Gender and Sexual Minority Issues

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These two scenarios are loosely based on the lives of people who have received psychological services from Dr. Huntley:

 

“James” is a 23 year-old man living in Loudoun county. He came out as gay to a few of his friends during his first year at college. He began having relationships with other young men and eventually settled with a man named Steve. Three years into their relationship, Steve discovered during a routine physical exam that he was HIV positive. Several weeks later, and after being tested himself, James was told that he, too, was infected with HIV. Although Steve seemed to be handling this new diagnosis fairly well, James began to fall into a deep depression, began to feel suicidal, and knew he needed to seek professional psychological help for support and guidance.

 

“Tyrone” spent the first fourteen years of his life being bullied and picked on by his peers for being “weird” and for “acting gay.” In middle school he made several friends at school he felt he could trust, and finally disclosed to them he felt he was different sexually but did not know how to explain this difference to them. He was confused because he was attracted to girls but also felt that he was a girl on the inside, despite having a male’s body. He stumbled across some information on transgender people and realized this was the closest thing to describing his situation. He decided to begin living more like a girl and requested that people refer to him as “her” and to use her newly adopted name of “Sandy.” Even with these changes and a sense of empowerment, Sandy continued to experience threats and name-calling by many of her peers at school. She became so anxious about going to school that she eventually stopped going altogether and was home-schooled for about a year. She began to miss seeing her friends and being around people her age and decided to return to regular school. Her parents still don’t fully understand her sexuality and gender issues but have agreed to bring her to a psychologist to help her with her transition back to school. With her new psychologist, Sandy not only receives one-on-one psychotherapy to address issues related to her sexuality, anxiety, and other teenage problems, her parents are provided regular guidance and support in raising their transgender daughter.

 

 

Sexuality entails one’s sexual orientation (i.e. sexual attraction) and gender identity. While modern U.S. culture is becoming more open to and accepting of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals (also known as sexual minorities),  there still remain many pockets within our society that hold prejudice and negative biases towards these individuals and their families. Psychotherapy and counseling services are excellent resources for sexual minorities experiencing oppression and other difficulties. Dr. Huntley is Pinnacle Behavioral Health’s clinical expert for sexual minority issues.

 

Many sexual minorities experience these types of issues, which may ultimately bring them to see a psychotherapist:

  • Coming out

  • Transitioning (i.e. deciding to change one’s gender identity and then to live according to that identity)

  • Rejection by family and friends

  • Social isolation

  • Discrimination

  • Bullying and victimization

  • Anxiety

  • Depression, and sometimes suicidal thoughts and feelings

  • Drug and alcohol addiction

 

In the 90’s Dr. Huntley became active with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning  (LGBTQ) student community at the University of Virginia, volunteered with a non-profit organization dedicated to serving LGBTQ youth in Charlottesville, and also worked at a local AIDS service organization, where he was an HIV Preventions Specialist and played an active role in community group organization and advocacy for LGBTQ people. Upon moving to northern Virginia in 2000, he continued his work with HIV/AIDS as a resources specialist and focused his research in graduate school on developing guidelines for suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth.  As a result of his research, volunteer work, and professional experiences, Dr. Huntley now dedicates much of his clinical practice to the LGBTQ population in Loudoun county and the surrounding areas. He collaborates with local schools, youth organizations, and health care providers to ensure that the LGBTQ population has access to psychological resources and support and to educate the community about these diverse and often stigmatized individuals.