Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Our true faces – Why ask for help?

Being lesbian, gay, bi, trans, intersexed or a combination thereof is simply one variation among many other natural variations within the human population, perhaps less frequent, but just as normal and legitimate as any others which are part of what it means to be a human being. These variations are in no way a disorder, dysfunction, mental illness, nor a perversion and are not the result of faulty parental upbringing. They are also not a sin. They are ways of expressing the true face of the person, an aspect of the self which constitutes its deepest meaning and richness and one of the most essential components of the individual's identity. Why then seek help?

Article by Marie-Noëlle Baechler of OII-Switzerland
Translated from the French by Curtis E. Hinkle

(Disclaimer: The following is written within a Swiss legal/medical context and may not apply to laws in different states in the United States or in other countries. This is provided as a service to those wishing to know more about current thinking within other countries and is not meant to be taken as medical advice outside the jurisdiction of the author.)

It often turns out that from birth on, we grow up in an environment which denies us our right to our true face, which refuses to recognize our existence and forces us to hide this real face and disappear. We are denigrated and treated as having an illness or some type of dysfunction and this wounds us deeply and leaves profound and lasting scars.

Children's basic emotional needs

In order to grow up and develop a balanced sense of internal security, a feeling of wholeness that allows them to reach out to others and form well-adjusted relationships without dependency, a child needs to feel emotionally validated by their parents. They need to develop a sense of self-worth along with the parents. They also need to be given the opportunity to learn how to find their own way in life and cope with the difficulties which lie ahead. When they are not able to experience this, they remain dependent and that makes life very difficult.

A very destructive rejection

To have parents who refuse to listen to us when we feel different and to have to endure their violent reactions and be forced to behave like them, to react and live according to their norms by denying who we are is just the opposite of affectionate and emotional validation which we so needed as children. A child subjected to such treatment is sent a very powerful message that they are fundamentally bad, dysfunctional and unworthy. And when you are a child (or even a teenager) and dependent on them, it is extremely difficult to resist such messages and rebel against your parents.

Furthermore, this message does not end once out the door. It is reinforced at school, in the streets and in the media. And there are even many so-called mental health specialists and psychologists who also do not hesitate to spread and infect others with their own homophobia and transphobia.

Very serious and long-lasting consequences

To be born and brought up in such an atmosphere often induces a sense of sadness, depression, exclusion and not being able to form relationships with others. The child has such self doubt about their own self worth that it can become very difficult to meet new challenges and to establish affectionate and emotionally stable relationships with those they love. Some resort to substance abuse as a way to cope with the internalized suffering. Others go so far as to commit suicide.

A helping relationship based on respect and your specific needs

If this has happened to you, you may benefit from help from a professional chosen by you to meet your specific needs. The purpose should not be to normalize you but to help you accept yourself as you are and to integrate your difference as part of your overall self-worth and intrinsic richness. Such help can also give you the opportunity to finally experience the richness that you have to offer others and a sense of knowing who you are and what you need and enable you to meet the challenges which lie ahead. Such an experience can change your life. Such help can also assist you in coping with the abuse that you have been subjected to and to deal with your anger and resistance as important feelings worthy of respect and how to cope with these feelings in a positive manner.

Just because your parents were not able to able to accept you and love you as you were does not mean that you should continue living in the prison they locked you in as part of their effort to control you. Even though you might not have any other experience to compare your childhood with, that does not mean that what you were subjected to was normal. To change and free oneself takes courage but an increasing number of people have done it and know that embarking on this journey of liberation is worth it.

If you feel you could benefit from this type of help, it is essential that you find someone who will meet your specific needs and not the guidelines of a specific ideology, regardless of what that ideology might be. You have a right to demand unconditional respect of your identity, including your sexual orientation, gender and intersexuality. This is about an essential part of who you are, your true face and you are in no way obligated to accept help from someone who does not understand this. On the contrary, you can look elsewhere for someone who will respect you. You also have the right to demand that you be in control of your own life and to choose the method, pace and the approach which best suits you. If confronted with someone who is not able to accept you as the person you are, you have the right to refuse to be taken in by their reactions. You have the right to go elsewhere when confronted with an inadequate therapist.

You have the right to protect yourself

If you are a minor whose parents refuse to accept you for who you are and have made you go to a psychiatrist to be normalized, it is very important that you know that you don't owe this person anything, especially not the truth if telling the truth will be used to manipulate you, destabilize you and subject you to total submission and fragmentation. If you find yourself in a similar situation and are being confronted with a therapist who is not respectful towards the real you as lesbian/gay/trans or intersexed, do not hesitate to take all necessary measures to protect yourself. You do not owe anything to anyone who does not respect your true face and who acts in violation of basic ethical guidelines. And if you have trouble doing this by yourself, you may find help from a local LGBTI association.

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