neutral behaviors personally or perceives them as punitive. His world feels small and he struggles with the daily pain of his loneliness. Continue reading The Pain of Anti-LGBTQ Bullying: Ending the Silence

How Being in Abusive Relationships Made Me a Perfectionist

gay man in corner abused

It’s 1:30 in the morning and I’m lying awake listening to the sound of my boyfriend’s light snoring. The box fan is humming softly in the corner. Cool night air blows through the window.

Although I’m happy, I’m also torn. In the dark I debate whether the fan is making enough noise to keep him asleep if I get up to go put away the clean dishes. Half of me is kicking myself for forgetting to do so. The other half is wondering if it’s a good opportunity to also clean the bathroom overnight as a surprise.

I remind myself how lucky I am to have found a good guy. I wonder whether this is business as usual for domestic violence survivors everywhere. I tell myself I’m most likely not as alone and abnormal as I feel. I force myself to fall asleep.

This all sounds weird, but these little debates play out in my head all day, every day. When I shop, I try to find little gifts for him to keep him happy, like a new pair of shoes. Every time I make it home before he does, I try to use those spare moments to clean something. Getting into his car also means clearing out a few bits of trash as I exit. I always make sure he has everything he needs before he leaves for work and his alarm is set before we go to bed.

Sometimes scars make you sweet. Continue reading How Being in Abusive Relationships Made Me a Perfectionist

When to Say, “I Love You,” According to a Therapist

gay men holding hands

Relationship problems are one of the main reasons people seek out therapy. And there is no time in our lives more complicated than the beginning stages of a romantic relationship. Our goal is usually aimed at doing everything we can to maintain the relationship.

We spend a lot of energy trying not to scare the other person away, right? In the early stages of a relationship, we often find ourselves walking on eggshells. Sometimes we hide our true opinions and feelings in an effort to keep the peace. This can leave us confused about when we should say, “I love you”.

What if this scares your new boo away? What if you come off as “needy” or “desperate”? What if they don’t say it back?! Continue reading When to Say, “I Love You,” According to a Therapist

How Can Families Reunite After Trump’s Victory Split Them Apart?

family-healing-feature_300w_mk

Before the 2016 election, writer Michael Noker was “incredibly close” with his mother. He saw her as a role model because of her strength, feminism and history of overcoming abuse. Before he came out as gay, his mother was already teaching him the importance of respecting members of the LGBT community.

Then he learned she was voting for Donald Trump. Because of Hillary Clinton’s persecution of her husband’s accusers during his sex scandal, his mother didn’t perceive Clinton as a more feminist choice than Trump. She was also disappointed with Obamacare and seemed to want a new leader who would change it.

When Noker told her about Trump’s comments on the infamous tape with Billy Bush, she dismissed them as “probably taken out of context.” He also informed her of the many sexual assault allegations Trump faced. She dismissed them as well, saying it was suspicious that women were coming forward so many years after the purported incidents. Continue reading How Can Families Reunite After Trump’s Victory Split Them Apart?

We Need to Talk About Intimate Partner Violence in LGBT Relationships

lesbian couple park bench

Most often when people discuss the impact and dynamics in domestic violence [DV] relationships, they assume the victim is a woman and the perpetrator a male. This discounts the experience of many people across the country and world who identify as LGBT or are male victims of intimate partner violence [IPV]. Intimate partner violence can occur in the context of any relationship pairing, although the media would lead you to believe only straight women can be victims. Continue reading We Need to Talk About Intimate Partner Violence in LGBT Relationships

Mental Health Problems Bisexual Men and Women Deal With

bisexual men and women pride parade

Bisexual people are underrepresented and discriminated against, even within the LGBT community. Because of biphobia and other mental health problems bisexual men and women deal with, they are more likely to develop a mental illness and less likely to come out than gay men and lesbian women. They also have the highest rates of abuse in intimate relationships.

If you identify as bisexual or are considering identifying as bisexual, this article will help you navigate potential mental health issues and better understand current ones. It is also a valuable resource for people who want to support the bisexual community and encourage acceptance of bisexual people within the LGBT community. Continue reading Mental Health Problems Bisexual Men and Women Deal With