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Ask Michael: Standing strong against the hatred
Ask Michael: Standing strong against the hatred
by Michael Raitt - SGN Contributing Writer

Again, newspapers and the internet are abuzz with reasons to hurl hatred and vitriol towards the LGBT community. In this political season, certain politicians condemn us and now some segments of the population are trying to link a biological event (MRSA outbreak) with "homosexual depravity." Speakers throughout the country (including local speakers) still perpetuate ideals of hatred and pathology about our community and they refuse to acknowledge or accept the very real, very negative implications and impact their words create.

I am writing about this because this is also a mental health issue. There are still too many GLBT members of our community who carry great shame about their sexuality in large part because of the barrage of negative, hateful messages that are out there. This shame manifests itself in isolation, deceit, depression, anxiety, addictions, and, unfortunately, suicide. It touches us all regardless of our age or social status. The hatred that is espoused gives explicit and tacit permission for others to hurt us both psychologically and physically. All of this creates a climate of fear for too many GLBT people, which fuels the negative manifestations they experience.

There are a few things that each of us as individuals can do to stave off the negative effects of this hatred and to engender a more positive sense of ourselves. First and foremost, understand the connection between what we think and believe with how we feel. Beliefs and thoughts are very powerful in creating our emotions. A wise therapist once told me that, "a feeling is a thought that hits a hormone." If we think and believe negative things about ourselves, we will feel poorly about ourselves. Conversely, when we begin to change our thoughts about ourselves, our feelings change. It seems simple when articulated this way, yet it requires time, practice, and help.

One way to start to change how we think and what we believe about ourselves is to put others' ideals of hatred into perspective. The negative values that others put out against the LGBT community are nothing more than their own judgments and perceptions. These negativities come through their own filters and fears and are NOT FACTS. The negative dogma that comes from them is based on fallacy. For example, the idea that a medical condition that occurs in a population is the result of a value statement is a complete fallacy! MRSA did not break out in the homosexual/Bisexual community because these lifestyles are wrong. It is a non sequitur - the conclusion does not follow from the event. Just because their opinion is that homosexual acts are "depraved/perverted" doesn't make it a fact. Just because they categorize love between two people of the same sex as wrong doesn't make it a fact. These are just opinions they vocalize.

We continue to strengthen ourselves as individuals when we begin to believe that we are NOT a pathology. We are not depraved, nor are we sick and perverted. We contribute to our communities, our society, and families. We work jobs, pay bills, and hope and dream for our future. We love and lose, laugh and cry, worry and celebrate like everyone else does. In the LGBT community, we have the very same spectrum of successes, issues, concerns, eccentricities, and anti-social elements that the straight community has.

Focus on the positive ways in which you are in the world: a good friend, good son/daughter, partner, employee, citizen. Actively take a personal inventory every day about how you contributed to someone or something in a positive way. Plan and implement ways in which you want to continue to act in a positive way. Put your thoughts and ideas into action and do something positive for yourself and for others.

Sex is always an issue that those who want to hurt us focus on. For the record, a healthy, active sexual life IS NORMAL. The clinical spectrum for healthy sexuality is broad: it ranges from vanilla to fetishes and includes Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and straight sex. Obviously - and appropriately - it excludes anything that is illegal: pedophilia, bestiality, sex crimes, etc. Studies are coming out that support the hypothesis that active sex lives produce healthy hormones and a positive sense of wellbeing. Enjoy your sex life and stop thinking it is abnormal. High sex drive does not equal depravity! Polyamory does not equal perversion. Create a positive sex-image about yourself.

In my personal life and in my clinical practice, I have met a cadre of amazing individuals. Extraordinarily deep, emotionally rich, strong, dynamic men and women who, on a daily basis, work to maintain a positive sense of themselves - in the face of negative messages - so they can continue to participate in their lives in a healthy way. They successfully shed the negative stories about being GLBT that, like a worn, torn, flea-infested coat, no longer serves them.

This is yet another reminder to those who perpetuate hate and intolerance towards us: Your words manifest themselves into actions (if not by you, then by someone who believes you) and causes untold hurt and pain. Think long and hard before you decide that you want to be a co-conspirator in committing hurtful, harmful acts towards other human beings.

This is a call to all of us that we, as GLBT individuals, have the responsibility to ourselves to nurture an accurate, positive self-image of ourselves and to continue to allow that to show through in how we contribute to the world. We cannot be defined through others' fear-based opinions. Like that worn, torn, flea-infested coat, we cannot take on and "wear" anything that is not in service of us feeling great about ourselves. Stand strong against the hatred.

Michael Raitt, MA LMHC, writes a bi-monthly column in the SGN. If you would like to comment on this column, ask a question you'd like him to write about, or suggest another topic of interest, please contact him at askingmichael@comcast.net.

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