I have seen extraordinary people do extraordinary things in my career. A few years ago I got to be there when one of my clients finally got the courage to tell his mom that he is gay. I sat there during this incredibly intense conversation and watched as this boy’s life changed in front of my eyes. From that day forward his life was going to be different – not necessarily better, but more real. He wouldn’t have to pretend anymore to be something he was not. I still tear up when I think about those moments. I cannot believe that he trusted me enough to be part of it. He wanted me to be there to help him find the courage to talk.
There is the other side however. It wasn’t a Hollywood moment. That day I watched her life change too. It was a process of grieving that she had to go through that she didn’t ask for or expect. Her feelings were complicated, dynamic and she had a right to them.
I know it is not a scientific survey, but as I scan my memories of the clients I have worked with over my almost 20 years in helping professions, I can tell you that a large percentage of the people I work with identify as a sexual minority. I have found it quite alarming. Statistically speaking, the LGBTQ population is small compared to the general population, therefore it should only be a small part of my practice. It is not.
Our society has come a long way towards acceptance. Gay marriage is legal, not something I expected to see in my lifetime. Gay couples and relationships are becoming more present in the media. Ontario even elected a gay premier with little or no attention given to her sexual identity. She was judged based on her politics.
Even Albertans, stereotyped for our intolerance, have accepted sexual identity and equality as a human rights issue at least legally. A few years ago I had a particularly “redneck” couple bring their effeminate son to the gay pride parade “just in case he turns out to be one of those” – not eloquent, but genuine. They wanted him to know that they accepted him. There are times that people surprise me. I am so glad.
This brings me hope. I wish I didn’t have to talk to another client struggling with how to tell their parents about who they find attractive. The reality is that kids are still kicked out and disowned over something they cannot and should not have to change. What also brings me hope is that many of the families I have worked with have been supportive and unashamed of their children. A dad of a transgendered client I worked with once told me, “I just want her to get out of bed and do the dishes every once and a while.”
As far as we have come, we have further to go. I often deal with the aftermath of bullying, trauma and anxiety stemming from the treatment of LGBTQ clients. If it wasn’t still a huge issue in our society, I wouldn’t see it so often in my office. It makes me mad.
Recently I was invited by a parent of one of my clients to attend the PFLAG meeting in St. Albert. The group has only just begun its work in this community. PFLAG stands for Parents and Friends of Lesbian and Gays. It is an organization available for friends, family and other allies of the LGTBQ community. It was an honour to sit and listen to these families’ stories.
If you or anyone you know would like to support or be supported by this group, you are welcome to go as well. I learned lot in the two hours I was there about how far we have come and how far we have yet to go.
PFLAG St. Albert’s Facebook Page
PFLAG Canada’s website
*** While the spirit of client stories are genuine, the details are changed in order to respect their confidentiality