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Psychobabble for the Soul: Gay Seniors Belong Here

By Michele McCormick

 

2 col michele mcCormick MMcHeadShot2Gay folks in Laguna won’t have to wait for this month’s Supreme Court decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8 to know that they belong here. Laguna’s Senior Center, The Susi Q, has gotten out ahead of the political game by delivering a message of acceptance and hope to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) individuals through initiating two new programs. The Susi Q is one of the first senior centers to offer both a social club and a support group for this often underserved population. Director Nadia Babayi said, “We want to offer a place to come gather socially and to find support and resources.” Not since resident and activist Audrey Prosser along with former mayor Toni Iseman led a peaceful “No on 8” protest parade through downtown Laguna have gay residents witnessed such a warm civic embrace.

The U.S. Supreme Court is poised, as this article goes to print, to announce decisions on two cases that will greatly impact the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. The highest court in our nation is delivering a message to all Americans about the right of GLBT citizens to marry someone they love. Despite the heated arguments over the dispensation of marriage equality, most would agree that everyone has an equal need to belong and to be affirmed in life and love. Psychologists remind us that from the beginning of life that the innate need for belonging and secure attachment is central to our mental health. Across cultures marriage and family are primary social structures that establish these basic needs.

As a marital therapist working with straight couples, I spend my days witnessing the importance of commitment. It secures the stability and health of relationships. Couples come in afraid that they are losing each other. They come in hurt. They come in mad. They come with resentment. And, they come with a measure of hope still wearing their wedding bands. I can’t imagine withholding this privilege from gay couples, especially those with children, or those who arrive at the altar already exhausted from years of battling discrimination in all its forms. Marriage is a safe harbor that allows for trust and intimacy. Within this foundational structure couples are free to face conflict — to argue without fear of abandonment. True, this is an idealized view of marriage. But, ideals shape behavior. Ideals create hope.

Hope like this might have offered a different life for my father. If still alive, he would be 86. He died at 53, ending his life because he believed, as taught by family and church, that he was by nature an abomination. My father’s fragile self-esteem was formed by the southern culture and historical period that surrounded him. As a man of faith, he took it all to heart and it took him down. I look forward to the day that our government and other foundational institutions equally affirm all people.

The Lavender Seniors in California’s East Bay area was one of the first groups to provide resources to an aging population that missed out on the current tide of acceptance. They explain in their material, “LGBT seniors came of age at a time when it was criminal and considered sick to be LGBT. They often were fired from jobs; evicted from their homes; disowned by family, friends, and community; dishonorably discharged from the military; hospitalized in psychiatric wards; taunted; sometimes arrested and imprisoned; and beaten. Thus, for most LGBT persons – during earlier times in particular – the only way to survive was to be “closeted,” to hide their sexual orientation and gender identity from family, employers, neighbors, and officials, and attempt to “pass” as heterosexual. Given these conditions, many experienced depression, often isolated, and were unwilling to access medical or social services they perceived as unwelcoming.

This Father’s Day I had a dream. My father was alive, living in New York City as a gay man. I watched him cross Madison Avenue elegant looking in an Armani suit, smiling, walking hand-in-hand with his spouse. I like to imagine that if he were alive today, he would live in Laguna Beach where he would find the acceptance and love he needed so long ago. I would invite him to meet new friends at Club Q Laguna. He would attend Susi Q’s first meeting of the new support group for seniors this September. He would discover that his daughter was the psychologist facilitating the group. And, regardless of the laws of the land he would be happy. He would know he belonged here.

 

Michele McCormick is a resident, writer and practicing psychologist in Laguna. She can be reached at [email protected]

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Comments (24)

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  1. [...] news.yahoo.com- Defense of Marriage [...]

  2. Morgan says:

    Gotta love Laguna and the Susi Q for embracing gay seniors that remain here. The word on the streets is that Laguna is no longer gay friendly given gay flight from Laguna to Palm Springs. Heart warming story. Give it up for Dr. M.

  3. Oh this made me tear up! And programs like this make me proud to be a Californian!

  4. Jenny Bird says:

    Beautiful, heartfelt writing. Thank you for such loving visioning for your Dad and expressing it so clearly. What the world need now….

  5. Billy Fried says:

    Beautiful story, written, Michele. Great to know Laguna is still a haven for gays – albeit seniors. Would be good if Laguna was more welcoming for the next generation. Bring back the Boom!

  6. Karen K Redding says:

    Poignant and sensitive article with a universal message about what happens to ALL OF US when acceptance and a sense of belonging is withheld. Thank you, Michele. Thank you, Laguna. We’ve got to BE the change, yes?

  7. Amy Wallen says:

    I love it when I here people have a place where they are welcome. It seems we do some much exclusion in our society, that inclusion is a rarity that is so special. This is a wonderful article. The writing is excellent. Can’t wait to hear more Psychobabble!

  8. Michele, thank you for your heartfelt historical perspective!
    It is with gratitude and appreciation that we salute the leadership at the Suzi Q Senior Center for their commitment to the LGBTQ Senior community, by offering a welcoming,safe and confidential space to congregate freely.

  9. Kelly Walthour says:

    Great article. I always appreciate writers who speak from experience and to have had a father who felt he couldn’t live an openly happy and contented life is tremendously painful to me. I love the authors voice and the support that everyone deserves respect and acceptance and that there are places one can go to realize they are just as important as everyone else. We are all one. Thank you for sharing your story.

  10. Nadia Babayi says:

    Beautifully written Michelle, and thank you for recognizing the Susi Q Center in your article. Susi Q belongs to everyone. Seniors of all ages, race, religion or sexual orientation are all welcome. Club Q Laguna is the new Meet & Greet addition and ready to welcome everyone.

  11. Judy Shepard says:

    Thanks to the Indy for presenting this article, but more improtantly to the city of Laguna Beach for being the warm welcoming community it is. Michele you are a word master. It’s a pleasure to read your work.

  12. Kathy Sena says:

    Wise, and beautifully written. So glad to hear of this program and wish there could be one like it in every town across America.

  13. Chris Prelitz says:

    Well said Michelle,
    As a 30 year resident of Laguna Beach, I’ve seem
    much of our diversity dwindle over the years.
    So good to see the Seniors bringing back the open spirit
    of Laguna that drew many of us here in the first place.
    Kudos to all involved – and for a heartfelt article.

  14. Palimpsest says:

    A thoughtful piece that shares a very personal part of your background, Michele- thank you for that. I am disappointed, as I suspect you might be, in the headline. “Psychobabble for the soul” – really? It’s demeaning. An article this heartfelt deserves a more appropriate headline.

  15. Lisa Maurel says:

    Well my friend, you have spoken eloquently to the beauty of community and belonging. I think your Daddy will be there and he will be so proud of you.

  16. Caroline Bird says:

    Whilst I know the writer, I was unaware of the circumstances of her father’s death, and am so sorry to learn that he took his own life. I’m only too familiar with the torment and suffering of young people from my work with GLBT youth, but had never considered the situation with GLBT seniors and the difficulties faced from their experiences in times past where tolerance was not what it is today.
    This article is uplifting as well as thought provoking.

  17. Michele McCormick, Ph.D. says:

    Thank you all for this encouraging feedback. I was thrilled to write the piece at this time in our local and national history. To Palimpsest: True. Both I and the editor agree with you that “Psychobabble” is not the best choice of terms. The column headline was in fact changed to “Inside Out” in the hard copy of today’s Laguna Independent. “Inside Out” better represents the nature of the articles I’ll be writing that will explore key areas of our lives from a psychological perspective. Psychobabble tied to the title of this column was not intended. So thank you for your feedback.

  18. Vijaya Stern says:

    This is a beautiful dream, and a possible reality. As embodied spirit, each person is here to fulfill their own dream. Thank you for being bold enough to say, “here I am in all my glory, as a magnificently unique woman, who loves, gives and honors life. Take me as I am, and I will do the same…”

    The more expressions of love, the more we all win in the game of life.

  19. Annie Quinn says:

    Michele’s comments were wonderful ! I have always believed that each person and family is unique and should have equal rights under our laws. Michele was able to bring an interesting perspective to this dilemma . I look forward to hearing more ideas from Michele in the near future.
    Enjoy the Moments

  20. Annie Quinn says:

    Sorry it came across THREE times, although I did think Michele was that good. Just on the record I really did know where most of the people were. Florida is a nice beach.
    Enjoy the Moments

  21. Excellent and heartfelt article Michelle. I am happy to hear of the warm embrace by the Suzi Q in Laguna Beach. Welcoming people into our lives, no matter the lifestyle choices they make tells a great deal about people. Kindness is Key! Cheers to your dad, his courage and equality for all.

  22. Andrea Stockert says:

    As a woman starting a family with another woman, we chose Laguna for its schools, its more diverse citizenry and its informal vibe. This was a historic week in LGBT history and we are so grateful for the Indy and its writers. We pray that Laguna Beach continues to HOLD FAST against the bigotry and homophobia that seems tied to the conservative value system. Rather than just “accepting” that same sex couples exist – we thank our straight allies for truly “celebrating” our relationship – just like we do yours.

  23. Christina Larsen says:

    Michele, thank you for sharing your personal story about your father. He would be so proud of you! You are making a difference in our town and in the world. You go girl!

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