By Kate Lingren, LICSW
On behalf of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee of IFSI, I wish you all a belated Happy Pride Month! As many of you know, June has become a time to celebrate LGBTQI+ citizens in the United States. While Pride month may not be recognized internationally as Pride celebrations take place in many other places at different times, June is increasingly being recognized as Pride month outside of the United States as well.
And what a time it is for us to take a moment to recognize, celebrate and honor our LGBTQI+ members of the IFS community. I never imagined I would ever again have to say this, but the truth is, this is not an easy time for us.
Reading the headlines of the daily newspapers can feel like an assault these days for those of us from marginalized including those of us who identify as LGBTQI+. Speaking for myself, moving through adolescence and young adulthood in the closet during the 1970s was painful and damaging for my development, to say the least. Finding validation and support from other LGBTQI+ people enabled me to connect with the courage it took to live fully out as a lesbian-identified woman. Living fully out has been a gift for my sense of self, small s, and has contributed to my connection to all the qualities of Self, capital s, that we in the IFS community embrace and hold dear.
Over the course of my lifetime, I have witnessed and experienced shifts in the culture around awareness of LGBTQI+ folks and an increasing sense of safety as a queer woman. Until recently, that is. It now seems that the hard-won progress we have achieved is being threatened daily. Take, for example, the events in Florida of late, where legislation has been passed to ban public schools from teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity from kindergarten through third grade or through 12th grade in a manner deemed “age-appropriate” by parents. Why would any public school teacher be teaching anything about sexual orientation or gender to k-3 students anyway you might ask? Make no mistake about it; we are all taught from that age, often implicitly and sometimes even explicitly, that there is a norm to conform to, and it still looks very much like the Dick and Jane series of books I learned to read from. We internalize what is expected of us from what we observe in the environment. Looking back now, I wonder how things might have been different had I seen Heather Has Two Mommies or Are You a Boy or Are You A Girl? on my primary school classroom’s bookshelves. It would have planted a seed that I might be different, and that it could be ok. A Peacock Among Pigeons might have spared me and others like me some of the terror and shame of thinking something was wrong with me/us. Why wouldn’t we want that for all of our children?
When on June 26, 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage, legalized it in all fifty states, and required states to honor out-of-state same-sex marriage licenses in the case Obergefell v. Hodges, the joy I felt was enormous. As someone who never thought legally recognized marriage (and all of its social and legal benefits) would ever be available to me, I welcomed having the option. And now this equality under the law is threatened by the current Senate and Supreme Court. This month the House passed a bill that would recognize same-sex marriages at the federal level amidst growing concerns that a conservative Supreme Court could nullify marriage equality. It is doubtful this will pass in the Senate. Any security I and others like me felt was short lived.
Just this week I opened the newspaper to see that a federal judge has blocked enforcement of LGBTQ protections, siding with 20 state attorneys general who sued the Biden administration over guidelines on rights for gay and transgender workers and students. Twenty states? According to the Movement Advancement Project, a research group that analyzes local and state LGBTQ laws, eighteen states bar transgender youth from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity.
To quote Jennifer C. Pizer, the acting Chief Legal Officer of Lambda Legal, a national civil rights organization, “for these many states to argue so aggressively that they must be free to discriminate against their own residents is alarming and appalling.”
Transgender people are particularly vulnerable in this backlash against social progress. Officials in Texas are working to pass laws to prosecute parents who seek gender-affirming care for their trans-identified children. Trans-identified teens are increasingly at risk for homelessness due to family rejection, making them more vulnerable to physical assaults and sexual exploitation in shelters and on the streets.
LGBTQI+ youth are continuing to face significant disparities in suicide risk compared to their straight and cisgender peers, based largely on the way they are treated. If having a supportive family can make the difference between life and death for LGBTQI young people, how does it make sense to prosecute parents who support gender affirmation as child abusers?
Why is this important for us in the IFS community? Given that a basic tenet of the IFS model is “all parts welcome,” we are obliged to work toward ensuring this is true, both internally and within our external communities. We don’t say “all parts welcome except for parts that might not fit the norms of gender and sexual orientation.” No, we hold that all parts are welcome unequivocally, particularly as regards identity.
Even as the US moves toward restricting the rights and liberties of LGBTQI+ people, IFSI is moving forward toward culture change that seeks to welcome and heal our collective legacy burdens that include racism, homophobia, transphobia, heterosexism, cis-genderism and other deep-seated biases and beliefs. Each of us holds these legacy burdens differently and only through healing can there be long lasting change to the existing structures that continue to marginalize specific members of our communities.
While I celebrate LGBTQ Pride, I do have parts that wish we were already celebrated for all of our differences, gifts, talents, and heart and that we did not need a special day or month where we could feel valued in community. We have always been here and we will always be here.
We on the Diversity/Equity/Inclusion Committee continue our commitment to working alongside IFSI leadership and staff to increase Brave Space conversations, identify implicit bias, and support doing whatever is needed to ensure trainings are experiences where each of us feels equally welcomed. We hope you will join us!
I offer heartfelt thanks and deep appreciation to my colleagues on the committee: Phillip Butler, Rosa Bramble Caballero, Donna Carter, Amanda Connell, Ashley Curley, Chris Burris, and Katie Nelson. It is a pleasure to learn and grow with these courageous human beings.
Kate Lingren, chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee of the IFS Institute, is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker in private practice with over 40 years of experience in the field. She is a Certified IFS therapist and on the faculty of Intimacy From the Inside Out (the application of IFS in couple therapy) as a Lead Trainer. She is also on the faculty of Boston College School of Social Work where she teaches IFS. Kate has been on a life-long quest to discover, welcome and heal her parts that hold both explicit and implicit biases in an effort to more fully embody her true Self. She lives and practices in the Boston area and in Martha’s Vineyard.