National Coming Out Day is here, and it’s an important reminder that we should all be doing our part to promote acceptance of the LGBTQI+ community.
According to a 2016 Gallup poll, 4.1% of respondents said they identify as LGBT, up from 3.5% in 2012. More and more Americans are openly identifying as LGBT—and there’s a greater acceptance of the community overall—but there’s still more work to be done.
Despite the encouraging trends, Dr. Scott Rose, licensed clinical social worker at Meridian Psychiatric Partners, notes that—even today—it’s not uncommon for members of the community to be faced with rejection when coming out.
“It’s easy to find someone to tell you what they think you should do,” he says. “But your life belongs to you, and your story is unique in the world. It’s important for that reason.”
Over the course of his career, Dr. Rose has spent more than 20 years supporting Chicago’s LGBTQI+ community. He served as the director of mental health and clinical training at Center on Halsted, a Lake View nonprofit organization and fixture of the community. In addition, he was a clinical staff member at Howard Brown Health Center, another well-respected organization on the North Side.
At Meridian, Dr. Rose specializes in LGBTQI+ issues at the downtown Chicago office, as well as supporting patients working to overcome difficulties including anxiety, depression, anger management, severe trauma history and relationship problems.
In honor of National Coming Out Day, Dr. Rose participated in a recent interview to discuss coming out, Chicago’s LGBTQI+ community and Meridian’s dedication to serving its members. Read on for the lightly-edited interview.
How can we demonstrate our support for a loved one who has made the important life decision to come out?
If someone in your family or circle of friends comes to you to say that they’re part of the LGBTQI+ community, you can show your support by telling them that you’re really glad they felt comfortable talking with you, and that knowing them better helps you feel closer to them. You can also let them know that anyone important to them will be important to you too.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering coming out but is fearful of doing so?
If you’re thinking of coming out and don’t feel safe or sure about how to do that, think about finding a psychotherapist. … Each person’s story is unique, and each situation is unique and needs to be understood and respected. You might need time to talk about it in a safe, confidential way before you can even think about taking that first step.
Each person … needs to be supported in ways that are designed for that particular person’s situation and reflect the realities of that person’s history, family and friends, cultural background and their goals for themselves. Psychotherapists with experience in working with folks in the LGBTQI+ community can help with each of these aspects of thinking about coming out.
Do you believe there’s any particular subset of the community who has a more difficult road ahead in terms of acceptance?
Folks who identify as transgender—which includes people who are gender non-binary, gender-fluid or use other identifiers—have often found less welcoming and even unsafe environments. That reality is changing, but much too slowly.
What have you observed in working with members of the community who were not accepted when coming out?
I’ve worked with very many folks whose family and/or friends have not been accepting of their coming out. … That’s a deeply painful experience, and it’s often a reason why folks want to first … find a psychotherapist to talk with.
While each person’s situation is specific to them and needs to be respected as unique, it often can be relieving for that person to be able to find someone safe and confidential to talk with. … The therapist often can help each person feel safe to talk and to think about what may best fit their situation—both in terms of dealing with what might be hurt, anger and grief—and then, over time, in terms of feeling supported in building a more gratifying and nurturing life.
What makes Chicago a special place for the LGBTQI+ community?
For many decades, folks who want to feel comfortable living their lives as genuinely, openly and safely as possible have migrated to major cities. For the folks in the middle of the country, that safe, welcoming place has been Chicago.
For more than 20 years, LGBTQI+ folks have been welcomed as part of the city, its culture and its government. Politicians of all backgrounds have been eager to court the community, which is one of the largest in the country. It even now has one of its own, Lori Lightfoot, serving as mayor of the City of Chicago, and others serving on the City Council. That has meant that community-based social service agencies have the commitment and support of city, county and state governments, which contributes to the sense of being welcomed.
Why is Meridian so well positioned to support people who identify as LGBTQI+?
Meridian Psychiatric Partners has at least two very significant attributes that make it a great place to find support. First, many of its clinicians identify as part of the LGBTQI+ community and bring decades of both personal and professional experience to highly-individualized work with clients. Second, unlike community-based social service agencies, Meridian’s team includes both psychotherapists and psychiatrists. That means you can have a team of folks helping you understand what support you might need and then working together to provide that support to you. …
Figuring out what fits your life, your needs and your goals is deeply important work that we value and honor at Meridian, and we’re here to help you work toward your goals in a way that supports and nurtures you. Give us a call, and we can help you start thinking about what you want for yourself.
Looking for someone to talk to about LGBTQI+ issues? Call 312-640-7743 to speak with an intake coordinator at Meridian Psychiatric Partners today.
Photo by Jasmin Sessler via Unsplash.com