This week, Bob Linscott offers a reflection about stress in the LGBTQ+ community. Bob is a CFM MBSR teacher and the Assistant Director of The LGBT Aging Project a program of The Fenway Institute at Fenway Health in Boston, Massachusetts
Do you remember the “It Gets Better” campaign that began in 2010? It was started in response to the growing number of suicides by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) youth. It was a creative and inspirational project that exploded across social media attracting hundreds of videos by icons in just about every field imaginable including President Obama.
I tend to be a realist and I work to embrace the totality of any experience instead of picking the glass that is half full or the one half empty. In thinking about LGBTQ harassment or bullying, the half full glass says, “Wow, look how far we have come. We realize this is a problem, we are calling it out and demanding that people take notice.”
The glass half empty tells a different story. I am reminded of Lynn Koerbel’s post, “What Lies Beneath”, from August 21:
So much goes on beneath the surface—whether it’s the surface of the ocean or the surface of a human being. The practice of attending has widened my focus about what might be going on in any given moment, what is seen—and what might not be seen—but is present, nonetheless.
For those of us who identify as LGBTQ we must acknowledge that which lies beneath the surface. Happily, we see that the path forward is getting better, for many, but what lies beneath the surface is the trauma from our past.
This is what drew me to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in the first place. I work with LGBT elders and I began to get concerned about the effects of stress and discrimination across a lifetime. What impact does this have on the body and what can we do to counter these damaging effects?
In The American Psychological Association’s 2015 Stress in America Report, researchers found that over a quarter of all LGBT adults report some type of discrimination or harassment. The study also found that LGBT adults report significantly higher levels of stress than those who are not LGBT.
So, here I am worried about my LGBT elder clients and community, and suddenly I pause to wonder what lies beneath the surface of my own being. I am fortunate to live in a very progressive state, and I have the opportunity to live openly and proudly as a gay man. But what about the years where I was ashamed of who I was or the trauma from being bullied at boarding school? What lies beneath the surface of other LGBTQ+ people? What are they holding onto, in silence, from their past? Or what do they fear lies ahead with the uncertainty of our current administration?
My half full glass runneth over when the Center For Mindfulness announced last year their commitment to the LGBTQ+ community through their Diversity and Inclusion initiative. Now there is an MBSR course specifically for LGBTQ+ adults and I am pleased to be teaching the first section of this course, live-online, to anyone in the world starting this fall. It will be a pleasure to work on this project with my mentor and colleague Lynn Koerbel who will be teaching a couple of the classes too.
With this new offering there is a safe, inclusive and welcoming place to practice MBSR where we can invite students and practitioners to bring their authentic selves, even that which lies beneath. Together we can hold a space for what happened in the past, for the painful feelings we harbored and move forward with wholeness and pride.
For more information about the LGBTQ+ MBSR program click here. Please help us by forwarding this information to any friends, colleagues or family members who could benefit from this opportunity.