At a time when this country is seemingly more divided than ever, LGBTQ+ rights, and lives, are on the line. Whether it's states like Texas and Florida fighting to ban gender-affirming healthcare, or the Supreme Court threatening to overturn same-sex marriage, the progress made toward equality in recent years is under threat.
Dani LaPlanta crisis counselor based in Energy, Illinois, who specialized in the care of LGBTQ+ youth for TimelyMD (which caters specifically to campus health)took some time to speak with Windy City Times regarding their life experiences as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and the current state of LGBTQ+ mental healthcare.
Windy City Times: You come from religious, conservative background. Could you speak about your experiences there?
Dani LaPlant: I was raised Catholic and served as an acolyte in the church. As a female-born person, that was trend-setting. Most of my childhood [involved] people reminding me [of that]. And I said, "Wait, I'm a girl?" I never really understood why people kept saying that. It never hit. The way they viewed gender and morals really stuck with me. Being raised in an area where being gay isn't okay and having zero words for who I was, it was obviously rocky. That's why so many people in the community have so much religious trauma. It sparked this early on urge for me wanting to understand people.
WCT: Given the laws being [considered or passed], do you think we're regressing regarding LGBTQ+ rights or is there still progress being made?
DLP: I always believe that whenever does something, we talk about behavior. Say you're trying to get rid of a bad behavior with a kid. If you look at trends, there is a decrease in the behavior when you're doing the treatments. And then right before the behavior is extinguished, there is sometimes a sharp increase in that behavior before it is gone. There is something about human nature that when it is going to die out there is a weird response right before. I think conservatism and this short, ignorant mindset is dying out, and this is the last resurgence before it is gone.
WCT: In these states where gender-affirming care and proper treatment aren't allowed, where do you start with kids who are just struggling in general?
DLP: The past week I have gotten almost exclusively LGBTQ students calling the crisis line. I have never worked with so many LGBTQ students in a row. I love it, but it hurts my heart. ... It does suck right now. This isn't ok.
Your feelings are completely valid. This builds character. Going through something and being on the receiving end of pain [can] build character in people. What you can look forward to is that you will be less likely to do this to someone else. It sets the stage for you being a good person and for being able to have post-traumatic growth. If you live through it, you can be a living example and a model. You don't have to go out there and protest, but you can be a living example.
I have channeled pain into teaching others, providing knowledge and being a living example. Validating how bad this is right now is the first step. It's okay to feel like this isn't fair, because it is not. Parents don't have to be accepting; all they have to do is be supportive. You just have to support people and their basic rights to make decisions about themselves. Getting parents to support [is how] we reduce suicide risk.
WCT: What do you think is the most important thing allies can do right now?
DLP: The biggest thing right now is that there is a lot of ignorance and not a lot of knowledge. The less education someone has, the more conservative they are. Allies are great as a tool because they can help teach those who are ignorant. f we can get to those people and to have a calm, respectful conversation, that's where it starts.
We attack these issues with complex solutions. Sometimes we have to rip it down to: "You're valid in the way you feel, but I disagree, and here is why." I was camping with my family last week and my dad said, "What's with this pronouns thing?" He had to ask me, because everybody around me is using it and he wanted to know. And gosh-darnmit, did that feel validating! I didn't force him to do it; he just came to me like a wild animal. Just living is a testament to change.
In a world wrought with insecurity and hate for those who are different, be a living testament to change.