I was staying at my parents house for a summer internship before my senior year of college. It was an especially hot summer in LA, and I remember when I woke up that morning I couldn’t tell if what I was experiencing was a fever or if I had just forgotten what a real SoCal summer felt like. I remember sitting down on the toilet, looking between my legs and seeing blood. I remember thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
After one visit to my family doctor and then another to a specialist, I learned the man I had slept with the night before had left me with not one, but two treasures to remember him by: internal hemorrhoids with abrasions (the blood) and herpes (the fever). When I called to tell him, he didn’t answer. When I went to find him on the gay hook-up app where I had met him, his profile had disappeared. When I Googled his name and the hospital where he purported to work as a physician, I found nothing.
That’s the man who raped me. I don’t remember the name he gave me and I’m almost certain it was a lie, so let’s call him John R. Smith. The “R” stands for rapist.
Continue reading Jack’s Story: My Identity In the Wake of Male Sexual Violence
The majority of us acknowledge the world’s precarious state. In fact, according the APA, a survey of 3,440 Americans found that 63% feel the “future of the nation” is a very or somewhat significant stressor in their lives.
Election Night 2016 was an intense and polarizing event for the vast majority of Americans. Last year many people saw their holidays soured by the state of the world and their fears for the future. Others were frustrated with their families for not giving then President-elect Trump a fair chance to prove himself and provide for the country. Most were simply exhausted from the politics of the past couple years, hoping for a reprieve from the constant arguments.
The political climate rapidly tore my own family apart. My mom has always been pretty socially liberal and compassionate — and raised me accordingly. Social issue voters seemed to have a clear option: Hillary Clinton, who I support wholeheartedly to this day. My mom, however, voted for Trump. Continue reading Holidays and Mental Health: My Family After One Year of Trump
Beginning your first year of college can inspire several emotions. From the first day of classes to finding your place in a sea of new faces, entering a university can be extremely exciting or exceptionally stressful. This can be an even more difficult transition when you are entering college as someone who openly identifies as LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) and needs support navigating your academic journey.
Whether it’s finding the right academic club or LGBTQ+ resource that can aid in the transition from high school, being LGBTQ+ and new on a college campus can be fraught with troubles. For some students, the first question that comes to mind might be how inviting the college campus is or how truly accessible these LGBTQ+ resources are. This concern often leads to conversations around the need for queer students to be informed of what programs and services their campus offers when speaking specifically about mental health and wellness. Continue reading A Guide to College Mental Health for LGBTQ Students
Adam was assigned a female gender at birth, but from an early age he did not feel comfortable identifying as female. Like many transgender people who struggle with mental health issues, the pressure of society’s gender norms caused stress and confusion.
Coming out as transgender is a challenge for anyone, but it was especially difficult for Adam. He grew up in a small, close knit town with one high school. His uncle was also his landlord, an example of how his environment could be suffocating at times.
At the age of 15, Adam came out as transgender and began identifying as a man. With the exception of his father, no one in his family or community supported him. Peers mercilessly bullied and ridiculed him until he dropped out of high school. Then the final blow hit: Because of his decision, his uncle, the landlord, refused to provide him a residence. Continue reading Transgender Mental Health Issues: The Challenges of a Binary World
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
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
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?
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
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
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