Can I go to a queer / gender affirming / non-monogamous relationship-aware / kink affirming therapist even if what I need to talk about has nothing to do with my gender, sexuality, sex or relationships?
And honestly, the rest of this essay is just more of me saying yes.
And also some helpful tips on how to find a therapist who will affirm your identity.
Whatever identities you hold around gender, sexuality, sex, and relationships are important to who you are and how you relate to the people around you… and how they relate to you. Some of us with these identities live in bubbles, where almost everyone in our lives knows about these parts of us and celebrates them. Others are only out about them in specific communities or parts of their lives. No matter where you sit in on that spectrum, it is reasonable to wonder if you really need a therapist who knows about them if what you need to talk about has nothing to do with them.
If what you need is help with overwhelming anxiety at work, is your therapist really going to need to know that you have a wife and a girlfriend?
If your dad died last year, and you feel stuck in your grief will your therapist really care that you’re in a D/s relationship?
I mean, it’s depression – not gay depression.
And also, you deserve to be seen and celebrated for who you are. Especially by your therapist.
And a couple other things…
You may be surprised about what connects to what in your life and mental health. If you’re processing how you have learned to cope with your anxiety symptoms over the course of your life… you just might end up needing to talk about coming out to your grandma when you were in the third grade. And you should be able to without worrying that your therapist is going to need to sidetrack everything because she just found out your queer.
Also… and this just sucks, all of these identities have been historically pathologized. Meaning that medical and mental health professionals used to… and sometimes still do, think of these identities as psychologically abnormal or unhealthy and in need of treatment. But like we discussed above, it’s depression. Not gay depression. The therapeutic relationship requires a lot of trust, and to do the work to trust someone like that just to find out that they think you’re poly because you have a pathological inability to commit is not only annoying and wrong, but potentially harmful. And you shouldn’t have to put up with it.
So how do you find a therapist who knows what you need them to know about your identities?
You can start by reading their website, or their profile on psychologytoday.com
If that’s not helpful or if you have limited choices because of geography or insurance, then you can ask them. Request a consult, which is usually a free 15-minute session to help you determine if a therapist is a good fit. And ask “what do you know about swinging?” or “have you had transgender clients before?” or whatever you need to know. And then trust your gut when they respond. You get to decide if they’re the right fit for you.
Also remember that Telehealth has also opened possibilities for seeing a therapist not in your immediate geographic area, which means if you live in a really rural place or a small community you can look for an identity affirming therapist somewhere else. Most folks will only be licensed to see people in the state in which they live though, so you could try looking in other areas in your state.
You deserve to place your trust and vulnerability with a therapist who will see and celebrate who you are, in all of the ways that you identify and all the communities to which you belong.