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Inclusion: What does it really mean?

In the small town of Danville, KY in 2017 an LGBTQ+ group was formed by a retired Pastor and Social Worker.

Mindsight has LGBT affirming therapists who can help the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community through any mental health concerns. Our counselors are compassionate and are trained to help their clients accept themselves and live a healthy lifestyle.

The goal for the private group was to provide a safe place for members to share their experiences and to ask for help when needed. Members of the group reported rampant discrimination, exclusion and intimate partner violence. Members shared stories of exclusion from their parent’s, siblings and extended family members.

Their desire to integrate into their community exposed them to even more exclusion. In their process of participating in churches, schools and dealing with employers the dilemma of disclosing their sexual orientation was relevant. They say that it is a person choice to consider disclosure of sexual orientation because it could lead to discrimination and/or denial of services.

Many of their stories and experiences are shared online and they say joining the group has given them a sense of community. Although membership continues to grow (currently 208 members), fear is an ongoing barrier for in person community events. Members describe their internal conflicts of mental, physical and spiritual concerns. Many members identify as Christians but are non practicing due to guilt, shame, and negative experiences.

How does one unpack the unfairness of discrimination and exclusion as it relates to both heterosexual and homosexual beliefs? One's understanding must include the understanding and importance of identity which is described as the distinguishing character and personality of an individual. As well as sexual orientation, gender expression (external appearance expressed in behavior, clothing, haircut and voice), and gender identity (how one perceives themselves as male, female, a blend of both or neither and what they call themselves) definitions.

The Administrator of the Danville, KY LGBTQ+ online group conducted a qualitative study (data collected through interviews, questionnaires, or observations) in an effort to see if there is correlation between sexual orientation and protection from exclusion and discrimination?

Among the respondents, 32 identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and /or transgender. Respondents come from all income ranges and showed diversity across factors such as race, ethnicity, education and age. Names were changed to protect the interviewee.

Does the city promote

  1. Inclusion from community partners to the LGBTQ+ community? Is silence required to obtain inclusion?

  2. Adequate resources from community partners for theLGBTQ+ community? Is silence a predictability of receiving resources?

  3. Physical and emotional safety for the LGBTQ+ community in seeking employment and attending local churches? Is silence required to ensure safety and equal opportunities?

Interviews showed inclusion was promoted and discrimination discouraged but no viable interventions were put into place to prevent it. Business owners who were interviewed only agreed to answer the questions if they could remain anonymous.

The interviews also supported the negative impact of making adjustments to daily lives (such as avoiding doctor’s offices, public transportation, stores and restaurants) to avoid discrimination.

In conclusion, findings indicate that even LGBTQ people who have not experienced discrimination personally are conditioned to take precautions to avoid becoming a victim to discrimination.

If you're struggling to find your voice, our compassionate counselors at Mindsight Behavioral Group can help. We have LGBTQ-affirming counselors on staff who can help you find your best way forward.

Kimberly Smith is a case manager in our Danville office. Learn more about how case management helps here.

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