June 29, 2023

Overcoming the Mental Health Challenges That Face the LGBTQIA+ Community

Written by Rachel Eddins

group of LGBTQ+ friends and allies

Mental health experts share insight on the gaps in care for the LGBTQIA+ community and resources to receive help.

Margaret Mayer, an LMSW here at Eddins Counseling Group, was interviewed by Houston Public Media/NPR regarding “Overcoming the Mental Health Challenges That Face the LGBTQIA+ Community.”

The LGBTQIA+ community faces many mental health concerns or conditions, as well as health disparities. According to the American Psychology Association, LGBTQIA+ individuals are more than twice as likely as heterosexual people to have a mental health disorder in their lifetime.

For the full hour, we speak with psychologist Dr. Jeff Temple and therapist and social worker Margaret Mayer, LMSW, of Eddins Counseling Group about the unique challenges faced by the LGBTQIA+ community.

We discuss the common mental disorders prevalent in LGBTQIA+ individuals, the importance of acceptance and the effects it can have on mental health, and why it’s important to seek treatment and better advocate for one’s health.

>>> Be sure to check out the article – and hear Margaret’s interview – here. <<<

Here is a transcription of the interview:

Pride month is an opportunity to celebrate who we truly are, but also a chance to look at ourselves in our community and strive for all of us to live healthy and happy lives. Unfortunately for many in the LGBTQIA community, there is not always the case, from internal struggles to the lack of understanding or support from their families and communities, to not seeking out appropriate mental and health care to the alarming rates of suicide. 

As we celebrate Pride, we must also support those in need. But Pride month also gives LGBTQIA individuals the opportunity to celebrate advances in care and understanding and opportunities to build healthier and stronger communities. Today, a look at mental health and wellness inside and outside of the LGBTQIA+ community. 

Ernie Minues: Hello, I’m Ernie Minues, and this is Town Square. Within the LGBTQIA+ community, there is much to celebrate. But when it comes to mental health and mental health disparities, many issues can arise. 

Today, a closer look at how with so many advances, oftentimes the care of individuals is overlooked, ignored, or just not understood. Mental health is of great concern in all our lives, but within minority communities, it can often lead to statistically higher rates of negative outcomes. Here to talk with us today is a good guest and friend of the show, Dr. Jeff Temple, Psychologist, and Director of the Center for Violence Prevention at UTMBD Health, and Margaret Meyer, who is a therapist and social worker with Eddins Counseling Group. 

*Remember, if there is anything triggering in today’s conversation for you and you need help immediately, there is now the National Crisis Lifeline. You can just call 988 and they can guide you to help. 

It’s important for people to realize that acceptance, in general, is so important to people’s growth, self-esteem, and psychological health.

Dr. Jeff Temple: Absolutely. No matter how we identify who we are. I like baseball and I like to hang out with people who accept the fact that I like baseball. I think it’s very human to desire, to need, to want to be accepted, regardless of what’s going on with us. Absolutely, very human need.

Ernie Minues: Margaret, when you get then into the LGBTQIA+ community, acceptance means something even more, doesn’t it?

Margaret Meyer: Absolutely. I think for LGBTQIA+ people or queer people, you may hear some folks say, it goes deeper than that. It goes deeper than acceptance because it also goes into the ability to believe someone. To believe their experiences and their stories and the truth and how they are experiencing their life and their identity.

Ernie Minues: Dr. Jeff, we talk about acceptance as a positively good thing. Talk to me a little about the lack of acceptance. What it does to you when you feel consistently out of place?

Dr. Jeff Temple: Yeah, we know that not feeling accepted is related to a host of negative consequences, from mental health consequences like depression and anxiety and PTSD to social consequences with respect to housing or health care and even physical health consequences. When we don’t feel needed, it affects our entire well-being.

Ernie Minues: A statistic that greatly bothers me is that nearly half of the folks who consider themselves to be LGBTQIA+ members of that community or 42 % have said they have considered suicide. Could that number be right?

Margaret Meyer: Unfortunately, from what we know from the research and the data, multi-year studies across different regions of the United States and in different states, that statistic seems to hold up. And we see a bigger increase in that statistic whenever we parse out different members of the LGBTQIA community. 

People in the LGB community, which is the lesbian, gay, and bisexual communities have higher rates of suicidality or attempted suicides. And then when you look at folks in the transgender community, that number increases even more, up to four times the amount of a person who identifies as heterosexual or cisgender.

Ernie Minues: Why? What is leading to much higher numbers? I mean, on the surface, I’m sure we think we know, but these are frightening numbers.

Dr. Jeff Temple: Yeah. I would actually even break that down a little bit more and say that even within the LGB population, bisexual individuals get it from both ends. They’re not accepted by either people who identify as homosexual or heterosexual oftentimes. So you see depression, anxiety, risky behavior, and suicidality are even higher in that group. And then if you look at even regardless of what group, the intersection of ethnicity and gender, you see even higher rates. For instance, men who identify as women who are African American. So it is scary. 

What it comes down to, “the why”, is just the lack of acceptance from their family, from friends, which then relates to less social support, which we know is a huge protective factor against problems with mental health. We also know that there are barriers to seeking help. Not only are they more likely to be depressed and anxious and all the other stuff, but they’re less likely to seek help because of the homophobia that is part of our medical institutions, even when it’s not purposeful that we know it’s there.

Margaret Meyer: I appreciate you for naming that and breaking that down further. I think it is really important for us to take a look at it because it also helps us understand that we are all individually the sum of a lot of different parts. When we’re thinking about these high numbers and LGBTQIA people being at risk for mental health disorders, it is definitely impacted by different or intersectional identities like race, socioeconomic status, all of these different things. 

LGBTQIA people aren’t inherently at risk of mental health disorders. These two things aren’t in alignment.

It’s not to say if you’re an LGBTQIA person, there’s something wrong with you, and now you’re at a higher disposition for a mental health disorder. What is really important was the mention of these protective factors that oftentimes people in this community don’t experience, like familial acceptance or acceptance at school or a health care provider who understands what they’re thinking and feeling and what they’re going through.

Ernie Minues: The whole idea that we think the uneducated eye looks at this and says: “Oh because you fall into that category, you are more prone to these behaviors”. But it’s once you are identified within that community, oftentimes the way you are treated, the support that’s out there for you, the help that’s available, all of those things can lead to these complications in your life. Correct?

Dr. Jeff Temple: I’m so glad that you mentioned that. I think we do this all the time whether it’s race or gender or LGBTQIA because we tend to say this is a risk factor, our risk marker for suicide or depression or anxiety. And that’s just not true. What it is is the systematic racism, discrimination, homophobia, whatever it is, that’s the risk factor that they experience. 

So it’s not being gay, it’s not being black, it’s not being a woman. It’s the fact that society keeps pushing back against these non-cisgender, non-male white folks. That’s why they experience problems. And in fact, I mean, going back to Stonewall, and of course, before that, is that we also see, and the other guest touched on this as well:

There’s a lot of strength in that community because of their shared trauma and all the things that they’ve experienced. 

They’ve come together. I’ve been to many gay bars and it is a very happy, fun place. And that’s not an accident. This is the place where they’re accepted. I was at a gay bar, probably around maybe October of last year before Thanksgiving, and there was actually at Lafite here in Galveston, and there was a sign that said: “Come eat Thanksgiving dinner with us”. This is because oftentimes these folks are rejected by their family, and they have this community to go to and to share Thanksgiving with. So I think it’s a great community that has a lot of strengths, and we need to celebrate their resilience.

Ernie Minues: It’s funny. It sends a little chill when you say: “Come celebrate Thanksgiving with us”. In any other community, you see that sign and it’s just an invitation to celebrate it. When you put it in this community, it’s because so many people don’t have a family that accepts them that they can go to. And it hits on both sides. 

It is a community, and I identify in this community too, that has overcome so much. It is a very strong community and has fought back. If you go back to Stonewall and you’ve got the drag queens fighting the cops for rights, you look at it as a very strong community. So it seems just a position to have then so much mental health anguish also in that community. It’s like: “You have been so strong here. We need to carry that strength into supporting each other in these areas, too.”

Margaret Meyer: I completely agree. And I think that as a mental health provider and as a therapist, also identifying in the community, it is a way that we overcome challenges. As we’re dealing with, Dr. Jeff mentioned, the systemic implications of being a part of this community, of identifying as a part of this community, how can I in a place of stability and health, provide support to other people to get to that place as well? And how can I, as a white-passing cis person, help people with identities who may be more deeply impacted by stigma or discrimination or issues that they are facing? 

It’s that internal piece of “Now that I am in a safe, healthy, and stable environment, how can I now position myself to help my loved ones, my family who are also in this community?”

Ernie Minues: LGBTQIA+ individuals are more than twice as likely as heterosexual men and women to have a mental health disorder in their lifetime, according to the American Psychological Association.

Another statistic, that comes to my mind is that 39% of openly identifying LGBTQIA+ people have had a mental health struggle within the last year that they have reported.

Two things stand out to me in this. First of all, that is a huge percentage. Second of all, that’s those who are openly identifying and are reporting it, which makes me think it’s so much smaller a number than what’s actually happening.

Margaret Meyer: I definitely would agree. And we see the numbers within the last few years rising. And so we also have to take into consideration, what is happening right now across our country and our government at a legislative level, at a political level. When we see there being positions of power seeking to regulate a community based on their identity, based on their truth, based on their experience, or provide barriers to care, it will decrease the number. 

Folks don’t feel safe, capable, and able to share what they’re thinking and feeling, and experiencing because they’re afraid that if they tell someone, they won’t be supported in this.

Ernie Minues: Dr. Jeff, we talked at the beginning about acceptance, but I want to take that a little further and acknowledge who you are, not just being accepted by people around you for what you are or what you like, or what you enjoy. You used the example of baseball. But the idea of living in your truth and how that affects your health. Not just the acceptance of people around you, but your own understanding and being true and living a truthful existence. When you are deprived of that, psychologically, what does that do to you?

Dr. Jeff Temple: I’m really glad that you mentioned that. I’m upset with myself for not thinking about that earlier because it really doesn’t matter what other people think of you if you don’t accept who you are and accept yourself. I’ll say that’s a lot harder to do when your family doesn’t accept you when your church doesn’t accept you, or school, or friends or peers. They’re still responsible for your own self-acceptance. 

If you don’t accept yourself and don’t live your truth, that is definitely going to literally eat at you from a psychological standpoint.

You’re going to have more depressed thoughts, more suicidal thoughts, which would follow. “If I don’t like myself, if I don’t love myself, then why am I here? I’m just a burden to other people.” Those types of negative thoughts if you don’t accept yourself. That’s huge. 

The high recent number of folks that are depressed and anxious is universal. Unfortunately, or fortunately, it’s not just restricted to LGBTQIA+ folks. As I have stated before, the last wave of the pandemic is going to be psychological health problems. The problem is going to get worse before it gets better. The backlog for seeing a psychologist or a therapist is weeks or months. We’re a distressed world right now. And unfortunately, people who are marginalized are experiencing that even more.

Ernie Minues: The pandemic is a perfect example for folks who may not be within this community that are listening today and trying to understand when we talk about this sense of isolation and aloneness and having to depend on just yourself and feeling like no one else is there to support. So many people can appreciate those feelings now having gone through the pandemic when we were cut off from our support, when we couldn’t see people, when we couldn’t live within a community. I would hope that what comes from this is a better understanding.

You don’t have to love everything everybody does. You can make your own choices about that. But to understand the feeling of what it’s like simply to be cut off, to be isolated, and to be alone, and the havoc it wreaks in your own life. 

Margaret Meyer: I’m just so grateful for what both of you are mentioning. I think one thing that you just said is you don’t have to have that same experience to really understand the feelings of it. And that right there is the part that’s so important. We are able to really think about our lives, what is an experience where maybe you felt like the people around you didn’t understand what you were going through? Or what is a part of your identity that sometimes when you’re talking to people, they just don’t understand? Maybe you’re a new parent and you’re talking to a friend who doesn’t have children and you just feel it in your gut, that they just don’t understand what you’re sharing. 

We all have gone through something that has caused us at one point or another to feel isolated or to feel like we don’t know who to talk to about it or to feel like if we say something out loud, no one is going to understand. And if we can just leverage, that’s empathy. When we can just leverage the fact that I don’t have to experience the same thing as you.

I don’t have to be a part of this community and understand your experience in your shoes to be able to connect with the feeling that you’re going through.

To know you’re a human and you deserve to feel support and to feel cared for and to care about yourself. That is so important to really find a way to accept and love yourself.

Denice: I really was at a crossroads during the height of the pandemic, I was blessed at the time to have a therapist, and she actually identified as queer. She had been my therapist for a while. During the pandemic, said she wanted to go be with her family, which I get. But, at that time, I needed someone else. Just because of a lot of things that were going on, and I identify as a black queer woman, I wanted to see a black therapist. It was almost impossible. 

So I had to make a choice. I did find another queer therapist, and I ended up going to some online support groups with other black queer women and just sharing our stories in that way. But what do you do if you’re looking for a therapist that you identify with or that maybe identify as a team? And I can just say at that particular time, with what was going on, I wanted to talk to a black person. I just did. 

Margaret Meyer: I think what Denice is sharing is so important. Sometimes the parts of our identity that are impacting us the most, we need someone with a shared identity or shared experience because there is an element of that paralleled experience. We don’t have the same experience, but we have a paralleled experience with someone so we don’t have to explain that to. There is the ability to understand it in that way. 

I think that being able to leverage online resources to try and navigate finding someone. Psychology Today is a great resource. You can filter on that. There’s a great organization out there called Black Therapists Rock, which is a group of black therapists who support folks around the US. 

Being able to reach out to your community for contacts. Maybe you’re involved in a professional organization that is an LGBTQIA+ organization, or you have other friends or acquaintances who identify similarly to you. Ask around, and see who they’re using. If they have anyone that they can recommend is also another really important part for us to be able to find folks that we feel like we can connect with and that we don’t have to explain those different parts of ourselves too.

Ernie Minues: Denice, I’m hoping that you found Town Square to be a help during that time to be there for you, too.

Denice: I certainly did. And I thank you every day for the work you do. Thank you both so much. Thanks for answering my question, too.

Dr. Jeff Temple: I have a ton of thoughts on that. One is how resourceful is Denice to be able to find a therapist that fits her needs and find an online community that meets her needs. And I’ll say good for her, but I have to add that we’re struggling as a society. For a lot of these folks, whether it’s LGBTQIA+ or simply someone who is depressed or anxious, it takes a whole lot of work to reach out. It takes a whole lot of work and it’s scary and it’s tough and it’s likely to get turned away. Not everyone is as resourceful as Denice and not everyone has the courage to be able to do that. We need to find a way to make it easier to reach those folks. 

I would like to add one other thing. If I was sitting in my car right now, I would have called the show to say that when Hurricane Ida happened in 2008, it felt like only people in Galveston knew what I was going through, knew what my family was going through, knew how hard it was.

One of the things that happened with the pandemic is everyone was in the same place. And I think that is really true to your point. We really can use that leverage, that empathy to help a 14-year-old boy in Cleveland, Texas, who’s questioning his sexual identity and how terribly alone, and isolated that must feel. I’ll never be able to know what it’s like to be him, but I think I can leverage some of the despair that I had during the early stages of the pandemic to empathize with him.

Ernie Minues: I m going to jump on that point in one second. The Montrose Center is also one organization in Houston that provides services to the LGBTQIA+ community, and you can reach their 24-hour helpline if you need it at 713-529-3211. 

In today’s day and age, as much as we’re talking about the difficult periods, there’s also a lot to celebrate with the whole concept of more exposure, and more understanding.

A lot of these folks are growing up in a world where they had no idea what it’s like without “Will and Grace” being there. We had a different understanding of this, which then I think we have to assume leads to some in the community coming out earlier because they understand it sooner. They hear about it more. 

I think the misunderstanding is we think that people are being recruited when it’s more of identifying and how important as younger people start to recognize these things within themselves, family and support needs to be there for them. 

Dr. Jeff Temple: We’re all on a continuum. If you think about the McKinsey scale where mono-homosexual, mono-heterosexual, and then a majority of us are somewhere in the middle. And so you’re absolutely spot on. It’s not that the younger people are experimenting more or that we’re “gayer” now or anything like that. It’s that we have more accepted in society. 

We’re seeing it in our culture. We’re being exposed to it on social media, and we’re feeling more comfortable with who we are and experimenting with who we are. And that’s a good thing. I do think we’re seeing some of the backlashes right now with some scary policies in Florida and Texas as well. 

I do think the pendulum is eventually going to swing back the other way, but we are seeing some of this backlash to this growing acceptance in society. Having access to smartphones in the world has helped that 14-year-old boy in Cleveland (by the way, if there really is a 14-year-old boy in Cleveland, I hope we’re reaching him tonight). But that allows that kid to access a world that a 14-year-old wouldn’t have been able to access in the 90s and would have felt especially alone and isolated. And now he has a world out there that he can communicate with.

Ernie Minues:  Margaret, I can almost hear some people out there more from the conservative side that are saying: “No, we’re pushing this too fast. Why are we talking about this age? Why are we talking about a 14-year-old discovering that they may be part of this community? That’s too early. We can’t be acknowledging or accepting of that”. Talk to me about that.

Margaret Meyer: I think that it is too early to be talking about someone’s full experience with what they’re thinking and what they’re feeling and naming it in their body. What we know as clinicians is that when we’re able to reach a person or a client that is feeling or experiencing these thoughts at a younger age, there is a safe place for them to think about the process and be validated in their experience. They have healthier outcomes. I would also agree with Dr. Jeff. 

We’re not inherently “more gay”. I mean, as a queer person, that would be great. I would love to see a more gay world. We aren’t necessarily “more gay” at this point in time, but we are introducing language, we are introducing stories. Just like he said, the resource held in our hand, if we use it in the correct way, can provide us a space to understand what we’re thinking and experiencing and not feel isolated.

Whenever there is a change and people are moved out of a position where they feel comfortable or where they feel in control, they confuse that experience with fear and harm when in reality they are uncomfortable.

Sometimes when people are having to evolve and change in the way that the world is moving, that is creating the space for more people to feel loved and accepted and then truly themselves. Unfortunately, you can hear some of those folks. They are always going to be there screaming that this isn’t okay. What isn’t okay is when we continue to create environments that hurt and harm people.

Ernie Minues:  For folks that are wondering why we’re talking about this whole area when we’re talking about mental health, these are often the roots where these problems begin to develop because they don’t have a healthy community around them to help support them and help them process things through.

Dr. Jeff Temple: People are born this way. It’s not something to choose. The science is settled and if you think otherwise you’re wrong. 

Ernie Minues:  Today, most LGBTQIA individuals are incredibly resilient and thrive in the face of adversity with the help of supportive families, communities, and peers. But what happens when that support system isn’t there? 

If you need help or support, the Trevor Project is also here for the LGBTQIA+ community. You can chat with them online at the Trevor Project or by calling them at 866-488-7386. 

I want to go over to a tweet we got from Pat. Pat wrote in to say: “People on the autism spectrum responding to an internet poll are reporting being gay at a rate twice the general population, indicating that there may be a common origin for these two superpowers”. 

Dr. Jeff Temple: I love that the person who tweeted it said that they’re both superpowers. That’s a fantastic tweet. I have not seen that research, but that is interesting. It goes back to what I had mentioned before that there is a genetic biological basis to all this. It’s as much as we should accept left-handers, we should accept people from the LGBTQIA+.

Margaret Meyer: I agree with Dr. Jeff. I haven’t dug into the research personally, so I don’t want to speak on it too deeply without having more information. But it just goes to say that whenever we’re looking at the data and the research, how are we thinking about the experiences with different people in different communities? Do we have this new information because we’re now asking these questions? It also just talks about the importance of asking folks about their experiences and gathering information from different communities.

Ernie Minues:  What I like most about Pat’s tweet is the fact that in different situations, people could look at both of those things as being difficult: having autism, and being LGBTQIA+. Yet when you simply couch it in the positive, the power that it brings to it. When you think about acceptance in a community, simply allowing people to feel proud of who they are as opposed to being damned for who they are. 

It’s better for the community and for society as a whole. I can’t think that there’s a benefit to making a chunk of your community, a chunk of your society feel ostracized and unloved. And we see this in other oppressed communities. We have to get to a point where we are accepting and loving of all people. You don’t have to love the behavior of all people. Some people do bad things, and other people do good things, but you can’t wipe out an entire group of people just because you feel it’s not what you want. 

Dr. Jeff Temple: You could also have just said: “Rising tides lifts all boats”. 

Ernie Minues: We talked about identity, we’ve talked about acceptance. I want to talk about the concept of simply feeling safe. So many in the LGBTQIA, especially in the trans community and the drag community, just don’t feel safe. And it’s not on a walk from a car one day in a dark parking lot. It is all day, every day. What impact does that have on mental health? 

Dr. Jeff Temple: That impact is substantial. I’m not scared to compare it to this population, but military folks, soldiers who are on the front lines. It’s hard to go to sleep, eat, and do all that stuff. You’re always having to be on guard and ready to defend yourself. If we generalize that to the LGBTQ community, especially women of color who identify as LGBTQ and all the other different types of intersectionality, this is living with this fear on a constant basis. 

We’re not supposed to be doing that as humans. We have this stress response. If you look at evolution, we’re supposed to react that way when a bear chases us as we’re out hunting or gathering or whatever. We’re not supposed to have this stress response every second of every day. And when we do, it has a compounding effect on our mental and physical health.

Ernie Minues: I see another statistic here, which I’m not exactly sure how they come to it, but it fascinates me nonetheless. It has to do with the power of respecting pronouns. Folks who are treated with the respect of being referred to by the pronouns they ask for are half as likely to attempt suicide. Help me unpack that a little bit.

Margaret Meyer:  Before I get into it, that’s a really, really important statistic. I appreciate you sharing that with us and bringing that up because it goes back to that validation piece. 

When we believe people, when we validate their experiences, we’re creating that safer space. We’re creating that environment where they can really show up and be themselves. 

For folks, when we’re thinking about respecting their pronouns, we are respecting them as a person. I wouldn’t walk up to you and call you the wrong name, and you correct me, and I just keep calling you the wrong name. So it’s really thinking about, regardless of how I think and feel about pronouns, regardless of what mine are and how I identify, respecting and honoring how someone is telling me they want to be called or what their name and their pronouns are is a great way to simply validate, regardless of what my interpretation of them is based on how they look or act or talk, all of those variables. It’s a great way to simply just be respectful of what that person is telling you about themselves.

Ernie Minues: There’s also a statistic, and I don’t have numbers that go with it, just a phrase about it. But having one accepting adult figure in the life of somebody who classifies in the LGBTQIA community makes all the difference in the world. Reduces mental health problems, and reduces suicide rates. Somebody who sees you for who you are, that stands in a position of respect or authority, makes a huge difference.

Dr. Jeff Temple: It is one of the probably most robust protective factors that we know, not only with folks that are LGBTQIA but basically anyone. If we look at communities of color, communities where there’s a lot of violence, someone who’s growing up in a family that uses violence or is abusive to them. If they have a connection to one pro-social adult who loves and respects them, that is probably the strongest protective factor against a host of negative problems, not only immediately, but long term throughout their life.

Ernie Minues: Margaret, you work in this work all the time. This is where you focus. I’m curious, about the approach we’re taking to this today, talking about the acceptance factor, talking about the understanding, talking about the support. How much of an impact would that then make on the work you’re doing within the community when it comes to mental health issues?

Margaret Meyer:  Yeah, it makes a huge impact. I mean, exactly what Dr. Jeff is talking about in terms of having that person in your life to be that support. We are created to connect with each other. That is what our brains are hard-wired to do, which is to create connections with one another. 

By simply having these conversations, creating the spaces where we’re talking about this, allowing both folks in the LGBTQIA community to hear that there are people out there who are interested and willing to create space for them to share about themselves. There are allies in this community who want to create space for folks to share about themselves. If knowing that that is out there and accessible can spark a degree of hope in any one person listening, then we’re achieving that. 

Ernie Minues: Dr. Jeff, back over to you. And again, it’s a dark statistic, but help me with it. LGBTQIA youth who are rejected by their families are eight times more likely to attempt suicide.

Dr. Jeff Temple: This doesn’t surprise me. I mean, this is your family. These are the people who should love you, unconditionally. And it’s really not that hard as a parent, no matter what, to love your kid, unconditionally. It’s really pretty easy. Just love them, no matter who they are, what they are, what they tell you. Love them and help them and be supportive of them. 

It’s so important to be an ally and be there for those kids that have rejecting families, that they have someone that they can go to, that they know that you love them and accept them and respect them for being left-handed, or in this case, being LGBTQIA. Again, same thing.

Ernie Minues: There are many in our listening audience who have certain beliefs, religious beliefs, a moral compass that tells them this is just wrong. This is not what I expected from my child. The child comes to them and tells them this. I understand this can be difficult for them, too. Help thoughts, and suggestions on how to process through that. 

When it goes against your fiber and your first instinct is to turn against this person who has wronged you by this admission, what do we need to keep in mind? How do we find that place without maybe even getting to full acceptance, but to a place of allowing it to exist? Allowing your child to come to you and be able to talk to you, to know that if there’s a problem, you’re keeping it in a family, you’re not ostracizing, you’re not sending out? 

Dr. Jeff Temple: I think it starts at a very basic level that you love this child no matter what. So even before, a year before, five years before, you make a decision that you are loving this child, unconditionally, you will be there to support them. 

Now, when that time comes, whether it’s to yourself or to your child, just say: “I don’t understand this and I’m going to try to take some time to understand this, but know that I love you regardless. Know that you’ll always be part of this family. You’ll always be my son, my daughter, and I love you. I may need some time to think about this and understand it better.” 

I think there probably is a little bit of grieving for some parents. The loss of what they thought they might have or what they could have had or something like that.

Ernie Minues: My other side of this question is, as an LGBTQIA+ individual, living in your truth, you also have to understand the world in which you live. I think that there can be ways for you to navigate these more difficult moments that can maybe help lead to more positive outcomes.

Margaret Meyer: I want to speak a little bit about that parent experience and what Dr. Jeff was mentioning. This parent is maybe mourning the loss of this child, the life that they thought they were going to lead. My one piece of advice is that hurt and harm are really hard to undo, and they can stick with us for a really long time. 

As a parent, when we’re struggling with this, we just need to remember to continue to think about the love we have for our child and make it about them. I don’t mean to deduce it to something so simple, but our child needs to eat when they’re growing up and they’re a baby and we’re waking up in the night to feed them. 

We’re not saying: “No, it’s about me. I’m tired. I want to sleep. I’m not going to get up”. It is about our child and our commitment and our love for this person, this human. And so we’re getting up and we’re feeding them. It’s not to say that you can’t go through the process of dealing with the feelings that are coming up for you, but it’s not your child’s responsibility to hold those feelings. 

You can keep loving your child even if you don’t understand and even if you’re still in a place where you just adamantly don’t agree with their experience and you don’t yet know how to believe their truth. 

There’s a difference between you working on that in your own way that doesn’t impact your child and you just continue to keep loving your child, even if that means you need to take a step back and take some time to think about it. 

The other part for people in the LGBTQIA community, when we’re thinking about how to best equip ourselves, it’s just really important to know that as people, and this is for all of us, we cannot control the reactions and the actions and the behaviors of anyone else but ourselves. We can’t change people. We have to want to change and to grow and be different as people. And so we also can reach out and find support systems. 

The idea and the concept of our friend groups and our chosen families of our support systems (maybe it’s a teacher, a counselor, or a sports coach). We have the opportunity to create support systems and people who we know, love, and accept us in response to knowing that someone else in our life may not react and respond that way. We have to really think about our safety and our health before we can disclose those certain pieces of information.

Ernie Minues: Dr. Jeff, why this conversation went this way, if what we were talking about is mental health?

Dr. Jeff Temple: I think it went this way because it’s impossible to untangle what folks in the LGBTQ community go through and their mental health. And before we sign off, I want to say Happy Pride!

Ernie Minues: Thank you very much, Dr. Jeff and Margaret, for joining us today. Dr. Jeff Temple is a psychologist, Vice Dean for Research and Scholarship at the School of Nursing, the John Sealy Distinguished Chair in Community Health, and the Director of the Center for Violence Prevention at UTMB Health. Margaret Meyer is the therapist and social worker at the Eddins Counseling Group

Again, the Trevor Project can be reached online. And if you have an immediate crisis, you can reach out to the Crisis Lifeline by dial in the three numbers, 988. We mentioned Montrose Counseling Center also. This is their number again, 713-529-3211. And finally, the Trans Lifeline, 877-565-8860. You can get all this on our website. 

Town Square with Ernie Minues is a production of Houston Public Media. The opinions expressed by guests and callers do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff, management, or underwriters of this station. Medical opinions should not replace consultation with a medical professional.


If you are in crisis, call or text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988.

The Trevor Project: you can chat with them online at TheTrevorProject.org. You can also call them at 866-488-7386 or text “START” to 678-678.

An organization in Houston that provides services to the LGBTQIA+ community is The Montrose Center, visit their website at MontroseCenter.org or call their 24-hour helpline at 713-529-3211.

For the Harris Center for Mental Health & IDD 24/7 crisis line, call 713-970-7000.

For Trans Lifeline’s 24-hour hotline call 877-565-8860.

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