The Personal is Political
I was inspired to write this post today because of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case being heard by the Supreme Court. This is a case where a baker refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding. He lost on the state level and has appealed to the Supreme Court. The loss of this case would be devastating to those in the LGBT community. They are calling it one of the most important civil rights cases ever decided.
During this past year, I have spent a lot of time talking to clients about the ways they feel unsafe right now. The people with whom I work are struggling mightily right now. They are watching their country make changes that affect them personally now and for the foreseeable future. While they have seen the #ME TOO movement empower many women to come forward with their stories and some men be held accountable for their abuse they also see other men continuing to get away with it. They see a Supreme Court case that will determine whether it is legally acceptable to discriminate against gay people. They see daily examples of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia that are accepted by many of those in power. The feel powerless and sad and angry and so many other things. And this affects their mental health.
And so I talk with them about their fears. What they can do to manage their anxieties and how they can feel safe in a country that feels increasingly more unsafe. I think what furthers this feeling of not being safe is both the experience of feeling constantly under attack and the hateful media/social media culture that makes us so aware of what people think in this country right now. People feel empowered to say racist things and even more empowered to post hateful posts.
And I also talk to them about hope. And bravery and the way many things have shifted. Would any of us have believed at the beginning of 2017 the number of men who would have lost their jobs over sexual misconduct? Or that multiple transgender people would have been elected to public office? I am seeing an energy for social change that I have not seen in my lifetime. As someone who watched the agonizing 10+ year legal battle for gay marriage, I understand how long change takes when the mainstream is against it. And right now people are pushing past, through, and around the mainstream to say enough is enough. Since the election, we have seen amazing progress in those areas. So I use that to hold hope against a government that seems inclined to destroy many of the things I and my clients hold dear.
At the time of the election, I saw many therapists say that they did not talk about politics with their clients. They feel like it is a boundary issue that should not be crossed. But what I see is that these issues are affecting people’s well being. And as a social worker, I feel like I cannot keep silent in the face of any injustice and that it is my duty as a person’s therapist to support them as they navigate their pain and anger about what is going on. To acknowledge that pain provides a safe place for my clients to process these feelings if they choose to. That is me being my authentic self just like I encourage others to do.
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