Official Statement Concerning Homosexuality from the American Counseling Association
Xiomara A. Sosa, XAS Founder
The American Counseling Association has a division called the “Association for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Issues in Counseling”. Its mission is as follows:
The mission of the Association for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Issues in Counseling is to educate mental health service providers about issues confronting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) individuals. We believe that all individuals should be free to develop their full potential regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, and that professional counselors must understand the unique ways gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered individuals experience inequality and injustice resulting from discrimination and prejudice.
From the mission statement for the Association for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Issues in Counseling.
The American Counseling Association has adopted a resolution that states that it: “opposes portrayals of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth and adults as mentally ill due to their sexual orientation; and supports the dissemination of accurate information about sexual orientation, mental health, and appropriate interventions in order to counteract bias that is based on ignorance or unfounded beliefs about same-gender sexual orientation.” [Resolution adopted by American Counseling Association Governing Council, March 1998.] Further, at its 1999 World Conference, ACA adopted a position opposing the promotion of “reparative therapy” as a “cure” for individuals who are homosexual. [Action by American Counseling Association Governing Council, April 1999.]
Taken from The American Psychological Association Online Fact Sheet — Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation & Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators and School Personnel.
Mental Health Issues Among Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender People
Xiomara A. Sosa, XAS Founder
According to the National Institute on Mental Health, an estimated 26% of adults 18 and older, or 1 in 4 Americans, experience a mental health issue in a given year.1 Just like everyone else, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people also experience mental health issue.
First and foremost, however, we must remember that being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender is not a mental illnss in and of itself. Just because someone is GLBT doesn’t automatically mean that they will experience a mental illness. According to the American Psychological Association: “Homosexuality per se implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability, or general social and vocational capabilities. Further, the American Psychological Association urges all mental health professionals to take the lead in removing the stigma of mental illness that has long been associated with homosexual orientations.” 2 However, GLBT people may face unique risks to their mental health and well-being, which mental health providers should be aware of.
Most research suggests that GLBT people are likely to be at higher risk for depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders.3-5 One study found that GLB groups are about two-and-one-half times more likely than heterosexual men and women to have had a mental health disorder, such as those related to mood, anxiety, or substance use, in their lifetime.4 In a national study comparing GLB and heterosexual groups, researchers found that gay and bisexual men were more likely to report major depression and panic disorder in the previous twelve month period. Lesbian and bisexual women were more than three times as likely to have experienced generalized anxiety disorder.5
The reason for these disparities is most likely related to the societal stigma and resulting prejudice and discrimination that GLBT face on a regular basis, from society at large, but also from family members, peers, co-workers and classmates.
In terms of more serious mental illnesses, such as those that are long-term and require hospitalization or in-patient care, unfortunately we don’t know very much. However, of the approximately 18 million people with serious mental illness, a reasonable estimate suggests that about 720,000 are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.6
In one of the few studies of serious or major mental illness among GLBT people, researchers found that LGB men were less likely to report psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, but more likely to report mood disorders, such as depression and bi-polar disorders. They found no differences between GLBT and heterosexual women.7
A note on terminology: The term “GLBT” is commonly used as shorthand for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. It is important to note that while these groups may share some similarities, they are by no means identical in terms of their mental health issues, concerns, or needs.While the terms lesbian, gay, and bisexual (and heterosexual) refer to someone’s sexual orientation, transgender is a term related to gender identity, or someone’s sense of being a man or woman, boy or girl. Transgender people are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, and bisexual. The term gay typically refers to a man who is romantically and emotionally attracted to other men. Lesbian (or gay woman) refers to a woman who is romantically and emotionally attracted to other women. Bisexual refers to someone who is romantically and emotionally attracted to men and women. Being bisexual does not necessarily mean someone is involved in multiple relationships at once. Some men and women may engage in same-sex behavior yet still identify as heterosexual, and some lesbian or gay people may have sexual relationships with people of the other sex. It is important not to make assumptions or judge people when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity. Finally, GLBT people are just as diverse as everyone else! We are old, young, rich, poor, parents, children, friends, co-workers, Latino, African American, and on and on. Just like people with mental illness, GLBT people are everywhere and in every community!
by Wendy B. Bostwick, PhD, MPH
Xiomara A. Sosa, XAS Founder
The development of a positive GLBT identity can be a lengthy and difficult process. The term coming out refers to the experiences of some, but not all, gay men and lesbians as they work through and accept a stigmatized identity (McNally, 2001). The coming-out journey begins with an early awareness of feelings of difference to the development of an integrated identity, which takes many years. The reasons that people move from stage to stage, or fail to move, are very complex. However, societal attitudes are important in affecting the development of a person’s positive identity. Creating and maintaining a positive GLBT identity and larger self-concept presents daily challenges and stresses for GLBT individuals (Beatty et al., 1999). Cass (1979, 1984) proposed a theoretical model of homosexual identity formation for understanding six stages of development that an individual moves through in developing an integrated GLBT identity. The model is based on two broad assumptions: (a) identity is acquired through a developmental process, and (b) change in behavior stems from the interaction between individuals and their environment. The first stage of identity confusion is characterized by confusion, turmoil, and doubt as individuals begin to question their sexual orientation. Identity comparison, the second stage, occurs when they have accepted the possibility of being homosexual. In the third stage of identity tolerance, individuals increase their commitment to a homosexual identity but keep public and private identities separate. The fourth stage of identity acceptance is characterized by acceptance of a homosexual identity rather than tolerating this identity. Disclosure of homosexual identity remains selective. Identity pride is the fifth stage, characterized by anger, pride, and activism, which leads to immersion in the homosexual culture and rejection of the values of the heterosexual community. Finally, identity synthesis occurs with a fusion of the homosexual identity with all other aspects of self, as individuals no longer dichotomize the heterosexual and homosexual world. This model can assist both clients and professionals in having a better understanding of the challenges of each developmental stage and the particular supports that might be necessary to reach an integrated identity. McNally (2001) cautions that stage models are general guides to help counselors understand the coming-out process. The models are not linear, and people do not necessarily move through them in order. One stage is not better than another, and people should not be seen as more advanced and mature if they are in a later stage. In fact, Cass (1984) has even made revisions to the model based on a lack of empirical evidence for some of the stages. However, the model is useful in approaching the complexity of sexual orientation that occurs in the context of societal prejudice, discrimination, and lack of support (Fassinger, 1998). The struggles of developing a GLBT identity and adjusting to a stigmatized and minority sexual status can lead to low self-esteem and serious depression. Issues of being rejected by family, friends, and society can lead to internalized homophobia. Internalized homophobia is the process of internalizing and believing societal antigay attitudes, beliefs, and stereotypes that can lead to self-hatred and self-devaluation (Kus, 1995). RISK FACTORS Beatty et al. (1999) conclude that five main factors explain the etiology of problem substance use in GLBTs: (a) the role of the gay bar as a primary socialization agent, (b) fewer family and societal supports, (c) socioeconomic and psychosocial conditions associated with minority status, (d) stresses related to the developmental process of GLBT identity formation and coming out, and (e) internalized homophobia. Gay bars are one of the major social institutions in the GLBT community. They have been described as the gay equivalent of the country club, church picnic, and community center, all in one (Hain, 2001). Beatty et al. (1999) state that formal and informal communication and activity networks of the gay community continue to revolve around the gay bar and the accompanying use of alcohol. Thus, alcohol has been built into the social life of many GLBT individuals. Drinking for GLBTs may not be used for escaping something but joining something. The therapist working with GLBTs should be attuned to issues of potential alcohol abuse and sensitized to the fact that socialization in the bar may well be an integral part of the client’s identity. The number of gay coffee shops, bookstores, and activities that do not involve alcohol and drug use is increasing (Center For Substance Abuse Treatment [CSAT], 2001). However, for those living outside large cities, the bars may be the only alternative, and in some communities GLBTs may have no public place to socialize. Professionals can work to make themselves knowledgeable of GLBT community resources to help their clients locate such alternative community resources in which they can socialize with others who have similar interests. (Substance Abuse Counseling: Theory and Practice, 4/e for Laureate Education, 4th Edition. Pearson Learning Solutions pp. 316 – 317).
Xiomara A. Sosa, XAS Founder
CSAT (2001) state that homophobia and heterosexism can affect GLBT people by causing internalized homophobia, shame, and a negative self-concept. Some GLBT individuals learn to devalue themselves and value only heterosexual persons instead. The negative effects of heterosexism include the following:
• Self-blame for the victimization one has suffered
• Negative self-concept as a result of negative messages about homosexuality
• Anger directed inward resulting in destructive patterns such as substance abuse
• Victim mentality or feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, and despair that interfere with leading a fulfilling life
• Self-victimization that may hinder emotional growth and development.
Beatty et al. (1999) state that a sexual minority status may cause GLBT individuals to face prejudicial attitudes, discriminatory behaviors, hatred, and verbal, emotional, or physical abuse. This discrimination can lead to loss of job and residence and rejection by family and peers. The result of living this type of existence is often immeasurable psychological stress that leads to escape with alcohol and other drugs or causes depression,, among other maladaptie behaviors such as overworking at the expense of personal relationships.
(Substance Abuse Counseling: Theory and Practice, 4/e for Laureate Education, 4th Edition. Pearson Learning Solutions pp. 315 – 316).
Receiving emotional support and acceptance from parents benefits the long-term mental and overall health of lesbian, gay and bisexual adults, a new study finds. Researchers surveyed lesbian, gay and bisexual adults aged 18 to 64 in Massachusetts. Three-quarters of the group said they had revealed their sexual orientation to their parents, typically when they were about 25 years old. About two-thirds said their parents were supportive. Rates of mental health and substance use problems were significantly lower among those who received support from their parents than among those who felt rejected, the study found. (HealthDay News, 4/13/12)
Xiomara A. Sosa, XAS Founder
‘Coming out’ as gay, lesbian or bisexual may be good for your health, particularly when parental support is involved.
A comprehensive new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher Emily Rothman shows that two-thirds of lesbian, gay and bisexual adults in a representative Massachusetts sample reported receiving positive support from their parents after coming out to them.
Xiomara A. Sosa, XAS Founder
Gay affirmative psychotherapy is a form of psychotherapy for gay and lesbian clients which encourages them to accept their sexual orientation, and does not attempt to change them to heterosexual, or to eliminate or diminish same-sex desires and behaviors. The American Psychological Association (APA) offers guidelines and materials for gay affirmative psychotherapy. Affirmative psychotherapy states that homosexuality or bisexuality is not a mental illness. In fact, embracing and affirming gay identity can be a key component to recovery from other mental illnesses or substance abuse. There are a number of individuals for whom neither gay-affirmative therapy nor conversion therapy might be appropriate, however. Clients whose religious beliefs teach against homosexual behavior may require some other method of integration of their conflicting religious and sexual selves.
Gay Affirmative Therapy (GAT) takes the position that there is nothing inherently wrong with being gay or lesbian.What’s wrong is what is done to gay men and lesbians by a homophobic, homo-ignorant society and heterosexist therapy. Living in a shame-based culture creates a variety of behavioral and psychological disorders. GAT focuses on repairing the harm done to these clients, helping them move from shame to pride.
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Concerns Office (LGBTCO) advances psychology as a means of improving the health and well-being of LGBT people, of increasing understanding of gender identity and sexual orientation as aspects of human diversity, and of reducing stigma, prejudice, discrimination, and violence toward LGBT people.
Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Orientation
Xiomara A. Sosa
Living with truth and love is radical now. Perhaps it’s always been so.
But the damaging effects of hatred are so powerful that they erode the human spirit as powerfully as any chemical toxin.
The effects of hatred among religious fundamentalists and warriors are well known and documented throughout history. Tyrants and dictators, fascists and dominating factions of oppression have always haunted our lives, our grandparents’ lives, and have been the reason we have immigrated, migrated, developed, and reinvented ourselves.
But what about the subtle hatred, the insidious negativity that poisons children in a family or workers in an office? The rejecting glances, the off-color comments, the divisive, manipulative behavior of bosses and co-workers, the back stabbing, the gossiping, the rumors of high school, the bullying of middle school? What about the yearning for acceptance and petty, life destroying, soul destroying games that people play to end up a winner?
It’s so difficult for people to be positive and supportive toward one another that more people are suffering from hurt feelings and a strong sense of not fitting in, not belonging, or not being good enough for their own family members, their “friends,” their neighbors or co-workers, their bosses and mates, than can possibly be expressed.
We are mammals, after all; a strange and confusing hybrid of territorial creature and higher ordered thinking being, capable of love, acceptance and mercy.
But if someone has a choice, why do they so often choose insulting, negative language over kind, accepting language?
Is it evolutionarily programmed into us as a way of regaining territory, regaining control, or, to use a phrase I detest, being a “winner?” After all, the most scathing cliques at high school and at the workplace are not full of armed soldiers, they are usually rampant with armed tongues, fiery tempers, and flaring words.
Kindness is so often perceived as weakness that we continually imagine “standing up” to our spouse, significant other, parent, co-worker, boss, as if the technique of turning the other cheek or not fighting fire with fire are somehow something quite less than heroic. We long for the bar brawl, the frenzy, the “coming to blows.” For what?