Working with LGBTQI+

I heard a story some years ago about someone who went to hear a famous mystic speak. This person was wise and thoughtful and predicted two things that might be very different in 100 years time. Firstly, we humans will be kinder to animals and secondly, we will be less concerned about defining sexuality and gender. I found this prophecy somehow heartening about the development of humanity.

The more experienced I am in my work, and the more stories I have been involved with, the more deeply I believe in certain things. One of them is that whoever we are, and however we choose to express ourselves, deserves basic respect.

I love how the word respect coming from the Latin re-spectare – means to see – again.

If we give someone any kind of a hard time for being the way they are, we do them a disservice. Hard times come in different forms. Judgements, minimising, stopping short of properly taking seriously or not listening carefully. If we are uncertain that respect will be there, if we already fear judgement, any version of the above will be a double whammy.

In working with LGBTQI+ people, I believe that our respect needs to come first along with a spacious understanding. Humans are complex. We live in a complex world. We are all endeavouring to express ourselves and find an identity that is true to us. Maybe there is room in our world for more manifestations of ourselves than we have imagined. We only need to look at the diversity of the animal and plant kingdom to see this.

If we have an identity that is not in mainstream, we may need to try to be around people who are open not closed. Even so, we may experience slings and arrows. We may need to wear a bullet proof vest.

Love is love. And how we choose to express the complexity that we are may need more space and flexibility than our society, our institutions and our traditional family structures have so far allowed for.

For therapists, for all of us, imagination is a great gift; curiosity is a great gift. If we can suspend our notions of correct or right or normal and allow ourselves to be curious about how we encounter another person and how that person organises their experience and perceives the world, that will take us all a long way.