Men’s Health & Pride (Part 1)
By Stephanie Barbee | Jun 14, 2021
June has several observances, including national best friend day and national selfie day. It is also the month that signifies the beginning of what so many people look forward to (depending on where you are in the country) SUMMER! For me, the most important observances are PRIDE and men’s health.
In particular, these observances are important to me in how they affect individuals who identify as ‘Black’. In a country that rewards us for ‘assimilation’ and ‘sameness’, it can be difficult to dream or imagine greater, let alone strive for embracing difference.
How often are individuals who identify as male ridiculed for how they speak, how they walk, and how they express emotion? How often do we highlight the individual who identifies as a male, who displays his rage through violence within his home or community without addressing the source of his rage? How often do we consider how he must feel about his body? How often do we consider how he might be managing the unimaginable pain of losing his best friend (assuming he was ever given the environment to be able
to cultivate trust with anyone)? How often do we judge people by how they show up in the world without considering WHY they show up this way?
I know that thinking about these questions can cause discomfort. This is especially true if you have been on the giving end of some of these comments. Black people are dying. Not just at the hands of each other or this pandemic, but by suicide. And this increases based on these individuals’ intersections (how they identify based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, and able-ness among other things).
This brings me to why PRIDE is so important to me. Black individuals who identify across the gender and sexual identity spectrum are at increased risk of physical and psychological harm for their choices…..yes even in 2021! As a result, individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community are also at increased risk of depression, anxiety, and suicide. In addition to being black, there is outside violence imposed against those who identify as LGBTQIA+, which is a pandemic that has been raging for much longer than COVID-19. However, because individuals who are not in marginalized groups have the option to look the other way, many are
unaware and uncaring.
As mental health clinicians, it is important to be aware of where our injected ideas about assimilation and sameness impact our ability to show up for the individuals we serve. As a therapist who has been intimately acquainted with the layers of pain that is often held by Black LGBTQIA+ individuals, I would encourage seeking understanding if treating individuals in this population. Research the history, engage with the community, read books written by representatives, and seek genuine relationships. Do your
work around what the challenges of this population are and if you are sure that this is a population that you cannot set aside your bias to show up fully for…..then DON’T! What should not be done is half- stepping and spewing judgment onto this community….not only is it unethical, it is downright harmful to individuals.
There is still a stigma in the Black community, particularly for men and individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community. There is still DANGER in mental health for some of these individuals.
This also means there is the continuous infliction of traumatic experiences. Be mindful. How are you ensuring that you are not one of the people who is adding to the burden?
About The Author
Stephanie Barbee is a Clinical social worker in Missouri. She serves Black people across the sexual identity and gender identity spectrum seeking to approach therapy from a holistic (mind-body-spirit) perspective or explore spirituality more deeply. She can be found on the clinicians of color directory here: https://www.cliniciansofcolor.org/clinicians/spectrum-of-healing-llc/