Table Of Contents

Embracing Queer Identity: A Journey of Self-Discovery and Healing

In a recent episode of the “Queer Relation Tips” podcast, therapist Matt shared his personal journey of navigating homophobia, self-discovery, and self-acceptance. Growing up in a conservative Catholic environment in rural Ohio, Matt experienced the early conditioning of suppressing his true self to fit societal norms. However, his story also highlights the power of resilience, re-parenting, and finding strength in his identity as a gay man.

Conditioned by Homophobia:

Matt described his childhood as a series of conditioned behaviors and programming, where he learned to suppress his sensitive and creative side to conform to traditional masculine norms. He recalled how he switched from playing creative games with girls to sports with boys to avoid ridicule, even though he wasn’t particularly interested in sports. The need to fit in and conform to societal expectations led him to compartmentalize and suppress parts of his true self.

Revisiting Religious Roots:

Matt’s journey took a unique turn when he entered the seminary, contemplating a life as a priest within the Catholic Church. This decision brought him face to face with the homophobia ingrained in religious institutions. However, he found support within the Jesuit community, which emphasized finding God in all things and encouraged him to seek therapy and spiritual direction to navigate his identity.

Reparenting and Self-Acceptance:

Through therapy, spiritual guidance, and his journey in the seminary, Matt began to re-parent himself. He learned to challenge the shame associated with his desires, especially the desire to be with another man. Over time, he embraced his identity as a gay man and recognized the importance of self-love and self-acceptance.

The Journey of Integration:

Matt’s story underscores the idea that the journey from suppressing one’s identity to self-acceptance and integration is not linear. It’s a process that involves unlearning societal conditioning, healing from past wounds, and finding support in safe and accepting communities. Matt’s experience within the Jesuit community and his eventual decision to leave the seminary exemplify the importance of personal growth and authenticity.

Benefiting from the Journey:

While the journey of overcoming homophobia and self-discovery can be challenging, it also offers valuable insights and benefits. Matt’s experiences have made him a more empathetic and effective therapist, enabling him to connect with clients who are navigating similar struggles. His journey has also given him a profound appreciation for the power of self-acceptance and the hope that comes from doing the inner work.


Matt’s story on the “Queer Relation Tips” podcast highlights the transformative power of self-acceptance and self-love, even in the face of homophobia and societal expectations. It serves as a reminder that embracing one’s queer identity is a journey filled with challenges and rewards, ultimately leading to greater authenticity and personal growth.

Episode Description

In this episode, Isaac talks with Matthew Lieser about his experience with internalized homophobia. They explore the first time Matthew remembers experiencing it and his journey to deconstruct it.

You can find Matthew at

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Table Of Contents

Embracing Authenticity: Overcoming Homophobia in LGBTQ+ Journeys

The Significance of Representation:

The Impact of Societal Attitudes:

Choice and Identity:

The Role of Therapy and Support Systems:

The Power of Vulnerability:

Final Thoughts

Embracing Authenticity: Overcoming Homophobia in LGBTQ+ Journeys

In a world that is gradually becoming more inclusive and accepting of diverse identities, the LGBTQ+ community continues to face challenges on their journey to self-acceptance. In a recent podcast episode, hosts and a special guest delved into the complexities of LGBTQ+ identity and the powerful process of overcoming homophobia. This blog post provides a short summary of the key takeaways from their enlightening conversation.

The Significance of Representation:

The podcast conversation began by emphasizing the importance of representation in media and popular culture. The hosts and their guest agreed that seeing LGBTQ+ individuals portrayed positively and authentically in various forms of media can have a profound impact on society’s attitudes and perceptions.

The Impact of Societal Attitudes:

The hosts and guest shared their personal stories about the influence of societal attitudes on their journeys. They discussed how growing up in environments where being LGBTQ+ was stigmatized or misunderstood could lead to feelings of shame and self-doubt. Overcoming this internalized homophobia was a crucial step toward self-acceptance.

Choice and Identity:

A significant part of the conversation revolved around the idea of choice in embracing one’s LGBTQ+ identity. The hosts and guest shared how, contrary to misconceptions, being LGBTQ+ is not a choice but an inherent part of one’s identity. Understanding and embracing this fact were pivotal moments in their respective journeys.

The Role of Therapy and Support Systems:

The power of therapy and supportive communities emerged as a recurring theme. The guest emphasized the transformative impact of therapy in helping individuals navigate their feelings and develop self-acceptance. Additionally, the hosts highlighted the importance of supportive friends and family members who can provide much-needed encouragement and love.

The Power of Vulnerability:

Throughout the episode, vulnerability emerged as a central theme. The hosts and their guest discussed how sharing their stories and being vulnerable with others played a crucial role in their journeys. This openness not only helped them find acceptance within themselves but also fostered understanding and empathy in those around them.

Final Thoughts

In this insightful podcast episode, the hosts and guest shed light on the multifaceted process of overcoming homophobia and embracing LGBTQ+ identities. Through personal stories and shared experiences, they highlighted the importance of representation, the impact of societal attitudes, the inherent nature of one’s identity, the role of therapy and support systems, and the transformative power of vulnerability. Ultimately, their discussion serves as a reminder of the resilience and strength of the LGBTQ+ community and the importance of fostering a world that celebrates diversity and authenticity.

Episode Description

In this episode, Isaac has a conversation with Rae Stout about ways they have seen internalized homophobia at work in their own lives, its effects, and how they have worked to confront it. 

Interested in Career Counseling? You can find Rae at,

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Tips For Healthier Relationships | iAmClinic | Gay and Lesbian Counseling in Denver, Colorado

A toddler spends time with his mother.

She silently exits, sneaking out of the room and away from the boy at play. If he cries, we have a little bit of a problem. A child who has an insecure attachment to his mother, will feel the reality that she may never come back, that she has forgotten about him, or that she doesn’t care. In other words, that child can’t trust his mother. His world is unsafe. When she returns, the toddler will run to his mom. Once she picks him up to say hello, he’ll hit his mother, as a means to express his sentiments, “How dare you leave me like that. You scared me.” A secure attachment, on the other hand is when a child knows beyond a shadow of doubt that his mother will return. He trusts that she’ll be back.

As a counselor, I have yet to meet someone with a secure attachment. Embarrassingly, most of us will be angry when our loved one strands us in a predicament, hurts us, or leaves us wanting more.

Emotionally we’ll strike back like that hurting toddler. There’s hope! An Earned Secure Attachment means we’ve jumped through all the hurdles and we can stand in mature love. We need to learn how to do one thing and get that secure attachment style: attachment repair.

Attachment repair is when we either express how we’ve experienced a violation of some sort in relationship (or when we’re responsible for one) and we work as a team to repair the relationship. Be safe. Express security. Demonstrate seeing. Practice soothing.

Safety is when we tell our partner, with our behavior, that they are safe in our presence. No one wants to walk on eggshells. Our goal is to create and maintain an emotional environment where our partner knows that our mood won’t swing into scary zone, our physical behavior, like rage, won’t peak, and that we are trustworthy. Don’t use your mouth to create safety. Use your actions.

Security is a statement that allows your partner to rest in the relationship. Feeling secure in a relationship means that you know, through and through, that you are not disposable to your partner- you aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Security means trusting your partner that you matter, even when your ugly laundry is visible.

Seeing is taking the time to communicate with something other than your words. So get your actions and show your partner that you see his or her internal world: concerns, fears, and joys. Investing in your partner’s, child’s, or family member’s life is like saying, “Hey, I see you and you matter to me.” Feeling seen is being the celebration. If we feel unimportant, as though we live behind the scenes of our partner’s life, we also feel stupid for hanging out. Resentment becomes the name of the game thereafter.

Soothe your partner. When they come home from a bad day, put down the iPhone or spatula and listen. And when your partner has a concern, don’t listen so that you can gather all the evidence claiming your position as the right one. Listen to their concerns. Put yourself in their shoes and understand how valid their experience might be. Listening, empathizing, and creating a soothing place will take your relationship to a new height.

Earning a secure attachment style means that you and your partner have built a connection wherein both members tolerate space without becoming angry or fearful – even when it feels like the other has snuck out of the room. And when we feel a secure attachment in the realm of behavior we develop a liberating type of emotional intimacy that propels our sex life to new heights and deeper connectedness. Safety, security, seeing, and soothing, they’re good stuff.

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What is Gender Non-Conformity (GNC)?

Gender non-conformity refers to individuals whose gender expression or identity does not align with societal expectations or norms associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. GNC individuals may identify as transgender, non-binary, genderfluid, or simply as not conforming to traditional gender roles and presentations.

GNC people may express their gender through various means, such as clothing, hairstyles, mannerisms, or other physical traits that are typically associated with a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth. It’s important to note that gender non-conformity is not the same as sexual orientation, as it relates to one’s gender identity and expression rather than who they are attracted to.

As our understanding of gender evolves, parents and guardians seem to be taking a more proactive approach in providing their gender nonconforming children with a safe and supportive environment. They are researching common terms, reaching out to counselors for either themselves or their children, and trying to find a sense of community for not only their children, but themselves as well. As a genderfluid individual, this is so heartwarming to see.

Examples of Gender Non-Conformity

  • A person assigned male at birth who enjoys wearing traditionally feminine clothing or makeup.
  • An individual assigned female at birth who prefers a more masculine presentation and uses gender-neutral pronouns.
  • A non-binary person who doesn’t identify strictly as male or female and expresses their gender through a combination of masculine and feminine traits.
  • Someone who transitions between masculine and feminine expressions depending on their mood or circumstances (genderfluid).

GNC individuals may or may not identify as transgender, and their gender expression can be fluid or consistent over time.

Challenges and Issues Faced by GNC Individuals

Discrimination and Stigma

Unfortunately, GNC individuals often face discrimination, prejudice, and stigma due to societal norms and expectations around gender expression. They may experience harassment, bullying, or discrimination in various settings, including workplaces, educational institutions, and public spaces.

Mental Health Concerns

The stigma and discrimination faced by GNC individuals can take a toll on their mental health. They may experience higher rates of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues due to the stress of navigating a society that often fails to understand or accept their identity.

Family Dynamics and Acceptance

For GNC individuals, particularly those who come out or express their gender identity at a young age, finding acceptance and support within their family can be a significant challenge. Family members may struggle to understand or accept their loved one’s gender expression, leading to strained relationships and potential conflicts.

Societal Norms and Expectations

GNC individuals often face societal pressures to conform to traditional gender roles and expectations. They may encounter challenges in accessing gender-neutral facilities, using their preferred pronouns, or being recognized and respected for their authentic gender identity.

Although this trend is well underway, a lot of parents still struggle to know where to start. A common question I’m asked by parents and loved ones of gender nonconforming youth is: how can I be supportive?

supporting GNC individuals

Step 1 – Listen

Children and teens will tell you who they are. It’s up to us—parents, guardians, and other family members—to listen and believe what they say. Let’s say your teen gathers up the courage to say they are nonbinary, trans, genderfluid, or any other identity that doesn’t align with their gender assigned at birth. How would you respond? With a warm embrace and an “I love you”? Or with the (unfortunately) common, “It’s just a phase”?

Step 2 – Acceptance and Validation

You may not agree with or understand an individual’s chosen gender identity, but that is not required to accept and validate their gender experience. Acceptance and validation can be shown by using their preferred name, appropriate pronouns, and/or helping make adjustments to their appearance such as hairstyles or clothing. Acceptance can also be shown by creating a safe, judgement-free space at home for them.

Step 3 – Be Their Safe Space

We unfortunately live in a society that can be unkind or even hostile to minorities of any kind – racial, sexual, etc. This can often make children and adolescents feel like they don’t have a place or that they don’t belong. If the world at large is challenging for your child to navigate, you have the opportunity to make home their sanctuary.

Give them space and freedom to explore what gender means and feels like to them. This may come in the form of changing identities and/or their gender expression. Gender may not be a static experience for them. For example, an individual who is genderfluid may alternate between gendered pronouns and gender-neutral pronouns, or they may present feminine sometimes and masculine at other times.

Try to remember, this is for them, not you.

As a parent, close friend, partner or ally, potentially frequent changes in identity, including pronouns, may sound overwhelming. Some gender nonconforming individuals use they pronouns (they/them/their), while others fluctuate between they/them, he/him, she/her or even prefer neopronouns (e.g.: xe/xem/xyr).

* This is not an exhaustive list of pronouns, but it’s a good place to start. When in doubt, you can ask what pronouns an individual uses. *

As you can see, there are numerous gender pronouns for people to use. If this is new for you, it may seem a bit confusing and possibly overwhelming. Here’s a quick guide on how to correctly use an individual’s pronouns. 

Subject: They walked the dog this morning. 
Object: I gave faer a new car. 
Possessive: Pers favorite color is orange. 
Possessive Pronoun: The fluffy dog is hirs. 
Reflexive: Ae loves everything about aerself.

Intersectionality and Diversity within the GNC Community

The GNC community is diverse and intersects with various other identities and experiences. It’s essential to acknowledge and understand the unique challenges faced by individuals who belong to multiple marginalized groups.

Race and Ethnicity

GNC individuals from different racial and ethnic backgrounds may face compounded challenges due to intersecting forms of discrimination and cultural norms. For example, a GNC person of color may experience both racism and gender-based discrimination simultaneously.


Gender non-conforming individuals with disabilities can face additional barriers and challenges related to accessibility, healthcare, and societal perceptions. It’s crucial to consider the unique needs and experiences of GNC individuals with disabilities to ensure they receive appropriate support and accommodation.

Socioeconomic Status

Individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds may face additional obstacles in accessing resources, support, and healthcare related to their gender identity and expression. Economic factors can also influence the level of acceptance and support they receive within their communities.

Age and Life Stage

The experiences of Gender non-conforming individuals can vary greatly depending on their age and life stage. Younger GNC individuals may face different challenges than older adults, such as navigating school environments, familial acceptance, or finding supportive communities.

By acknowledging and understanding the intersectionality within the GNC community, allies can provide more inclusive and tailored support that addresses the diverse needs and experiences of individuals.

How do you keep up?

Well, that’s entirely up to you. The important thing to remember is to make a conscious effort to use their preferred pronouns, name, and, when in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask what their preference is. Refer to people how they prefer to be referred to, not in a way that is convenient for you. This may be uncomfortable for some, especially in the beginning; however, if you’re not addressing them in the way they want to be addressed, then you’re not addressing them at all. Being supportive, in any role (parent, friend, partner, etc), involves accepting and respecting who they are each and every day. Let’s continue to make strides towards a safer, more accepting and inclusive society.

If you need personalized support in learning how to best affirm and embrace your gender non-conforming loved one, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. Our team is ready to provide guidance, resources, and a listening ear as you navigate this journey together. Showing up for your loved one with acceptance and creating a safe space for them is crucial, and we’re here to help you every step of the way. Reach out to us today to start building a more inclusive world.


It Feels Good To Be Yourself (book)
Gender Wheel (book)
16 Great LGBTQIA+ Books for Kids and Teens (list)
Picture Books (list)  

(PDF) A Guide to Being a Trans Ally – Straight for Equality
(webpage) Understanding Gender – Gender Spectrum
(article) Transgender 101: A Guide to Gender and Identity to Help You Keep Up with the Conversation – Everyday Feminism
Transgender Children of God by Megan Rohrer
(PDF) Biblical Sexuality and Gender: Renewing Christian Witness to the Gospel – Pacific School of Religion

Family Support:

PFLAG – (PDF) Faith In Our Families: Parents, Families, and Friends Talk About Faith, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity – PFLAG
Christian – Harbor  |  FreedHeartsEmbracing the JourneyQ Christian Fellowship
Parent/Peer Led – Ally Parents – Stand With Trans  |  PFLAG
Support In Colorado – Center on Colfax   |  One Colorado  | OASOS  | TYES Inc.  

Colorado Medical Resources:
Denver Health
Transgender Center of the Rockies
UC Health
CSU Health Network
Planned Parenthood

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supporting GNC individuals

Marsha P. Johnson was a courageous Black prominent figure of the Stonewall uprising. She stood against political bullies, police brutality, and homophobia in an angry, anti-gay New York City. Despite her anti-queer environment, she was resilient to create the Gay Liberation Front and S.T.A.R. (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), two organizations that advocated for social equality. 

James Baldwin was a Black, Southern renegade in 1956, who wrote a prolific and far-reaching novel about queer love. His work gave hope to thousands of queer folks by representing our lives in his pages. Giovanni’s Room was not only a brilliant book, it was an act of resilience that inspired queer people to embrace their love, their identities, and their stories. 

Just like Marsha and James, we know persecution, bigotry, and political inequality. That is certain. But, not many of us know how truly resilient we are. Thanks to the queer siblings–like Ms. Marsha and Mr. Baldwin–who have gone before us, we have incredible examples of bouncing back, adapting to our situations, fighting against the tide, and pushing through major roadblocks from which to learn. 

At iAmClinic, we chose 2024 Pride’s theme to be “iAmResilient” because we are a team of queer therapists and allies who see the effects of trauma, rejection, political bigotry, policy brutality, and developmental detachment. While entering the painful spiral of emotional toil with our clients, we also see queer people access their resilience and change their lives. 

Pride is surely a time when we take to the streets to celebrate our diversity and our beauty as sexual and gender minorities. This year, however, we want you to also embrace your resilience. 

Whether you’ve suffered through developmental or major trauma, rejection, religious abuse, or bullying, we want you to know that you have everything it takes to heal. We want you to access the fighter within, the part of you that knows there is much more to become, much more to embrace, and much more to experience. 

It is my sincere wish that as you dance in the streets and brandish rainbow paint on your cheeks, that you not only honor who you are, but what you possess; that as you celebrate your love and your body, you’re reminded of your resistance and it provokes the fighter within; that as you gather with friends and allies, that your ability to love others inspires you to bounce back and love yourself, fully; that as you watch glitter fall to the ground like ashes once did, you remember that you have everything it takes to overcome and rebuild. 

May this Pride not only be a time of celebration, but also a season of resistance, adaptation, perseverance, and grit. Our hope for you during this Pride is that you make the commitment to dismantle narratives like, “I am weak” or “I am too damaged,” for one that truly articulates your power: “iAmResilient.” 

Happy Pride from all of us here at iAmCouncil!

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Celebrating Pride and Dismantling Opression

Celebrate and Stand United

It shocked me when I recently realized the protests for George Floyd happened one year ago. On those hot summer days, I’d leave my house and join my unmasked neighbors in the streets. Although many were uncertain about the safety of protesting with COVID circulating through our air, one thing was certain: oppression of black lives had to stop.

Throughout the year I have often found myself wondering about “oppression.” White supremacy, patriarchy (including psychological patriarchy) and privilege all play a major role in why movements like #BLM and seasons like Pride are necessary to continue the deconstruction of oppression. 

I recall sitting on the zebra-print sofa in my therapist’s office as she described the way patriarchy played a role in denegrating both woman and queer people. But what really got me was how she began to describe the subconscious ways I participated in patriarchy. She highlighted that my internal messages like “I am a broken man” were messages of internalized patriarchy.

Psychological Patriarchy

She taught me that messages stemming from patriarchy that influenced and altered my self-understanding were the effect of psychological patriarchy. I was allowing psychological patriarchy to run its course through my thought processes. Psychological patriarchy was not something external to me—it was a cultural statue established within me. It was the small, subconscious ways I had believed in patriarchy that grew into perceptions of inferiority and beliefs that white men were better than me. 

Sadly, we internalize the messages of our oppressors in many ways. Perhaps it’s internalized homophobia, psychological patriarchy, or internalized transphobia. No matter what it might be for our unique circumstances, if oppression is strong enough, it will contribute to the way we assemble our worldview, organize our self-understanding, and influence the ways we present ourselves.

Celebrating Pride and Dismantling Oppression

In my mind, celebrating Pride is not just about spending a month sporting rainbow gear and having a fun weekend with lots of dancing and parties. Pride is a time to be mindful of the ways in which oppression has affected not only my self-understanding, but also the ways in which I refer to other people of color, even if in the silent, judgmental pockets of my mind. 

To honor the history of Pride, I find that I must also honor my history of oppression. I want to take the time to identify and dismantle the messages of internalized homophobia that make me want to filter PDA, the biphobia that makes me wonder if I’d be more happy with a female partner, the psychological patriarchy that leaves me feeling bottom shamed, and the transphobia that dilutes my enby (non-binary) fierceness.

Although Pride is mostly a time of much-deserved celebration, I can’t help but remember that Pride was and is really about standing in the streets with other queer neighbors as we make our presence known. Our visible presence is, in and of itself, a way to fight oppression. Our public demonstrations of authenticity are a way to take up equal space in a world that is growing to love us more and more. 

Pride isn’t a time just to tackle trans/bi/homophobia. It is a time for tearing down oppression in general.

Celebrate and Stand United

So as you paint your face in rainbow colors, don colorful outfits, and embrace your authenticity during Pride, remember that you are also fighting for #BLM. United we stand, divided we fall. 

Thankfully, our cultural statues—like patriarchy and homophobia—have easily dissolvable clay feet.

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