During the month of June, it is important for us to recognize Pride Month and all that it represents for our clients and clinicians. We are incredibly proud to be a place for people to go to be able to grow their love for themselves and the world around them as they find their identity. To talk about this further, we sat down with one of our new clinicians Breanna Carter to hear about what makes pride month special to her and how we can show our support to the community.
Thank you for joining me to talk more in-depth about Pride Month. Would you mind telling people a little bit about yourself? What has inspired you to become a therapist?
Breanna: My pronouns are she/her, and I identify as a bisexual woman. I began working for TelebehavioralHealth.US as an MSW intern in August of 2022. I graduated with a Master of Social Work degree from Grand Valley State University in April of 2023. Upon graduation, I became employed full-time through TelebehavioralHealth.US as a clinical therapist. Above all else, I am passionate about people and their experiences. Stories are important; everyone has one. It is a privilege to bear witness to the stories of each individual person who comes into my virtual office.
Why is it important to celebrate pride month?
Breanna: It is important to celebrate pride month because it is a celebration of LGBTQ+ culture, individual identity, the fight for equality, and ultimately, love. Historically, many members of the LGBTQ+ community have hidden parts of their identity for fear of persecution and/or discrimination. It is important to celebrate pride month because many generations before us were not given the opportunity to be out and proud as members of the community. We celebrate pride month as a gesture reflecting how far we have come as a society while acknowledging how far we have yet to go in terms of equality.
What is your favorite thing about pride month?
Breanna: My favorite thing about Pride Month is seeing the LGBTQ+ community come together in celebration. For some LGBTQ+ individuals, this June may be their first Pride since coming out to their friends and family. Others may have been to Pride for several years. Regardless of whether it is someone’s first year or they are a seasoned Pride participant, they will be accepted by the community with open arms. Acceptance is my favorite thing about Pride. It feels so incredible to feel the positive energy of radical acceptance within the community and the growing acceptance nationwide as more cities form and develop their own pride celebrations.
What is your favorite thing about working with the LGBTQ community?
Breanna: There are so many things I love about working with the LGBTQ+ community. Although it is difficult to pick one thing, I would have to say bearing witness to individual identity formation, self-acceptance, and self-development is the most rewarding experience. I love seeing the joy on someone’s face when they arrive at an epiphany or accept themselves as they are for the first time. As I mentioned earlier, I also love hearing about and understanding individual stories. Stories are important, and every one of them is different. Some people have friends and families who wholeheartedly support them. Others are not so lucky. Sharing our stories with an objective listener leads to a better understanding of the self in relation to the world. The act of walking alongside someone on their personal journey is both an honor and a privilege.
What are some issues that are present within the LGBTQ community?
Breanna: Even though same-sex couples can now legally marry, the LGBTQ+ fight for equality is far from over. Institutional discrimination and harassment within both the education system and various healthcare settings contribute to higher rates of dropout and a variety of health disparities within the LGBTQ+ community. Additionally, microtraumas/microaggressions are common stressors that contribute to a higher prevalence of depression, anxiety, and suicide for LGBTQ+ individuals. According to the American Psychiatric Association (2023), LGBTQ+ individuals are 2.5 times more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and substance misuse compared to their heterosexual counterparts. Additionally, LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to experience physical and sexual violence. In 2020, 1 in 3 LGBTQ+ youths reported they had been physically threatened or harmed in their lifetime because of their LGBTQ+ identity (SAGE, 2020). Family rejection is another issue that stands as a barrier for many LGBTQ+ youth, contributing to the exacerbation of youth homelessness among this population.
What are topics within the LGBTQ community you are specifically passionate about?
Breanna: As a bi-sexual person, I am passionate about the topic of bisexuality and bisexual issues. One common issue many bisexual people face is imposter syndrome; not feeling fully accepted by heteronormative society, nor feeling fully accepted by the LGBTQ+ community. This problem is exacerbated by harmful stereotypes and misunderstandings both within and outside of the community, especially if the bisexual individual is currently in a heteronormative relationship with someone of the opposite sex. In grad school, one of my classmates made a very relevant joke when asked if the community accepts bisexual people. In response, they said, “Well, what do you think the “B” stands for bananas?”. Still, I don’t think bisexual issues are talked about enough and it is often difficult to find adequate support as a bisexual person. Another issue I am passionate about is ethical non-monogamy/polyamory which is present both within and outside of the LGBTQ+ community. Several studies indicate a higher prevalence of ethical non-monogamy/polyamory within the LGBTQ+ community (Cardoso et. al., 2021). I offer individual sessions as well as couples and group sessions for those practicing ethical non-monogamy/polyamory.
What would you have to say to someone who is not yet out during pride month?
Breanna: I would give them full permission to be on their own timeline. Coming out is a process, but not a requirement. It does not have any distinct or “correct” sequence of events or checkpoints to follow, and there are many factors to consider for each person in their individual process of coming out. For example, they may be worried about their family and/or friends thinking about or treating them differently. Maybe the person themselves has not yet accepted their identity, or maybe they are still in the process of exploring and/or creating their identity and don’t want to give themselves a label of which they are not yet fully certain is right for them. Another factor to consider is that, for many individuals, their support system changes after coming out. Maybe their parents are not accepting of the community and they are afraid of what they might say or do if they found out. It could even be physically dangerous for some to come out publicly, or maybe it would be dangerous for their partner. The bottom line is, coming out is not a requirement. It is up to the individual person and what they know to be the best choice for themselves based on their individual experience and circumstance.
What do you have to say to people who are celebrating their first pride month?
Breanna: I would tell them to have fun! Pride is about celebrating a beautiful culture that is all about love, acceptance, and equality. Be colorful and proud. Invite your friends. Keep your head up in the face of adversity. Stand tall. Dance. Wave a pride flag. Read about the history of the culture and celebrate how far we have come. Acknowledge how far we have to go. Listen to fellow LGBTQ+ stories. Speak out against hate. Love one another. Tell people your pronouns. Ask others for their pronouns. Be there to support one another. Visit new LGBTQ+ spaces. Make new LGBTQ+ friends. Attend a parade if you feel comfortable and safe doing so. Familiarize yourself with your local LGBTQ+ community. Reflect on what the community is all about; love, safety, acceptance, diversity, belonging, and identity.
How can we best support and advocate for LGBTQ+ youth during Pride Month?
Breanna: The best way we can support LGBTQ+ youth during Pride month is to ask them directly how they would like to be supported. Ask them their pronouns. Respect their chosen identity. There are also informative books for children at each stage of development to spread LGBTQ+ awareness and acceptance. These books help to normalize the existence of LGBTQ+ people and decrease common misunderstandings which can lead to fear and higher instances of bullying for LGBTQ+ youth. Additionally, educators can recognize and step in when LGBTQ+ youth are experiencing bullying and create interventions to better support youth and their families. We can also make more public spaces LGBTQ+ friendly by outwardly displaying our support of the community so youth know it is safe to exist and openly express their identity.
Are there any resources or LGBTQ+-affirming places that you recommend people can take advantage of during pride month?
Breanna: In Grand Rapids, Michigan we have:
Grand Rapids Pride Center
Grand Rapids Pride Festival
Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center
Grand Rapids Trans Foundation
Of course, this is just a short list of places where people can get more information. In addition, TelebehavioralHealth.US also hopes to be a resource for people that may be having issues
How can people navigate feelings of isolation or loneliness that may arise during Pride Month; particularly those who do not have a strong support system?
Breanna: Connect with fellow members of the LGBTQ+ community. Join an LGBTQ+ support group. Engage in hobbies that bring peace and joy. Develop and maintain a self-care routine with an adequate sleep schedule and a healthy diet. During the month of June, limit time spent talking with friends or family members who do not support the LGBTQ+ community to avoid conversations that may cause unnecessary distress. Spend extra time connecting with supportive friends and family members (maybe even ask them to accompany you to a Pride event). Connect with an LGBTQ+ informed therapist to process your experience.
How can therapy provide a safe and inclusive space for LGBTQ+ individuals to discuss their experiences, including any discrimination or stigma they may face?
Breanna: Therapy can provide a safe space where LGBTQ+ individuals can honestly and transparently express themselves without fear of judgment. Therapy can assist LGBTQ+ individuals in processing through and making sense of their experiences week by week. It can also serve as an additional supportive and protective factor for those who are otherwise limited in their support system. Another crucial benefit to therapy for transgender individuals is that some therapists (myself included) have the ability to write gender-affirming letters for those seeking hormone treatment or gender-affirmation surgery.
At TelebehavioralHealth.US, we are so excited to be able to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, and also to give them the care they need to be able to live their most authentic lives. Breanna Carter is specifically very passionate about working with the LGBTQ+ community and is open to taking on new clients at this time. If you are interested in working with her to start your healing journey, please fill out our appointment request form to get started.