By Johanna M. Dolan
Everyday more and more of us make the bold choice to come all the way out of the closet. As you no doubt know many have overcome the life-threatening challenges of coming out of the closet right in front of us and are now leading happy, successful lives. Some of us don’t survive the coming out process. It’s time for that to stop.
This means that we need to address the elephant in the room – no matter how open you personally are in your own life; it doesn’t mean that all LGBTQ individuals have come out or are safe. Nor does it mean that all LGBTQ people have had the pleasure of knowing you and people like you – people who believe in them despite the stigma still attached to being LGBTQ.
In fact, many of us still face severe consequences for being open and authentic. For being exactly who we are. The consequences can be lack of social support, isolation, homelessness, secret keeping- all of these factors can then lead to substance use disorders, mental illnesses and higher suicide/murder rates than our heterosexual or cisgender counterparts.
When we talk about stigma, we are really talking about a fundamental conflict between who we are and what we are taught about ourselves. These conflicts lead to self-harm and societal violence.
It’s possible that some of the stigma can be attributed to the way medicine has looked at us. Most notably homosexuality was considered a mental illness until 1974. On June 21st, 2019 at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychoanalytic Association the President Lee Jaffe, MD, apologized to the LGBTQ community by saying this, “Regrettably, much of our past understanding of homosexuality as an illness can be attributed to the American psychoanalytic establishment. While our efforts in advocating for sexual and gender diversity since are worthy of pride, it is long past time to recognize and apologize for our role in the discrimination and trauma caused by our profession and say, ‘we are sorry.’”
These erroneous views led the general public to believe that gender and sexual diversity was an illness which led to our perception as abominations, fit only for sex work and entertainment for “healthy” people. Overtime laws were created to protect heterosexual, cisgender persons. Those laws created the climate that we find ourselves slowly – very slowly – coming out of.
We all hold biases about ourselves when we come out. Hopefully we unlearn these biases about ourselves and others in our community. We don’t always. We never do unless we learn how to challenge them.
There are three types of bias we need to challenge:
- Unconscious bias – automatic judgments in favor of, or against, another based on past experiences and background
- Oppression – often an unfair and cruel use of institutional power and privilege where one person or group benefits at the expense of another
- Prejudice – judgment about a person or group usually indicating negative bias without knowledge, thought, or reason
You may not even be aware of your personal biases which could affect your ability to effectively see LGBTQ people, like you and me, as just people. Now imagine if you aren’t one of us and are suddenly tasked with protecting us instead of arresting us.
This is precisely the topic of the next several articles – how the police officers of Anne Arundel County are breaking down barriers; shattering stigma; and doing the work to become LGBTQ allies.
So, I’m asking you, the reader, as one rational person to another to please read the series in its entirety; to not take it out of context; and more importantly to remember my intent. I want to make the world a better place for all of us. I’m one person standing in the gap advocating, educating, offering a helping hand, working towards equality and the healing of the beautiful LGBTQ community of which I am proud to be a part of.
Join me – we’re stronger together. t
The principal of Dolan and Associates, Johanna M. Dolan brings nearly two decades of personal experience as an entrepreneur, 11 years as a professional financial planner, ten years as a life coach, and two years as an ordained minister. She speaks openly and candidly on issues ranging from addiction, dysfunctional relationships, finances, the effects of long term chronic illness on life, and more.