Dominic Davies on Pink Therapy for LGBTQ & Other Sexual Health Issues – Smart Sex, Smart Love

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Dominic Davies at his London home/Therapy office Covent Garden - Therapy Today

This week’s show addresses the importance of training therapists beyond cultural competency. Just learning the right pronouns is not enough! On this episode, Joe chats to Dominic Davies, a psychotherapist and clinical sexologist in the UK, who has become what some call, the Father of Queer Therapy in England. Dominic and Joe talk about the differences between diversity in the USA and the UK. Plus, why we all need well-trained therapists who truly understand the impact of minority stress towards groups such as LGBTQ and GRSD people. How can we, as therapists, build resilience for them?

Find Dominic Davies on:
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Joe Kort:           hello and today is about pink therapy for LGBTQ and other sexual health issues. Today we’ll be talking about training therapists beyond cultural competency. Just learning to use the right pronouns isn’t enough. Our guest says today he believes we need well trained therapists who truly understand about the impact of minority stress and microaggressions towards stigmatized groups such as LGBTQ and G S R D people who can work with trauma, build resilience, and adopt a strength based approach rather than seeing us mad or sad. Today my guest is Dominic Davis, a psychotherapist and clinical sexologist in the U K he’s a fellow of the national council of psychotherapists and also of the national counseling society who is recognized for his work over 40 years and becoming what some have called the father of queer therapy in the UK. He has been shortlisted for a national diversity award for his lifetime’s work in sexual and mental health. 20 years ago he founded an organization called pink therapy, which helps LGBTQ clients find culturally competent therapists. He’s also developed a two year international diploma into gender, sexuality and relationship diversity therapy with students from across Europe, Asia, and as far away as Australia and New Zealand, which is largely studied online. Dominic, welcome.

Dominic Davies: Thank you Joe. Lovely to be here. Thanks for inviting me.

Joe Kort:           Oh, it’s so good to have you here. And I thought we could, um, maybe even start with unpacking some of these terms I’ve used, cause most people won’t know like I know LGBTQ, but most people don’t know what G S R D means in terms of people,

Dominic Davies: right? Of course. Yeah. It’s something that we’ve been using for the last, um, for the last few years because we think it’s a much more embracing. We were getting a bit of an alphabet soup with LGBT IQ to cue to a, another lessons just kept adding on and on and on. And people are struggling to understand what all of that men, and it actually left out a lot of other groups. Um, it left out, uh, people who may maybe having a PTSM orientation or lifestyle, um, because they didn’t fit the LGBT IQ identity if they were, if they identified as heterosexual. So we talked about gender, uh, on the big gender spectrum around that, um, sexuality, relationship and diversity. So GSR is a kind of umbrella term to encompass all of these different identities or marginalized communities, lifestyles and behaviors that, um, that means we don’t need to add any extra letters. Really.

Joe Kort:           I like it so way it’s gender, sexuality, relational diversity.

Dominic Davies: Yeah. Relationships. Diversity.

Joe Kort:           Got it. Okay. I love that. Right? Because I do a notice and people, it’s so funny, I’ve started to, in my, my own talks, it’s my stuff’s called LGBTQ, but I also say, and kinks and fetishes and I’ve been sort of judged by other people in the LGBT community asking me, you know, what, what the hell are you, you know, adding that to the list for, and I’m like, because it’s part of our community and it’s everything. It’s part of heterosexual community, but I want to teach it too. So I’m glad you’re doing this.

Dominic Davies: Yeah, I think it’s, I think it’s really important because, um, I think in, in many ways, um, I’m, I essentially I a gay man or as a queer man. I think in many ways I am on, many of my brothers have a huge amount of privilege, uh, and protections in society for, from nondiscrimination, uh, for equal rights, all kinds of things. But people from some of these other identities do not share those privileges and, and services and they can’t access services, um, that, that the LGBT community has built, um, others might be excluded from. So we think it’s important to recognize that, um, that we need to be more inclusive.

Joe Kort:           Okay.

Dominic Davies: I want you to get left behind. Really.

Joe Kort:           I agree. And people are gonna listen to this and don’t understand when, when you say privilege and privilege has become a bad word lately in our culture, you know, you say it in mainstream places and they’re like, Oh yeah, there’s that word. But I don’t think people understand what it really means. Can you define it?

Dominic Davies: Well, for me, um, I, I have, I have many rights. Um, I’ve been legal protections for my life as a gay man. If I choose, I could marry a partner. I, I can get to anybody discriminating against me in employment or in goods and services. If I want to register a book into a room in a hotel with, with my partner, then they come declined that where, uh, if I were to that second to come out at work, like I can’t be discriminated against. But if I were I heterosexual, male, submissive, um, I’m was, um, w w once it came out at work in some way, I got talking to a colleague and maybe they opted me to somebody else. I could, I could lose my job if I had children. I could lose my access to my children instead of just custody or in terms of rights of visitation, social services could, can involve because they might see me as a further or somebody who’s just not safe to being around. So I think we have privileges that some other communities do not have.

Joe Kort:           So when you say submissive, I want people to understand you mean a kink submissive to a dominant person?

Dominic Davies: Yeah. So dominant. So people who might live in, uh, in, in what might have been 1950 staff sexual marriages where the wife stayed at home and looked after the kids and the husband went, Tom was the bread winner and they were very clear hierarchical power differences based on gender and roles within that. But he didn’t do the cooking and she didn’t say fix the car. Those, those kinds of stereotypes might also play out for people in contemporary relationships in a, in a, perhaps in a similar way or perhaps in a different way who are involved in, um, dominance and submission style relationships.

Joe Kort:           Yes. Now this is a fascinating thing to listen to. You talk because you’re in the UK and we’re, I’m in the USA. And when you say that you have those kinds of privileges to not be fired, to be able to go to a hotel and not be discriminated, I’m going to tell you that in 2019, that is not the case here in the USA. You there are right, there are ordinances people, some States, some cities, some places you work might have something on state city levels. But at a federal level we’re fucked. And it sounds like we’re not fucked in the UK. Is that right? You have federal laws protecting.

Dominic Davies: We have, we have federal laws that Countrywide laws that protects the fear. And so we’ve got, yeah, there is, I think in many ways, um, we have one of the best places to be in the world in terms of equal rights and protections. Uh, but that doesn’t mean that everybody is having a great time here. We’re seeing, uh, increases in violence and discrimination in sense of, uh, hostile attacks and hate speech amongst our, to our communities. We’re seeing violent crimes going up. Um, because people think that some, even though you may have privileges and you may have right legal rights, it doesn’t stop the police deciding to take a pop at you.

Joe Kort:           That’s right. Yup. And there’s been an increase. I’ve seen that. And when they show it in the media, I love what they do. They just show two men or two women holding hands. And that they were a crime was committed to that toward them. Just for that. People don’t understand.

Dominic Davies: Yeah. Something as simple as holding your partner’s hand in public can get you beaten up or killed. And that’s, that’s just not acceptable in this day and age anywhere in the world, but particularly in a country that gives you, gives you the right to marry your partner. And so I’m to benefit from that [inaudible] next day if they died in service and all of these kinds of things, that’s just not acceptable.

Joe Kort:           Yeah. You mentioned minority stress and people won’t know what that means either. Can you define that?

Dominic Davies: Well, I would say this, there’s been plenty of research in the LGBT community. There’s been less mass, good research, um, and less expensive and less for validating in some, in some areas, phone for many of the other identities that we’ve, we’ve touched on. But in terms of LGBT people, we see much higher rates of depression, of anxiety, of substance misuse and alcohol misuse, um, and um, um, suicidal ideation and self harm amongst LGB and T people. So in amongst lesbians and gay men, it’s the physical suicide and self harm or running at around 20% of us, um, attempt to take our lives or self harm. Uh, if, if we’re lesbian and gay, it goes up to about 30%. If we’re bisexual and it can be 50, 60% if we’re trans or gender nonconforming. And so these figures are really much higher than in the general population.

Dominic Davies: So minority stress is about recognizing that it’s not in something intrinsically wrong with you because of your sexuality or gender or your gender. It’s to do with the society’s condemnation and it’s discrimination and hate of you for being who you are. And you live in a hostile, we live in a hostile climate, uh, where you can be bullied, where you can be beaten up, where people can, uh, be really mean to you. Um, so that has its impact. That takes its toll on our mental wellbeing and, and how we feel about ourselves. And that’s called minority stress.

Joe Kort:           Absolutely. They did. A few years ago, they did a study at Columbia university. They only did it on LGB. I don’t know why the T the trans wasn’t included, but it wasn’t, and they found that those who were raised in highly hostile anti-gay rural areas had a, the lifespan of 12 years less than the rest of the population. It’s very,

Dominic Davies: that’s very worrying isn’t it?

Joe Kort:           Very worrying and then you go ahead.

Dominic Davies: Um, well, um, we know that if somebody is coming out to their family and their family accepts it well or somebody is transitioning, we know that the success rate for their mental wellbeing often or after coming out is much higher if they, if they have a supportive family. And so we really do need to be working with helping families understand that their child may not be who they thought they were, they were giving birth to or they weren’t raising when they, when they set out on that journey and let the child, the child may not live up to their expectations or hopes in terms of their sexuality or in terms of their gender identity.

Joe Kort:           Absolutely. I love to ask parents, have you thought about what you’re going to say if your child comes out LGBT and people say, well what do you mean, what? What? Why would I think that? And I always say, because you might be raising a child who’s LGBT and be sensitive to those issues so you’re not making mistakes with a child and saying things that could be harmful for them later.

Dominic Davies: Very cool.

Joe Kort:           Yeah. What about, you talk about microaggressions. You and I both know what that means, but the are listening to them.

Dominic Davies: Yeah, that’s tough. They’re much less at a much lower level than the kind of beating up they are. The little sneers and and tops and snails that you might get when you are engaging. For example, in public displays of affection. So if I choose to hold my hand as I walked down the street, I’m going to get a at that’s going to be seen. And people will often not smile and feel pleased to see that they’ll, they’ll get a little snow or they might be just a little taste of clear as you’re walking by them and those tarps. And most kinds of discriminatory looks. I know there’s microaggressions and we’re much more frequently really explode, expose to them if we’re out about our identity. Um, I’m, I’m trying to people, particularly some trans women, Tom hide that fact that they’re, that they’ve, uh, later in life and so they are more exposed to these microaggressions all the time. Every time they step foot outside the house and ninth grade. That’s how hugely on people’s wellbeing and mental health. Okay.

Joe Kort:           Yeah. Thank you for, um, explaining that because [inaudible] hear that they like, well what does that mean? And I always tell them that there’s other examples too. Like it’s okay that you’re a gay and lesbian couple as long as you act like a straight couple. It’s okay that you’re trans or non gender conforming as long as you act like the gender you’re saying you’re going to be that you say you are, whatever that means or the whole idea of going up to trans people, people still do this. What’s going on down there? You know, what have you had your surgery? So I am, when I do my talks, I actually say to, uh, what looked like heterosexual, cisgender people. And I’ll say, um, it’s like me going up to you saying, what’s going on down there? You know, what’s your Volvo look like? And sir, what is your Dick look like? Are you a show where you were grower? People start laughing. I’m like, wouldn’t you think you’d say get the fuck away from me, you know, back off. But we feel slowly I’m okay to do that to people who are trans.

Dominic Davies: Right, right. It’s just sort of intrusive and wrong. Um, we think that somebody else’s, we have a right to know that stuff about people. And it’s usually personal. Um, and, and it’s private. We don’t, we wouldn’t, we would be very upset if somebody was asking to see the genitals of our offspring. And yet I’ve had children then. Yeah. They feel like they’ve got every right to ask about the genitals of, um, somebody that they’ve found even that for even somebody that they’re friends with old and becoming friends with. Is it just an inappropriate question?

Joe Kort:           What would you say? Cause, I mean you’ve been doing this for 40 years. Um, what would you say, can you take us through some of the changes you’ve seen in that period and how your own work has developed?

Dominic Davies: Well, I mean I think one of the, one of the biggest things that’s happened in that period of time is I was working, I was actually working in the AIDS epidemic crisis back in the mid eighties. Um, we will losing many, many, many gay men as you are in, in, in, in the U S um, that landscape changed massively once antiretroviral drugs came along in the, in the 90s. And so nowadays an HIV diagnosis does not mean that or an early test season and people are taking medications and they become undetectable and therefore unable to transmit the virus to anybody else. And that’s a, that’s made a huge difference. And now we’re seeing the developments a of, um, a treatment called prep preexposure prophylaxis. It stands for. So you can take a single pill. If you’re HIV negative and you take that pill every day, I think we’ll protect you from having, if you have sex with somebody who is HIV positive and doesn’t know their status or isn’t undetectable, it will protect you from getting HIV. So that is a huge, a huge advantage. The, I’m changing the landscape. So we’re seeing in the UK, certainly in London with the HIV figures going down by 40% every year and we don’t have a, we don’t have a completely freely available pet service. Now. Many, many gay men are just buying stuff online and having it shipped into the country, uh, because it’s, it’s, uh, it’s relatively affordable at about 30 pounds a month.

Dominic Davies: So that’s made a huge difference to the landscape. Um, I was in Liverpool at the weekend not being shortlisted for my national diversity award. And I look up, when I first went there in the very early eighties was when I first met a trans, some trans, uh, sexual people and they were stuffing the helpline on a Friday night. And, uh, the landscape for trans peoples’ has changed dramatically over those 14 years as well. And so now in the U K you can, you can go through, if you, if you choose to have medical interventions, you can get access to surgeries, uh, and answer the hormone tablets if you choose not to, you can still live in your role or live in a gender nonconforming role. Um, there are, there’s much more societal protection and understanding. There are sympathetic documentaries on the TV nowadays compared to how it was previously, although even within our own community, there are, um, uh, there are certain sections of the feminist community who would, who are very hostile to the idea of trans trans women in particular, um, joining within, joining up within those spaces.

Dominic Davies: Um, and in the UK we’re w w w w was known as toughs trans exclusionary radical feminist, but without this, nothing very radical about their problems of feminism. Um, and so that it can be quite a hostile environment for trans people, uh, socially. Uh, but there are, so we’ve got quite a disability and many kids are coming out and that’s not gender nonconforming or, or non binary or as trans a much earlier age. Nowadays I’m being understood and accepted and able to make a social transition at school and I’d go buy a different name or be supported by their parents and by the schools and just giving them some time to see if that, if that identity sticks for them and I’m persist it into the adolescents.

Joe Kort:           You know, where you and I are a P think we’re close to the same age. I’ve worked 35 years. You’ve worked 40 years in this field. Did you ever think we’d ever, you know, the acceptance, the way we are of trans? I mean, I think it’s incredible.

Dominic Davies: I think it’s amazing. Um, I somebody who’s from outside of that can be, I think it’s incredible. Although I think if I were a young trans person coming out, I might, I might, I might be feeling very anxious about my future. I’m still, I think it’s because there is still quite a lot of misunderstanding and fear and hostiles news reports with our media in this country have been very hostile at scaring people in and spreading quite vicious lies about, about what goes on for trans people and saying that the parents are abusing their children by not allowing them to be gay by forcing them to be trans, kind of all kinds of ridiculous ideas, but they’re performing genital surgeries on teenagers, which is absolutely not true. Um, and so the parents, children, children and adolescents cannot have genital surgery or even access to cross-gender hormones that will, will start masculinizing or feminizing them and then they don’t have so at least 16 or 18 from the surgeries. So the th the journalists are spinning lies and whipping up a lot of misconceptions and the hostility rather than helping these, helping these young kids feel okay about themselves. And so the ones that we’ve got self harm and suicide attempts at 50 or 60% amongst those kids because it’s just, it’s a really hostile environment for them.

Joe Kort:           Yeah. And people, so

Dominic Davies: this is it.

Joe Kort:           And so what are the rates of suicide? Say that again?

Dominic Davies: 50 to 50 to 60% of trans and gender nonconforming people are, are suicidal or self-harming.

Joe Kort:           Yeah. People need to hear that because it’s very high and it’s higher than just for LGB. Is that true or no? Yes.

Dominic Davies: Where did the 20% for IOT, LNG and about 30% for bisexuals? Um, bisexual women have higher rates than bisexual men for some reason. Yeah. Yeah.

Joe Kort:           I feel a little shocked because I feel like here what we I talk about is when you’re, when a man has one non heterosexual thought, he’s stigmatized. When a woman has a non heterosexual thought, she’s fetishized, give him more wiggle room. But, so I was thinking to myself the rate would be higher in my mind of males. But then you’re telling me in the UK it’s females bisexual.

Dominic Davies: Well, I, but that’s research though I think I write from the States. Many years ago we used to be lumped in together. LGB being, as you said, I knew it was only in about the last eight years, I guess that the people started separating out bisexuals from lesbian and gay and running the studies again and stop asking as their experiences. Um, and suddenly we, we see the figures that world really quite high. We’re being inflated by the bicep shows. They lumped in with the lesbians and gays. Um, and so that was, that was very salutary, I think. Very interesting.

Joe Kort:           And that’s kind of what we’re seeing in this revolution, I feel like is happening in our community because it really has been in the forefront. Gay, white, male, cisgender, doing all the talking, given the microphones. I just found out, I didn’t know this, that when HIV and AIDS first hit in the 80s, it was primarily African American men. But that was not what you saw on TV. You never, I never saw that. I only saw sister cisgender gay males do.

Dominic Davies: But that’s another example of our privilege isn’t it? And our power, because we’ve been raised as a white man, we have a lot of privilege and power and society. We, we’ve been told that we were that to be the leaders and our parents support that idea. And, and it’s very, it’s, so we did do an amazing job at getting services off the ground. They’re arguing for money and for, um, for, for funds to setting up charities around HIV, making sure that AIDS care got on the agenda. That was great. But the figures are my fault. Uh, black African people, um, American African people have always been much higher, um, in, in the U S and uh, that’s that, that that becomes ignored really am still access to crap and HIV figures I think is still rising within those communities in the us and health care is, is, is, is poorer.

Joe Kort:           Agreed. And can you tell us a little bit about your online international training program so people know what to expect if they were to want to join that.

Dominic Davies: Oh wow. That thank you. Yes. Well, we’ve been running, we run out. People can choose to do to a one year program if they’re already qualified counselor or psychotherapist or psychologist. Um, and we beginning with a week long residential intensive at a university in, in the UK where people could just live together and engage in some very deep exploration of their own histories around agendas and their sexualities and experience, uh, and kind of get to know each other really well and explore those, those journeys because clients are going to come through the door coming with all kinds of backgrounds and experiences. Uh, and that might be very different. So there are, so we want people to be aware of what is their own history and what is that stuff. It’s maybe different or similar to that so that they don’t start confusing their client material with our own lives and, and um, get it, get it, get in our model that, so we have a week long intensive and then people go home wherever they are in the world and they study the rest of it online.

Dominic Davies: So we have video lectures, guided reading, we have webinars, live webinars where they can meet with one of the faculty and discuss the assignments that they been submitted and the reading that they’ve been doing. And then we have them in small case discussion groups where they’re talking about clients that they’re working with and under. I’m, I’m helping each other understand, um, um, view the material of the client’s presenting from a range of different perspectives. And then she tutorials with the, with the faculty about some of that and with some of our experienced faculty. So it’s a, it’s a, it’s a one year program that then if they, they study eight modules there and then if like decide that they want to go on further and become more specialist, then they can do the second year and leave with a diploma. And in that secondary we’ve got some of the more kind of complex subjects and some of the more kind of deeper, sexier subjects.

Joe Kort:           That’s great. It’s great you do that with all your knowledge. You put together a great program. I know and I hear a lot of good things about it. What would you say dominant, cause we have to come to an end. Um, how can people find you links, future products, pro projects, what’s going on?

Dominic Davies: Okay. Well. Um, we have a training site which is pink therapy.org and um, the, in addition to the one year and two year programs, we’ve also go short study modules for all of the theory modules that occur in our, you know, until your program can stand alone so people could just [inaudible] this year that they wanted to learn more about, well you could just buy it in a module on study that I submitted the assignment if they wanted to. So that’s a ping therapy total. And then online pick therapy.com we’ve got a directory of therapists who work with GSR D clients, mostly in the UK, but we’ve got some international people listed in there as well because people are looking for culturally sensitive or culturally competent, um, therapists. Um, and so my answer of other bits and pieces of information on their way were on Facebook and the pink therapy and a closed Facebook group for therapists and I’m switched over at pink therapy UK. So there’s lots of ways in which we are in the social media.

Joe Kort:           Thank you so much and I really appreciate you coming on. I knew that we could talk about some things that are different there than are different in the UK than here and your wise experience from all those years. And uh, it’s just been a pleasure getting to know you over the years and thanks for being on my podcast.

Dominic Davies: Thank you so much for inviting me, Joe. It’s really lovely to connect with you again.

Joe Kort:           You too. Thank you Dominic. Alright, bye. Bye. Thanks for listening to this episode of smart sex, smart love. I’m dr Joe court and you can find me on Joe court.com. That’s J O E K O R t.com.

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