Ms. Windsor truly helped move the fight for LGBTQ rights forward in very significant ways. Her fight won a Supreme Court decision defeating the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which paved the way for the legalization of gay and lesbian marriages in this country. Many of us never imagined this could happen in our lifetimes.
I’m old enough to remember a time, not really that long ago, actually, when the preferred course of therapy for gay people was “conversion therapy.” This was designed to make homosexual behavior appear to be so repulsive to the client that he or she would want to stop all related sexual behavior as well as the thoughts and feelings they were having toward people of the same sex. In other words, the message was unabashedly “stop being who you are because you’re perverted and society will never accept you!” Fortunately, this horrendous form of treatment is no longer supported by any professional board in the mental health field.
I was fortunate to be practicing a little later than when the peak of this trend was most prevalent, but it still was widely accepted as my practice was building. Homosexuality was clearly defined as a psychological disorder in the DSM until 1973 and remains stigmatized today, though thanks to activists like Ms. Windsor, we are moving in a more positive direction.
So how does this impact the work we do today and going forward with this community? I think it means to me continuing to look hard and deep at my own learned prejudices and discomfort with that which is different, even when I think that they no longer exist. And then it is about being open to, or reconsidering, new or different viewpoints in a way that fully honors the human sitting in front of me. In order to be able to give therapeutic benefit to anyone else, I must first open my heart and mind to the beauty of individual differences and the common bonds in expressions of love and intimacy.
Respect-Focused Therapy (RFT) is a foundation on which all modalities and techniques used in therapy can be strongly grounded, in order to produce sound, effective outcomes. This approach offers clients the opportunity to gain experiential understanding of being respected, possibly for the first time, from the therapeutic relationship and then be able to heal old wounds by creating more respect for self and others in the therapeutic process.