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JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS - August 2015 - Kansas City
Equality: Agony and Ecstasy
By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.
The Supreme Court decision on June 26, 2015, making same-sex marriage officially legal nationwide, is historic and liberating. As President Obama said, “Today is a big step in our march toward equality.” For me, as for many, it is another part of a life journey that has been both an “agony and an ecstasy.”
As we move forward, I am drawn inexorably to the past that brought me to this place. This journey brought me into the center of my spiritual and sexual self. It has been, and continues to be, a journey that is deeply personal, powerfully meaningful, and filled with great grief, greater joy, and challenges. It is with some trepidation that I share this story. I have become so used to not speaking of it much.
My Catholic upbringing and education influenced my life greatly. The search for my true self took me to the religious life as a nun, a marriage, and finally, coming out as a lesbian at age 35.
Identifying oneself as part of a group that is thought of as immoral, perverted, and unhealthy invites self-inquiry, self-doubt, going deeper into one’s true and honest self, and often a questioning of deeply held family, religious, and societal beliefs. Exploring myself as a woman—as a lesbian—made me look at spirituality and sexuality as interconnected parts of a whole. To be fully myself, accepting who I was, loving someone in a more complete human experience, opened me up to a life that is vast and marvelous, pulling me into a self-transcending experience. This was great ecstasy.
The process of telling family and friends, figuring out how to succeed in my career as a counselor, and facing the new challenges of living in a society that did not accept me, were part of the next few decades. I moved to another state, moved back, went through a custody battle (and won), which challenged my right to parent my daughter, found a spiritual path congruent with my more integrated self, and learned to live quietly in the shadow of my truth.
Many people who are minorities have suffered, and continue to suffer from prejudice, unfair laws and discriminatory behaviors and practices. These things test a person’s ability to face difficulties and invite them to become more resilient, learning to be independent of what others think.
LGBT youth today continue to experience bullying, suffer more from depression and substance abuse, and are more often homeless than their heterosexual peers. A recent study at Ontario’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry found that policy changes and the reduction of social stigma might reduce the rates of suicide in transgender people.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), in partnership with the National Education Association (NEA), and the American Counseling Association (ACA) are sponsoring the Time to Thrive Third Annual Conference for educators and youth-serving professionals in Dallas, February 2016. They will address inclusion, safety and well being of LGBT and questioning youth, and will discuss best practices for working with and caring for LGBTQ youth and their families in all settings.
I continue to be encouraged by the progress that has been made in my 39 years living this lifestyle. I want to continue to live the challenge of being fully human as I am, while accepting others in the same way. I want to be a more compassionate, deeply spiritual, lovingly sexual, and joyous person. I invite you to do the same, whoever you may be, embracing your differences and the differences of others around you.
Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC, is a counselor, educator and author. For counseling appointments, seminars, training, speaking engagements or information on Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Couple therapy call 913-322-5622. For more information about Jude LaClaire or the Kansas City Holistic Centre go to