Out On The Couch

Affirmative Therapy & Celebrating Stonewall

Posted: 6-27-24 | The Affirmative Couch

Progress flags representing LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC communities being waved at a parade in New York City, the home of the Stonewall Inn.

Stonewall as a Symbol

The Stonewall Riot was not the result of a single night of activism. June 28, 1969 was the culmination of years of oppression and resistance across the nation. This event was the culmination of years of targeted raids on businesses openly welcoming trans and queer clientele, and queer and trans business owners. 

The Stonewall Inn offered an infamous back room where trans clients, drag kings & queens, and their loved ones could gather to dance and socialize safely. Like many other bathhouses, bars, hotels, dance halls, and other places with visibly LGBTQ+ customers, it was a target for  homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia from law enforcement. It was common for queer business owners to pay off officers for advance notice of busts and raids. Unfortunately,  they could not always protect themselves from discriminatory laws and enforcement.

The Raid & Riot

A few days prior to June 28th, police raided the Stonewall Inn seizing liquor and making arrests. Police intended to return and close the bar on the morning of the 28th. Early that morning, undercover police officers arrested trans women and bar staff that served them. 

The queer community, especially trans women, were ready to demand change. They began taunting officers, throwing coins then bottles and bricks, and slashing officers’ tires. Some accounts from rioters said that the riot began in response to officers assaulting a handcuffed lesbian activist in menswear. Others credit young, homeless gay men who stepped up to defend their safe space. Today Sylvia Rivera, a trans woman of color, is often recognized as throwing the first bottle (or possibly a brick) at police.

Affirmative Therapists Today

Homosexuality was removed from the DSM in 1973. It would take decades more for mental health clinicians across the nation to agree. Today there are still 24 states in the USA that continue to allow practicing conversion “therapy” on minors. It is essential that we honor our history of activism by continuing to develop, train, and practice in ways that recognize and uplift our LGBTQ+ clients. Therapists who commit to on-going learning and practice of affirmative therapy are leaders in creating a more ethical, equal world for all LGBTQ+ clients.

Few mental health training programs offer more than the required minimum curriculum on serving clients and relationships with diverse genders and sexualities. The training received may not be accurate and up to date, much less affirming. It’s likely that most therapists graduate and earn licensure with the intention to treat all clients equally. However, it’s important to recognize the systemic impacts of our anti-LGBTQ+ history and the on-going fight for rights, especially for trans people.

Stonewall as a reminder

Today many queer and trans clients do receive mental health care in inclusive and liberatory ways.  Many of us may  have robust affirming networks, and live in places that are safer for queer and trans lives. We cannot take this for granted.  Affirmative Therapy is the result of many individuals and groups gathering to push back against dominant cultural and professional narratives of pathology. All mental healthcare is inherently political in nature. As we celebrate the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, we recognize our own roles in creating a more welcoming world for our trans and queer clients.

Learn More from Our Courses

A couch with a pride flag draped over it above the text Fundamentals of LGBTQIA+ Affirmative Therapy presented by Cadyn Cathers, Psy D 2 CE Course

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