Clinicians and therapists of color lack adequate resources and support in the mental health field. The situation is even worse for queer and trans people of color (QTPoC). Institutional barriers keep many of us from going to or completing graduate education, not to mention licensure. Blatant racism, homophobia, misogyny and transphobia in educational institutions and organizations take an immense toll on QTPoC who come to this healing work in service of community.
It is my intention to create a space for queer, gender non-conforming and trans therapists to build, give resources and support one another as clinicians and healers. This will be called the National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network (NQTTCN). The network will provide support for QTPoC folks seeking transformative mental health resources rooted in social justice and liberation.
How many of us have developed mental health issues as a direct result of oppression in our education and work as therapists? NQTTCN is a space that prioritizes our needs and vision for healing in our communities in an effort to interrupt the consequences of the oppression we experience.
The seed of this vision was planted a long time ago. Yet at the time, I had no idea how essential being connected to other QTPoC healers/therapists/clinicians would be on my journey. I came to social work with my eyes wide open, fully aware of the harm and degradation that has been inflicted on poor black and brown folks under the guise of care by the hands of social workers.
In Baltimore, where I’m from, they say, “Social workers take the babies away.” However, as a community health and street outreach worker, I got to a point in my work where I felt I needed more intensive training to support the trauma and healing that countless women of color, poor women and queer women brought to me. I was in my early 20s, full of power, idealism and rage about the ways systems of oppression created and pathologized the trauma I witnessed. As I entered into my master’s in social work program, I feared my integrity and radicalism would be compromised. I boldly announced whenever I could that I was not trying to become a “social worker” – that I was just trying to gain skills to do revolutionary work in my community.
The struggle was so real back then. In my master’s program I got a first hand experience of the miseducation and socialization that social workers receive which often leads them to create more harm than good. I was surrounded by a diverse group of people who expressed a commitment to serving others, but in reality this profession was a way to a steady paycheck, a constant flow of problems to fix, or people to save.
This experience was just the beginning of a series of challenges trying to navigate a profession that is more radical on paper than it is in real life. Isolation, microaggressions, lack of support were the norm in my journey. At worst, I encountered white supervisors, threatened by my skill and intelligence, who attempted to undermine me in grad school and then in my jobs after graduation. Luckily, I came across supervisors, support staff and peers of color, from working class backgrounds and queer folks who saw my potential and nurtured me in any way they could. We need NQTTCN because we cannot rely on institutions and organizations rooted in oppressive systems that compromise the mental health and well-being of QTPoC. We need NQTTCN to realize our collective power to create transformative, safe and healing spaces for ourselves and our communities.
About 10 years ago I decided I could no longer deny being a “social worker.” I have a responsibility to support and mentor queer and trans people of color in this work and to transform the field of mental health to increase access to healing resources for QTPoC. My work now primarily focuses on providing clinical supervision to therapists of color seeking licensure, as well as non-mental health providers working with QTPoC. I also work with social justice movement leaders and organizations to integrate gender and racial justice, and healing into their liberation work. This work is deeply intersectional and I prioritize working in communities of color, poor communities, queer and trans communities and communities impacted by HIV/AIDS.
If I were to describe my relationship with the field of mental health on Facebook, it would say “It’s complicated.” And yet my desire to increase access to healing resources to QTPoC folks is greater than my critique of these systems. I hope you will join me in creating a movement rooted in the leadership, power and vision of QTPoC.
For more info, check out the National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network here.
A version of this post was originally published on Erica Woodland’s blog.