Abby Editorial

By Abby Maher

We live in a society that regards
heterosexual and cisgender as the norm. For LGBTQ+ folks, this means we are so
often excluded from the institutions and traditions that were built on the
premise that heterosexual, cisgender people are the standard against which
everyone else is judged. As an LGBTQ+ person, this can feel extremely
isolating. It can feel as though there isn’t space for us. When we are simply
tolerated by heterosexual cisgender people, it can feel as though we should
praise them because they made room for us to simply exist in their world. In my
personal experience, the feeling of constantly being on the outside has made
conforming to heteronormative ideals seem like the most appealing option. I
have felt the pressure to fit myself into the boxes that are considered
“normal” in order to get along in an environment that didn’t want to tolerate
me as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. I have also encountered many kind, well-intentioned
people who wish to be inclusive and accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, but I
have found that even inclusivity can come with constraints. I think society as
whole doesn’t really tolerate things that it can’t explicitly define and place
in a box. So for those of us who exist outside of the heterosexual, cisgender
boxes, society has created a new set of standards about what a lesbian is
supposed to look and act like, what a gay man is supposed to look and act like,
what a transgender woman or man is supposed to look and act like, and so
on.  Once I discovered that I simply
couldn’t squeeze myself into the heteronormative box society tried to place me
in, with a swell of pride in my identity, I searched for inclusivity within the
LGBTQ+ community. I tried really hard to ascribe to the values, thoughts and
ideas I was “supposed” to have as someone who identifies as a lesbian.  A lot of those things don’t define who I am at
my core, but after all I am a human and I crave love, inclusion and acceptance.
I have had to ask myself however,  if I
have to betray my authenticity in order to receive those things, is it even
love, inclusion or acceptance?

So therein lies the dilemma, as an LGBTQ+ person I am often
outcast from the majority of society because I cannot mold myself to fit, and I
often feel outcast and left behind within my own community because I do not see
myself reflected in the assumptions society makes about me.

As a future mental health counselor who hopes to work with
the LGBTQ+ community, I hope to use this feeling to guide my work. I am aware
that these boxes I have mentioned often tell LGBTQ+ people how to love, how to
have relationships, how to express themselves, and how to find acceptance. If I
had one wish for any of  my fellow LGBTQ+
folk, it would be for them to be able to see beyond the constraints of these
boxes, to get in touch with how they want to love, how they want to have
relationships, and how they want to express themselves. Above all, I wish for
them to feel that their truth does not make them less valid if it doesn’t align
with the standard, and finally I wish for them to know that they can find
unconditional acceptance through these truths. As a counselor I see it as my
role to help clients do the work of silencing the voice that tells us as LGBTQ+
people what we should be, so that they can find their own voice that tells them
who they truly are. Beyond that, I see it as my role to help clients feel
empowered enough to share that voice with the rest of the world, so that they
may be loved, included, and accepted without conditions.


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