I'm sitting in my home office, glancing at the book on my desk, "A Liberated Mind: The essential guide to ACT." For those who don't know, ACT stands for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and is an offshoot of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Liberating our minds is something I work on with all my clients, helping them notice their thoughts and consider whether they are authentic, accurate, or helpful. We practice mindfulness to be in the moment more often and use helpful affirmations occasionally. In this way, we create what is known as micro-systemic change. In other words, an individual is making changes in themselves, which may lead to changes in their family, workplace, friendships, and community. We are starting small, thus micro-systems.
Yet, I also see the need for liberating our minds at a macro-systemic level. Some influential people have recently implemented profound changes in our systems out of fear and perhaps faulty thought patterns. Ignorance and misinformation are at the heart of these fear-based changes. I often hear concerns centered around topics similar to "our children are being brainwashed." State leaders have decided that no minors can receive gender-affirming medical care, perhaps because they fear that children and their parents will make wrong, permanent choices when they are too young. It makes me question how they came to this decision. Did they read the Standards of Care for the Health of Transgender and Gender Diverse People? Did they consult with doctors, researchers, and experts in the field to make an informed decision?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy purports that our thoughts lead to feelings, which lead to actions. This theory fits well with what we see politically as a faulty thought, "Our children are being brainwashed" leads to feelings of fear and then a call for action. The actions include banning gender-affirming medical care for minors and banning specific works of literature from public schools.
Does this protect our minors? I don't think so, and many of the professionals in the field would attest that it creates harm to an already marginalized community. In my training as a social worker, I have learned how imperative it is to make both micro and macro systemic change. We need to educate ourselves and cope with our feelings to be effective, AND we need to rally, lobby, and protest harmful legislation.
So how can we do this?? First, talk with supportive others and engage in avenues for learning. PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) has chapters throughout Florida that can offer support. (https://pflag.org/chapter/safety-harbor/ ) Local pride festivals (Tampa pride, Pride @the Village in Pinellas Park, and St. Pete Pride) offer visible community support as well as booths with local organizations that exist to support us. Planned Parenthood offers help for healthcare and reproductive needs. There are many resources within our community if we know where to look.
We also need to come together to use our voices. The Florida Freedom to Read Project https://www.fftrp.org/letfloridaread has a user-friendly option to email your local representative. Many Facebook groups can assist like-valued individuals in connecting and organizing (Progressive Moms of Tampa Bay, for instance). Most importantly, practice self-soothing activities and take care of yourself. Make sure you meet your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs to keep fighting the good fight.
And always remember, we are here at Rainbow Family Wellness to support you. If you have a question, need a resource, or need to vent briefly, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out via phone at 727-228-0253. If you like social media, follow us on Facebook and Instagram @rainbowfamilywellness.
Peace and queer vibes,
Lizzi Wolfson, LCSW