While festivities were still occurring during Gay Pride Week, a young lesbian woman came to my office to talk about her pain and sadness in the midst of this national celebration. I began seeing her when she was still in high school, first figuring out her sexual orientation. She has since graduated from high school and college and is working as a professional in her field of study. She is in a relationship with another professional woman who she loves, respects, and holds in high regard. They became engaged last December and were thrilled to learn that their wedding will now be recognized a legal marriage in all 50 states. While this is a huge legal win, lack of acceptance within her family is just as blatant and painful to her as it was when she tried to tell them she was a lesbian when she was still in high school.
Statistically, LGBT kids are subjected to bullying, teasing, harassment, and physical assault at a much greater rate than straight kids. Sixty-one percent of LGBT kids say that they feel unsafe. They are at higher risk for substance abuse, risky sexual behavior, and homelessness. They are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide as their straight peers. New studies have shown there is a correlation between less teasing and bulling and less depression and suicide attempts. Surprise! Surprise!
We see the same situation played out in the other major civil rights struggles of our times, such as those for women and for minorities. There has been a great deal of change in societal attitudes and in the law, but not as much real change as we like to believe in how people are treated. In fact, if anything, there is consistently a backlash regarding each advance in human rights for any group regardless of who they are, what color their skin is, what religion they practice or who they chose to love.
So, legally, love wins. But until the hearts of parents, neighbors, educators, and peers change, psychological pain and heartache continue for people like my dear client. Therapy can heal these hurts and help to change hearts. Let’s work to let love really win!