Counseling as a Source of Support for LBGTQI Students
Counseling is a process in which a nonjudgmental, caring, and trained therapist helps a person arrive at effective solutions to problems or life tasks. While specific methods may vary, most counselors would support the notion that helping involves facilitating an individual’s self-exploration, self-understanding, self-acceptance, and self-esteem. Helping a lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, or questioning (LBGTQ) individual come to value and esteem her or his sexual orientation and gender identity certainly fits into this philosophy. In no way does counseling mean that there is something “wrong” about being who you are. It just may be difficult to figure out in a heterosexist society.
Counseling offers assistance in:
- Identifying and clarifying issues. Sometimes people who seek counseling are not sure what is wrong, but they know that they are not happy. Counselors are skilled at helping people understand themselves and their feelings. The process of recognizing and understanding gender identity or an LBG sexual orientation often involves a confusing set of thoughts and feelings. Counselors can help an individual clarify and sort through some of the confusion.
- Identifying, clarifying, and expressing feelings. Often people have difficulty understanding, labeling, and/or expressing feelings. This is particularly true when people are under stress. Feelings can be confusing and may often seem to be out of control. Most counselors are particularly good at helping people handle and understand their feelings.
- Deciding what to do. Feeling stuck and uncertain is common when people are having difficulty determining alternatives. Usually, there is more than one choice in how to behave. Counselors are adept at helping people uncover and discover options and alternatives. Many LBGTQ individuals benefit from talking to someone about if and when to “come out” to family or friends, and how to do it.
- Developing and enhancing relationship skills. Building a support system and developing close interpersonal relationships is especially important to most people. Yet there are some individuals who seem to have difficulty getting what they want from a relationship — whether it is from family, friend, or partner. Dealing with relationships may be a primary focus of counseling and counselors. It is also an essential part of developing a healthy sense of self. Because our society provides few positive opportunities for individuals to observe and learn about same-sex relationships, counseling is one way for people to learn about such relationships in a positive light.
Selecting a Sensitive Counselor
From time to time, some lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender and questioning individuals may avoid seeking help because of the myth that counselors will try to change their sexual orientation (called “reparative” or “conversion” therapy). No evidence exists that counseling canchange the sexual orientation of adults. Leading professional organizations for counselors view it as unethical and potentially psychologically damaging to the LGBTQ community.
Selecting a counselor who is sensitive and supportive of an LGBTQ sexual orientation is an important first step in seeking help. Directly asking a counselor about her or his feelings and knowledge about lesbian, bisexual, gay, or transgender people, issues, and culture during the first meeting is probably the most expeditious way to determine “fit.” However, there are other ways to determine the sensitivity and awareness of a counselor.
For example, other LGBTQindividuals who have been in counseling can suggest the name of a particular counselor. Another possibility is to ask for referrals from organized LGBTQ resource centers in the area. It’s even possible at some counseling centers and agencies to call and ask specifically for a counselor who is sensitive to and has experience working with LGBTQpeople.
You may also want to take a look around the waiting area as well as the counselor’s office. Are there books or other literature on display that affirm a LGBTQ self-identity? Does the language the counselor uses seem to be sensitive to LGBTQ issues?
Support for Transgender Students
It can take a little extra effort to find fully qualified individuals who work with the complexities of transgender lives. Check with local or national LGBTQ centers and organizations for referrals. Be sure to check these referrals out before deciding to fully engage in therapy. Also, interview potential counselors, and ask about their training on LGBTQ issues and their experience with LGBTQ clients.
LGBTQI Campus, Community and National Resource List
- The Gender Equity Center
The Boise State Gender Equity Center Director, Adriane Bang, is a primary contact for additional information or support (208) 426-4259. The Gender Equity Peer Educators also host many events and workshops throughout the year.
- Pride Alliance
This student organization provides a safe space for LGBTA students at Boise State University to socialize with movie nights, games nights, etc. They also plan LGBTA events aimed at educating BSU students, faculty, and staff.
- Boise State Counseling Center
In the Norco Building (1529 Belmont Street); phone: (208) 426-1459. The counseling center will provide individual counseling to students regarding gender identity and sexual identity issues. In the past they have held group sessions for LGBT empowerment and Gender Identity and Sexual Identity Issues.
In the Community
- A.L.P.H.A. (Allies Linked for the Prevention of HIV and AIDS) (208) 424-7799
575 N. 8th Street, Boise, ID 83702
ALPHA is committed to preventing the transmission of HIV and AIDS. They accomplish this through education, public awareness, testing, and providing support to infected and affected individuals.
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) (208) 344-9750.
P.O. Box 1897, Boise, ID 83701
The ACLU is a non-profit organization that has long represented plaintiffs on matters of Constitutional and civil rights.
- The Community Center (208) 336-3870
280 N. 8th St., Suite 30, Boise, ID, 83702
The Community Center’s mission is to provide an inviting and safe facility for the use of all LGBT and allied community organizations and individuals.
- Idaho Equality (208) 331-7028
P.O. Box 704, Boise, ID 83713
Idaho Equality is formed as a statewide effort to network individuals and organizations using grassroots power to ensure lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) people are afforded dignity, respect, and full equality and protection under the law.
- Idaho Human Rights Education Center (208) 345-0304
777 South 8th Street, Boise, ID 83702
The Center’s Mission is to promote respect for human dignity and diversity through education and to foster our individual responsibility to work for justice and peace.
- Idaho Safe Schools Coalition
P.O. Box 6650, Boise, ID 83707
The Coalition’s goal is to help schools better meet the needs of all students, including those who are perceived and/or identify as LGBT as well as children of LGBT families. Email: IdahoSSC@gmail.com.
- Tri-States Transgender Group (208) 368-8669
P.O. Box 6691, Boise, ID 83707
Tri-States is a group where trans people can come to share common experiences and socialize. For information, contact Emilie at 208-830-7253.
- IYG National Hotline for LGBT Youth (1-800-347-TEEN)
- Trevor Helpline: Crisis Intervention for LGBT Youth (866-488-7386, http://www.thetrevorproject.org)
- Gay & Lesbian National Hotline (1-888-843-4564; http://www.glnh.org/)
- Gay and Lesbian Helpline (1-888-340-4528)
- ACLU Safe Schools Project (https://www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/lgbt-youth-schools)
- Legal and safe schools information from ACLU
- Advocates for Youth (http://www.advocatesforyouth.org)
- Information on reproductive and sexual health
- Youth Resource.com (http://www.youthresource.com)
- Support, community, resources, and peer-to-peer education for LGBT youth 13-24
- TransActive (http://www.transactiveonline.org/)
- Education, resources, advocacy, and support for transgender and gender non-conforming youth and their families
- Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (http://www.glsen.org)
- Information/resources on safe schools, GSAs and combating anti-LGBT bias in education
- Gay-Straight Alliance Network (http://www.gsanetwork.org)
- Youth-led organization that connects GSAs to each other and to community resources
- Intersex Society of North America (http://www.isna.org)
- Public awareness, education, and advocacy organization for intersex people
- National Coming Out Project (http://www.hrc.org/issues/coming_out.asp)
- Public education/support around coming out
- National Youth Advocacy Coalition (http://www.nyacyouth.org)
- Organizing and action around LGBT youth issues nationwide
- Oasis Journals / OutProud (http://www.oasisjournals.com/)
- National coalition of LGBT youth offering resources and support
- Parents, Friends, and Families of Lesbians and Gays (http://www.pflag.org)
- Support and information for families of LGBT people with over 400 chapters nationwide