Over the past year, the Utah Pride Center has hosted a number of six-week workshops on a number of topics that effect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people’s psychology, including gender roles and identity, communication and power dynamics, sex and intimacy, and reconciling religion and sexuality.
This month, the workshop will focus on gay and transgender people’s status as minorities and how they can learn to love themselves more in spite of social messages that tell them they are inferior to straight and cisgender people.
Workshop facilitator and University of Utah clinical psychology student Jordan Rullo said she got the idea for holding a workshop about minority empowerment specifically geared towards gay and transgender people while taking a course in multicultural therapy this summer. As part of the coursework, Rullo had to participate or create a “social action project.”
“So I thought, what if I created a new workshop about privilege and living as a minority and all of the other things I learned in that course,” she said. Although the six-week course she and therapist Lee Beckstead are offering is “definitely therapeutic,” Rullo stressed that it is not therapy.
“It’s more for creative expression, exploring the topic and connecting with others,” she said. “A lot of people feel that they’re alone so to come into a group space and being able to share what they feel with others is really helpful.”
At the group’s first meeting on Sept. 4, Rullo said participants discussed the definition of a ‘minority,’ and the roles privilege (that is, social, political or economic advantages enjoyed by certain groups but not others) and “labels that people give each other” play in oppression. As part of this session, Rullo said she drew a stick figure on the white board to represent a minority individual and asked people to shout out words they associated with minorities.
“What was powerful is at end of the exercise we had tons of negative labels swarming around it,” she said. The group then discussed how such negative messages impact their self-perception.
In the second session, which will be held Sept. 11, Rullo said participants will talk about “positive and adaptive ways” gay and transgender people can cope with these messages, including the difference between healthy and destructive anger. The third session will discuss the question of what individuals have the power to define minorities.
“When it comes down to it, we’re the only ones who have the power to do that, so how do we want to define ourselves?” she said.
In the second part of the course, participants will work on identifying and prioritizing their values and learning how to live their lives in line with their values (which means setting and enforcing boundaries on their behavior and the behavior of others towards them). In the final session, participants will be asked to discuss their homework assignment: going to an event or interacting with a group of people they are prejudiced against.
Although participants are encouraged to attend all six sessions, they may also attend a mini-module of three consecutive weeks, Rullo said.
“This is to allow for continuity in the group,” she explained. “You really develop relationships with other participants in the group and you really want to have the expectation that people will show up.”
The cost is $30 for the full six week course or $15 per three week module. Scholarships are also available to any who want to participate but lack the funds.
Workshops will be held 11, 18, 25 and Oct. 2, 16 from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. in the Utah Pride Center’s Middle Meeting Room (361 N 300 W). For more information contact Jordan Rullo at (801) 330-1103.