Posts tagged “empowerment

Thank you, “Being Gay, Becoming Gray”

Much gratitude to the wonderful and inspiring Paul Boynton, author of “Begin with Yes,” who asked that I contribute something to his blog “Being Gay, Becoming Gray.” I appreciate the empowering site and accompanying Facebook messages, and I hope you’ll check out my contribution here. Thanks, Paul!

Our Place in the World: Reclaiming Our Humanity

In the fight for LGBT equality, often it seems as if others don’t understand just how normal our lives truly are.  The right-wing has been so effective in demonizing our community as something exotic, sexually-driven, and threatening, that the sheer normalcy of our existence has in large part been forgotten.  By painting us solely as predatory beings, they have stripped us of our humanity.  In truth, while we have sexual desires, we also work, play, sleep, eat, and breathe.  Not much to call exciting, and certainly nothing that separates us from the rest.  Those of us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are simply searching for our place in the world, like those around us.

In high school, I had the supreme pleasure of bastardizing the role of George Gibbs in Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Our Town.  Since 1938, this piece has been performed on stages across the nation, likely in inferior productions such as mine, but–still–the play resonates.  While drama teachers probably select it for its low budget appeal, the reason Our Town continues to succeed is that it speaks to elements each and every audience member desires, denounces, or values:  family, love, human interaction, and the beauty and fragility of life.

What many may not know is that playwright Thornton Wilder was actually gay.  Some may find it ironic that a gay man crafted something that speaks so centrally to millions of Americans, regardless of age, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, but it is not altogether surprising.  We all share basic, primal needs, as Wilder illustrates so skillfully in the play.

Wilder, a multifaceted individual with a host of interests and desires, was not defined by his sexuality alone.  Like many Americans, he served his country in the armed forces.  Like others, he was a devoted teacher.  Like many of us, Wilder was bullied for being different.  And, yes, he was also a sexual being, as his relationship with Samuel Steward indicates.  (Steward would later go on to write homo-erotica under the name Phil Andros).

The LGBT community, however, has largely been defined not from within, based on our varied attributes, but at the hands of others, often for political gain. Prior to Stonewall, we were considered predators.  After Stonewall, we were labeled hedonists. During the turbulent battle to gain access to HIV drugs, we were stereotyped as angry activists.  In our efforts to reclaim the word “queer” from our tormentors, we were labeled “extreme/other.”  The advent of AIDS further reinforced the notion that we were somehow “diseased”, and our reluctance to explore how fully HIV impacted our community, allowing AIDS to remain a specter even now, only compounds the idea that who we are and what we do are somehow illicit.  We have been made the boogeyman, time and again, and the toll that has taken on our collective psyche may never be known. (more…)

Author Spotlight: Ken Howard, LCSW

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Ken Howard since our days together at UCLA, many moons ago.  Since then, he has gone on to become a renowned therapist in Los Angeles, and has written a book, Self-Empowerment: Have the Life You Want, which I’ve been hearing terrific things about. Ken was gracious enough to answer a few questions about his book and work.  Welcome, Ken! 

Q & A: Ken Howard, LCSW

Thank you for taking the time to chat!  First of all, congratulations on your new book, which is getting great buzz.  What prompted you to write it?

I get great inspiration from self-help books written by others, and have done this both before and after I became a therapist.  I recommend books to my clients, depending on their situation, as an adjunct resource between sessions.  But most self-help books aren’t written by actual licensed psychotherapists who are currently in full-time private practice, as I am.  So I decided to write a self-help book for a general adult audience based on my 18 years of experience in practice at the time of the writing (now 20 years).  I wanted to bring my message of inspiration, hope, and support to more people than I can possibly see in my office in a week.  It’s also, I believe, the first self-help book for a general audience written by an openly gay, openly HIV-positive author, so I’m proud of that.

I know that much of your psychotherapy work has been within the gay community, but I understand this book has a larger reach.  What can people hope to gain by reading it?

This is a book for people who are struggling what I call the gap between how life is, and how you would like it to be, in important areas of life such as mental health, health, career, relationships, finances, family, community, and spirituality.  The main benefit is that it helps people feel empowered – self-empowered, hence the name – to confront their challenges, and take their quality of life to the next level.

Each chapter of the book – which corresponds to those different life areas – includes ways to empower yourself, a list of common challenges that get in the way (and what to do about them), and a “case study” vignette of how someone  from my practice actually put these ideas into practice (altered to protect their confidentiality).  This way, you look at things from all sides.

I was moved to become a therapist when I was younger and just coming out as a gay man, and many of the people I knew, or at least knew of, were affected by AIDS, or even dying from it.  I couldn’t just sit around and watch; I had to do something.  I developed a niche in working in HIV, but also with gay men who don’t have HIV, along with others with psychiatric disorders, since I have specialized training in those (Depression, OCD, ADD, PTSD, etc.).  Today, my practice is still largely made up of gay men.  Being in West Hollywood, I also see a lot of creative professionals from the entertainment industry, who are straight, gay, male, female, older and younger.  With this book, I wanted to share some of the lessons on self-empowerment developed in my practice with a broader audience beyond the gay community. (more…)