This past Wednesday, SF State’s Paul J. Leonard library housed a discussion regarding the current state of health and welfare within the LGBTQ+ community.
Mickey Eliason, assistant dean of Faculty Development & Scholarship at the College of Health and Social Sciences coordinated the discussion, which encompassed thoughts, observations and opinions from nine attendees, including assistant professors and SF State students. Eliason stated this discussion was the first of its kind during this fall semester and predicted similar discussions to take place in the spring.
Kimberly Balsam, clinical psychologist and president of Division 44, facilitated this semester’s discussion that examined multiple topics prevalent within the LGBTQ+ community, which are often obscured by the legalization of same sex marriage.
“Marriage equality doesn’t mean there’s suddenly no more problems being LGBT,” Balsam said. “The problem is that the discourse after the 2013 Supreme Court decision was, ‘Okay we’re all equal now.’ And it’s so misguided, because since when is marriage the be-all and end-all to people’s problems.”
Discussion focal points included psychological ramifications LGBTQ+ communities encounter due to systematic oppression, in addition to the current state of the community in accordance with the most recent presidential election. The aftermath of the election results included a rise in hate crimes towards the LGBTQ+ community, as well as an increase in mental health issues among LGBTQ+ community members, according to Balsam.
“There’s been a real surge, that’s documented, in hate crimes, and it’s all kinds of marginalized people and that includes LGBT people,” Balsam said. “There’s a real fear that people have and it’s a legitimate fear. I mean why don’t people hold the hand of their partner? Because there’s always been this element of fear and I think it’s even bigger now.”
Balsam described the presidential election as a mental health worry. She stated that for many older LGBTQ+ people, activists and others involved in social change, the election was an occasion of reliving trauma.
Natassja Punak attended the discussion and believes these kinds of discourses are crucial for social change.
“I think it’s really important to educate people,”said Punak, a biology major at SF State. “I think that a big part of discrimination is that people aren’t educated and people don’t understand. Things like this help and I think it’s really important to just talk.”
Although the LGBTQ+ community encountered prejudice prior to the election, Balsam believes that people, particularly those in academia, have a duty to use their insight to help the public during these times of heightened aggression.
“Clearly one of the things that we need to work on, and I think those of us in academia, is to figure out how to use our knowledge and expertise to bare our current social and political problems,” said Blasam.