Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Judge Strikes Down Counseling Grad Students' Refusal to Counsel LGBT Students

Homophobe J. Keaton
So Jennifer Keaton filed suit to keep from being expelled by her graduate counseling program for her "problems" with counseling LGBT students.

She lost.

Keaton has been quoted as saying she would tell LGBT clients that their behavior was "morally wrong" and she would try to get them to "change." She also said she would refer LGBT clients to other counselors. "Yuck, I just can't handle being around gay people! It gives me the willies!" No, she didn't really say that, but I like to imagine her saying it...and it's not that far afield to surmise, anyway.

You can read the whole story at The Bilerico Project Report. But the story made me think of my own experiences with coming out and with two therapists I had the misfortune and good luck working with. The first, who shall remain nameless, was part of a counseling program at a suburban Chicago hospital. He reassured me I could "change" and that I wasn't gay at all. No, he posited, because I had such a bad relationship with a distant, perfectionist father, I was merely seeking love and affection from other men and that, once I had a solid relationship with a good buddy, I could move on and be a straight fella, normal in every respect.

I can't tell you how much damage his "counseling" did to me and my life, delaying my acceptance of myself for many years and encouraging me to continue the self-loathing and self-denial that had, sadly, marked most of my adult life. I have a feeling this counselor would understand where Jennifer Keaton was coming from.

Thankfully, the world has changed enough to not uphold Keaton's protest that she not be expelled from her university grad program for her homophobe beliefs and her refusal to treat LGBT people as human beings.

And thankfully, for me, years later, I braced myself and went back to see another counselor. He wouldn't understand Keaton's logic. He encouraged me to accept myself. He told me to take off my mask and stop pretending to be someone or something I was not. He told me there was nothing wrong with who I was, other than the fact that I was hiding from that person at my core...that person no one knew. He showed me that until I accepted and loved myself, I couldn't really have love and acceptance from others--not in any real way. He was what a counselor should be--affirming, supportive, strengthening.

And non-judgmental.

Jennifer, if you're reading this, I encourage you to think about my story. Like you, I thought my feelings were "wrong" and that I could "change". If you ever do become a counselor, Jennifer, I urge you to remember what happened to me--lines of counseling like yours can only harm. And that, to me, is not a very Christian thing to do to your fellow man or woman.
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  1. Thank you for posting this, Rick, it echoes what a lot of us have been through - and I'm sorry that you had such a bad time in counselling. I hope that this strike against this woman's name means she rethinks her career path because she's not counselling material!

  2. I agree with you Rick, but she is not the only one there was another story when I find it I will send it to you. When will people who want to get in to Mental Health Profession realized, that when you have bigotry in your heart you are not helping you are just spreading the cycle of hate.

  3. My experience with counseling was both bad AND I'm grateful for that.

  4. My experience was actually kind of funny. I was required to see a psychiatrist - now, I like to think that I am pretty knowledgable about psychology - so, there I was each week, with the psychiatrist talking to me for an hour about his problems, and me nodding my head and saying, "Yes, that's interesting, go on." Only, I think I was the one who ought to have been getting paid. But I do think I helped him with some issues. Victor

  5. As a 17 year old girl I was diagnosed as personality disordered by a psychiatrist who was 'treating' me in the wake of a suicide attempt. Instead of helping me come to terms with my sexuality he made me fear it even more. He was a horrible man.He literally said that people like me were worthless. My experience with him traumatised me to the point where I repressed my sexuality because I felt so guilty about it. I suppose I've been a coward in many respects, having never found the courage to come out. I did what I should not have done, I got married and had children, but have never really been happy. Thirty years down the line I still suffer bouts of crippling depression and I still self-harm. I've lived a lie in order to appease the moral consciences of people like J.Keaton. She and people like her call themselves Christians and yet they are happy to condemn fellow human beings to lives of unhappiness and guilt simply for being who they were created to be.

  6. My heart goes out to you, Libby. Having been married and had a child, I am here to tell you that you do not have to continue living in the darkness. I eventually came out and you know what? My son and I have a great relationship and even my ex-wife and I get along fine. And the people who loved me all along continued to love me. And if any of them turned away, it was their problem, not mine.

  7. Hi Rick,

    Thank you for responding. I'm so glad that you and your son have a great relationship and that you've found personal happiness. Maybe one day I will find the courage to step out of the shadows.

  8. Maybe this woman missed the class where they told her that homosexuality was removed from the list of mental illnesses decades ago. It hasn't been considered a sickness or deviance for quite a long time. This woman would make a lousy counselor. Who knows what other hidden hates she has.

  9. I can't even begin to imagine the heartache, the moutains some folks have had to climb. I just met up again with one of my best buds from high school. Thirty years ago, I knew he was probably gay, but I did not have the vocabulary then to open a discussion about it. He since moved, got married, had kids, and only *just now* came out. I'm so glad I rediscovered him. Now we can open that long delayed dialog.

  10. I had similar experiences with the ppl I went to for help when I was coming to terms with my sexuality. But eventually, I found a fantastic counsellor, who helped me. Mind you, he was the sixth!

  11. God, Rick, your first counselor sounds like those practitioners of "reparative therapy" who are now associated almost exclusively with conservative churches. Incredible. I'm so glad you ultimately found the courage to question that person's idiotic pronouncements, have faith in your own feelings, and seek help again.

    Thank goodness the courts ruled against Keaton. Religious dogma has no place in the mental health profession. If she's too ignorant to realize that, she shouldn't be allowed to hang her shingle anywhere ... although, I suspect, some anti-gay group somewhere will welcome her with open arms. Homophobes seem to think that a disseminator of propaganda who has credentials somehow legitimatizes their homophobia.

    It's heart-wrenching to know that males and females of all ages are still being subjected to this crap. The young people who are struggling tear me up the most.

  12. A young woman like this is why we should never forget that we can' wait for the "younger" generation to change things. This type of indoctrination happens across America. After 11 years of marriage and three sons, I finally came out. I now speak to university and high school students on LGBT issue, in CA. and I still see a resistance in some to accept others.

    Let us hope she abandons her dream of counseling others and considers something more in line with her moral compass. She will only do damage to unsuspecting clients. Great post Rick.


  13. I cannot find how far she had advanced in the program. If she had a ways to go, perhaps she might have learned something in the long run, like objectivity and compassion. (Probably not, but it might have been worth a try.) Let's face it, though - turning her loose as a licensed counselor would be like putting a Christian Scientist as the head of the Center for Disease Control.