What an honor to be writing to the Baltimore OUTloud community! I’ll use my first column as an opportunity to talk about myself – don’t leave just yet! I also want to talk about the thoughts and intention behind this column, and encourage you to participate in the conversations to come. (@bmorequeer on Instagram).
My name is Elizabeth Harring, I am a licensed therapist in Baltimore City and I specialize in work with LGBTQIA youth, adults, couples, and families. Before that I was an energized young social worker- advocating for at-risk youth in foster care, developing inclusive programs for the Army National Guard, aiding hospital psych units in becoming more aware of gender-inclusive practices – all while flirting, dating, breaking up – repeat. But even before all that, I was a young tomboy growing up in the country suburbs of northern Baltimore County. I remember there was one (yes, one) kid in this cis, white, straight, school that was “gay.” This brave soul showed up every day to face a litany of stares and comments. But he stood tall, walked big, and smiled like the GD queen that he was. Meanwhile, I was pretending to like boys by day, watching “Queer as Folk” at night and having no idea what the heck I was going to say or do about my feelings. Ultimately, with a lot of fumbling, and a lot of support, I made it through to being out, proud, and watching “The L Word.”
This column is for kids (and teens and young adults) that are like him, but also for the ones like me. You see, we all go through our own process in finding our identity, our sexuality, our gender, and our voice. There is no right pace, there is no expectation to know yourself completely, as we are ever growing and evolving into our amazing true selves. Yet, what we do so much need are safe spaces to explore and discuss our queer feeling and questions. You might be lucky enough to have a family that embraces you, for all that you are. Hopefully, they want to learn everything about your experience (ie, Dwayne Wade #dadgoals). If you do not have that, I am sorry, truly. The fear of rejection, or worse, is still very present and real. But, I can promise you that all is not lost. See, the thing about queer people is that they build community. There is a place for you, every part that might feel weird or different, or not accepted.
“I’m Queer, Now What?” is here to create a safe space for thoughts, questions, fears, and issues that those in our young queer community are facing. Each month we will explore a different topic of interest related to navigating life’s challenges. I encourage you to visit Instagram to submit questions, thoughts, or topic requests. (@bmorequeer) Here’s to a bold and bright 2020. I can’t wait to take this year on with you.
- Elizabeth Harring, LCSW-C - Licensed therapist and owner of a group practice for LGBTQIA adolescents, young adults, couples, and families in Baltimore City. She is an advocate for creating connection, healing, and healthy communication for queer youth and families. After graduating from New York University, working in Washington DC with youth in foster care, she couldn’t resist a return home to Baltimore where she has room for her book collection, garden, dance parties, and great dane.