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Source: Wikimedia Commons.

As Catholic author Karen Armstrong put it, “If your understanding of the Divine made you kinder, more empathetic, and impelled you to express sympathy in concrete acts of loving-kindness, this was good theology. But if your notion of God made you unkind, belligerent, cruel, or self-righteous, or if it led you to kill in God’s name, it was bad theology.”

Of 4.2 million homeless youth in America, forty percent identify as LGBTQ+. Half report anti-LGBTQ+ religious conspiracies and rhetoric motivating their homelessness. Knowing this, some pastors continue advancing hateful rhetoric, as if God deems LGBTQ+ people to be so inherently despicable, filthy, and sinful, harming them doesn’t hold the same weight as harming non-LGBTQ+ people. …


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World Mental Health Day always comes and goes predictably. Folks post 1–800–273-TALK, encourage others to reach out for help, and the next day, go right back to self-righteously bullying, oppressing, shaming, and traumatizing people in their lives. So let’s discuss what real mental health advocacy actually means.

Real mental health advocacy is a courageous and ethical worldview that centers community welfare and human dignity — individually, institutionally, and societally — in the face of relentless exploitation and injustice.

Real mental health advocacy is organizing to preserve essential public services like early childhood education, food stamps/EBT, Medicaid/Medicare, Section 8, and Social Security — in the face of a self-interested government that devalues humanity. …


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‘Rabbi Studying Torah’, Alfred Lakos, 1913.

“Booksmarts aren’t everything” always makes me wonder, “Is the problem that I’m too booksmart, or is it that you are too comfortable being loud and wrong, instead of informed?” Perhaps the real issue is that I pass the mic when it comes to communities or topics of less familiarity, and instead speak and write only on issues I understand well. So when I do share an opinion, people who often skim the surface of complex issues — and get passes because their audience doesn’t know any better — misperceive the depth of my analysis and reflection as “too booksmart”.

After getting comfortable around me, several people have confessed, “I took you for a know-it-all, since you’ve gone to all those fancy schools. You’re actually so much more chill, down to earth, and humble than I thought you’d…


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Trigger Warning: Discussion of anti-LGBTQ+ conspiracy theories; conversion/reparative therapy rhetoric; religious abuse/trauma.

The excerpts quoted below reflect 6 or 7 sermons from June till September. I feel not one ounce of bitterness writing this — just sheer disappointment. My sole intention is to illustrate the relentless pressure and resistance LGBTQ+ people can sometimes face from church communities and families, on top of bias in school, work, healthcare, government, media, and other sectors, as well as life-threatening violence in public spaces. For LGBTQ+ people of color, racism compounds these stressors. Some LGBTQ+ Black kids, for example, grow up cornered on all sides by relatives who scapegoat LGBTQ+ people, in a society that scapegoats Black people. …


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Source: PALMERFORTEXASED.COM

Last week, I voted in Texas’ primary election, and proudly supported Houstonian Michelle Palmer, a community activist and education leader who might soon make history as the first openly LGBTQ+ teacher elected to the Texas State Board of Education. As an educator committed to leveraging critical pedagogy to advance empowerment, healing, and liberation, Palmer’s progressive stances about Texas’ core curriculum resonated so much that I reached out to request an interview. She agreed.

“I started fighting for equity in college, and haven’t stopped,” says Palmer. “My campaign is an extension of my decades of advocacy.”

Palmer’s platform certainly reflects a deeply purposeful and thorough commitment to championing social change. For instance, her advocacy for sexual consent education stands in stark contrast to Texas’ arguably hazardous and negligent sex education curriculum. …


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Dear Pastor,

You recently gave the most disempowering anti-LGBTQ+ sermon I have ever observed firsthand. A week prior, in Psychology Today, I published 6 Ways the Church Can Address the LGBTQ+ Suicide Epidemic. In so many words, you issued a rebuttal on your church’s platform of nearly 1k followers, many of whom know of our kinship, and that I’m out. Never have I felt such deep contempt, disgust, scorn, and premeditated oneupmanship by an immediate family member. Of the Bible’s 31,102 verses, you cherry-picked three that enabled you to sanctimoniously play G-d, and invalidate my balanced, fair and valid critique of church homophobia. You based your sermon, titled “Sweet Little Lies”, on Romans 1:26–29. …


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Protest sign from a Tyler Clementi Foundation protest. Source: Tyler Clementi Foundation.

My life’s work is combating the disproportionate, epidemic-level LGBTQ+ suicide rate. Nearly a decade ago, National Youth Pride Services–a leadership development non-profit aimed at empowering LGBTQ+ Black youth–surveyed gay, Black boys about their mental health history. Four out of ten reported a suicide attempt, citing a lack of family support, mentors, school inclusion, and spiritual affirmation. Those findings compelled me to apply for a master’s in counseling. Today, I am an openly queer, Black therapist, as well as a former crisis counselor for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and The Trevor Project, the national 24-hour crisis line for LGBTQ+ youth. …


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The best therapist I ever had was an older white man my father’s age. “Who was your father before he was your father?” is the breakthrough he led me to. He helped me realize my father was a person with a past that preceded me. Contemplating the many pre-fatherhood dynamics, experiences, and interactions that molded my father helped me see all that I didn’t like about him, in a different light, through a more informed lens, with more compassion and context. It helped me forgive.

Before I left Texas for college in Boston, my dad searched Marshall’s and Ross Dress for Less high and low for a set of big, durable suitcases that would last me all 4 years. When he finally settled on the perfect set, he unfortunately realized from the tag that several of the 6 pieces were missing. Yet, instead of taking from another set, he searched nearly 10 other stores for the rest, until he found each piece. …


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TED THAI / GETTY

Freedom is not something that anybody can be given; freedom is something people take and people are as free as they want to be.

––James Baldwin

As I ring in another year on Earth, I’m contemplating this quote, and all the unlearning I did to become freer over the years. I said recently in a talk that learning to love myself was really just de-conditioning the belief that there was ever anything wrong with me to begin with.

As Baldwin also once said, “It took many years of vomiting up all the filth I’d been taught about myself, and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.” …


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A close friend of Dr. King, Jewish theologian and scholar Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (far right) marched alongside King in numerous marches. A faculty member of Cincinnati’s Hebrew Union College, Heschel’s faith compelled him to get involved with anti-racist and anti-war activist movements. Religious Action Committee.

As protests against anti-Black policing sweep the nation, I have observed an uptick in well-meaning social media posts by Black Christians about the urgent need for prayer. While I, too, value the power of faith and spiritual guidance during turbulent times, I have also sensed in several of these posts an undertone of judgement directed toward protesters who are––to invoke Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel––“praying with their feet”. …

About

Araya Baker, M.Phil.Ed., Ed.M.

Araya Baker is an educator, therapist & writer who promotes disability, education & health equity, across borders, faiths, generations, identities & movements.

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