What’s working well in Tara and Maddie’s relationship? How have they worked through previous trauma to be able to connect better? How do they address mistakes? Hear it all on this episode of the Queer Joy Podcast; where two relationship therapists explore what it looks like to see joy in queer relationships.
Find Tara on IG @taralsharp
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hey it's cardinal just a quick content Warning that at the half hour mark there's a brief mention of Have a friend's death by self harm. Nothing graphic Just letting you know all right on with the episode
Keely: This idea that sex comes natural, it's just not a thing. And the beauty of what you were just talking about, of learning each other's bodies and communicating through all this and knowing that.
Things change .
Melisa: Hello everyone. Welcome back to Queer Relationships Queer Joy. We are excited to have an interview and get to spotlight another queer couple today, but before we do that, we will do our introductions.
I'm one of your hosts, Melisa DeSegiurant.
Keely: And I am your other host, Keely C. Helmick.
Melisa: We are excited to have an interview today. We will let you both intro or introduce yourselves. to start off, I'm Melisa DeSegiurant. I'm licensed as a marriage and family therapist and professional counselor. I'm white, I'm bisexual able-bodied. I'm polyamorous and I am gender fluid I use she and they pronouns.
Keely: And my name is Keely C. Helmick. I am a licensed professional counselor, a certified sex therapist. I am the owner of Connective, Therapy Collective as well I am a white, queer, non-binary person, solo, single. And you know, this, my back just keeps getting better and better, which is awesome. So I'm very happy. And would the two of you like to, in introduce yourselves to the audience?
Tara: Sure. I'm Tara Shapiro. she her, cis female, white. Um, yeah, we're in New York City and having a lot of fun.
Maddie: And I'm Maddie Dous. I'm a speech language pathologist. I work in a public school system and I am a cis female white as well. and very madly in love with my wife here, my future wife..
Tara: I am also founder, a co-founder at the Ilana Fe Chen Foundation,which is a 501(c)(3) that offers, free to low-cost mental healthcare to the queer community. And then I am CEO and co-founder of Queer Psych.
Maddie: And we are also, also, um, both in Neurodivergent. we are proud members of the community as well.
Melisa: I'm so excited. It's been a while since we've gotten to interview a couple and I already feel the energy, just like we talk about queer joy at the end and we'll get there. But part of my queer joy in holding space for these stories is just like feeling the love between you, resonating through the screen. So thank you for being here,
Tara: Thank you for inviting us.
Keely: Yeah, totally. Yeah, I mean that's a big thing, and we might not have said it in a while, but really one of the big reasons we started this podcast is to have a place to share stories and talk about what's going well in queer relationships.
So often in media and the stories we hear is drama and we hear about breakups and there's not a lot of modeling for joy and positivity within the queer community in relationships. And so we really want to share these stories and to have this collection of positive queer experiences and being in relationship with others.
Maddie: Tara. And I like joke sometimes, like we'll be out, like, like doing something, like taking a walk and we'll just be like, do you think other people love each other as much as we do? Or like, do you think that like, that other people, it's really like even with, the age gap between us, like our,
Tara: There's a 17 year age gap, so I'm 43.
Maddie: I just turned 26. but like, it's just been crazy that like beyond all of that, we, just like met each other in the most perfect time in both of our lives for a relationship. and it's been like the most incredible, like healthy, like just three, almost three years of thriving at this point, which is amazing. I've something I never thought would be really possible.
Tara: But sometimes yes, yes to all that. Maddie's messy.
Maddie: We appreciate that.
Melisa: We want the real, like what's working and how you've gotten there. understanding relationships take work. They're hard. But let's start at the beginning. How, how did you meet? How did you come into one another's lives?
Maddie: So we met on Tinder. And it was like a running joke that like we didn't tell our family that at first. We were like, oh, we ran into each other at the dispensary in town. And then I was like just totally screwing with my family. And I was like, told my grandmother, we met on like farmers only and she did not bat an eye.
She was like, oh yeah, Tara loves gardening. And I was like, well, I dunno if I actually, we ever corrected that story for them. but it was, she was in town. why were you in town?
Tara: So I lived in Florida at the time during Covid, and I really disliked it. It never felt like a cultural fit. and so during Covid I had traveled a lot before.
I used to travel like few times a month. And so that had gone away. And I decided to do a van life for a while. and I was driving from Florida to the countryside, in the mountains, very quiet. I think there's like 5,000 people in our town. and I would drive back and forth and when I'd get there I'd be able to like catch my breath cuz it was just so beautiful.
Covid went away cause there was so much space nature and just getting to know myself. So we were in the Berkshire Berkshires, Massachusetts. Um,
Maddie: You were there. Like meanwhile she like, comes here to take a deep breath and like, I was born and raised here. So I was like, this is the most boring place in the universe. Like anyone, like, I can't-
Melisa: I have some excitement.
Maddie: Yes. So I was like, oh my gosh, this girl keeps like texting me back. And like, she always says that, one of her favorite things was that I replied immediately when she would text me. I thought I was playing it so cool. Trying not to respond immediately.
Like, I remember getting the text, all right, I'm gonna wait 20 minutes. Like, don't be weird about it. Nope. And I was like, couldn't even do that. So when we first like met that first time, I was like, oh my God. Like I tried to kiss her and she was like, you need to slow down lady. Like, like, this has never happened to like, what? Like, I was just like, oh, what do you wanna do then? Like
Tara: We talked.
Melisa: Yeah. How do we slow down? What does that look like?
Maddie: It was kind of like, I don't, I didn't know how to like formally like engage in like that kind like a queer relationship beyond like this, the sexual part of it. Like there's not really any kind of archetype for we are dating in that kind of way.
Tara: Especially in the mountains in the middle of nowhere. With a small town, I think it still is hard for us to walk around sometimes holding hands even. it's just different. We're just different. I was always different. Um, but yeah.
Maddie: Yeah. I like, growing up in my town, I graduated from a school with a class of 50, like we went from kindergarten to senior year together.
Tara: We knew everyone and everybody. I was raised by my grandparents and they knew everyone. When my grandfather passed, they put like the flag in the town at like half mass. Like, it was like
Melisa: Everyone knows everyone.
Maddie: Yeah. So I don't even, I had never met another lesbian until, I was nannying for a family and they, um, for like six years, and I got really close with their aunts who had a house in the Berkshires and were from the city. And I was like, these are the coolest people I've ever met. It's like, oh my God. Like they have a pink house, it's full of crystals. Like, it was the most amazing thing. And I think that was kind of part of things Yeah. Where I was like, this is possible. Like this is a possibility. I think I wanna check this out. so yeah, she slowed me down a little bit, but I think from there I literally ended up spending so much time with you and together, like I just abandoned everything at my house where I was living, like very much that like second day at U-Haul type situation.
Tara: Yeah, I don't think we, oh, I remember that. You know, pushing back from that first kiss. But, and I felt really bad cuz I didn't wanna hurt her feelings, but I also,
Maddie: I wasn't hurt. I think I liked it for sure. I was like, oh my gosh, you wanna get to know me? Wow.
Melisa: Boundaries can be sexy. We say this all the time. And I think having a real example of that, of like, no, and even what you just said, Tara, about feeling bad. Like, I hear that from clients all the time, feeling bad about setting a boundary, but like, thank you Maddie for demonstrating. That's okay sometimes.
Maddie: It, that was something where I was like, oh, this person really like cares to get to know me and like, will values like the potential of this relationship more than having a good time. That first night.
I had been divorced. Is that how you say it? But I was divorced. You're still divorced.
Tara: I'm still divorced, yes. And so after that I was single for like three years. I just, Didn't click with anyone, and I didn't think I was ever gonna be in a relationship again. Not in a bad way, just like I was loving life. I was really independent traveling, you know, spent like 20 years in therapy. So like, it was nice like finding myself and like, like I said, driving back and forth and our first, date, I remember calling a friend and being like, I never want her to leave. Like,
Keely: Oh yeah.
Tara: Don't leave. And that was the first, like, it was just like the first day, like, I didn't want, and I kept calling my friends and I was like, oh my God, she's so much younger than me. But I like, I don't know, I really loved her. Like from the moment I laid eyes on her. yeah,
Maddie: Same. I was, um, not even out to my family at the time when we like kind of met and started getting together. and I think like by a week or two in, I was like, had a PowerPoint presentation prepared for my grandmother and my aunt being like, here are some information. Here's some information. I'm not in danger. There's like, you don't need to worry. Guess what? I'm queer. I'm here like this. Like this is what, this does not mean, this is what this does mean. yeah, even like little terminology wise and kind of was just like, here, look at this, and like backed away and they were like, okay.
Tara: And then I think we told them to walk.
Keely: You're not out, were you not out before that? Oh, so this relationship was your coming out?
Maddie: Yes to my family and that kind of like really a hundred percent like being out, like my close friends and things like that were about six or eight months before that.
I had been dating around, more so like hooking up with women in that kind of way. but this was more like, okay, this isn't a phase, everyone, like this person is my future.
Melisa: And you went and prepared PowerPoint and everything?
Maddie: Yeah, I'm like very like science oriented, like I love like research thing. So I was just like, here it is. I'm going to like think of what questions they might have, answer them here. And like that. was that.
Melisa: Where did things go from there? How did you get to where you are now?
Tara: A lot of work. there, I have a history, I guess could go into a little bit about that with neurodiversity, which really affects our relationship on a daily basis.
I was bi diagnosed bipolar when I was like in college, going to parties, like, and then I go to the psychiatrist saying that I'm like, I have, anxiety, meanwhile I'm doing cocaine, which I don't know if we should say here, but we could take that out. Pause.
Keely: That's okay. It just matters if you want people to hear that or not, but we're fine with that.
Tara: So it wa the reason why it is important to say is because I got diagnosed with bipolar disorder during a very, interesting point in my life. and that diagnosis stayed with me until I met Maddie, who, you know, in the beginning she would see me trying to get dressed. was a big thing with the clothes feeling right. Always had to wear cotton or silk or linen or some natural fiber. Otherwise it would get tossed out of, you know, Into a pile um, tags, just bright lights. it was so much worse. Um, the experiences were really, really intense, when we were first together. and I think part of it was because I didn't really have any, support, anybody that knew about,diagnosed ASD so Autism Spectrum Disorder. it's apparently difficult to diagnose. I was missed when I was younger.
Maddie: Like many, females. It is. And I came into the relationship. My father is diagnosed, bipolar, and so it's my sister. So they are true to their diagnosis. so it was interesting like meeting Tara and like learning that about her and my brain.
I kind of was like, oh, like I had to really think about like what, in what part of my brain kind of like led me to her. Like, is this something that I need to like, kind of ping in my head of like putting myself in some of those same patterns? And that was so I kind of had that initial thought, but then seeing her and getting to know her, I was like, that is not what's happening here.
and then like hearing things from her childhood and just seeing the way she would kind of react in those ways. Like as a speech language pathologist, we,do part of ASD diagnosis and things like that. And I had like a lot of experience working with every, like newborns, all the way up through adults, who are on the spectrum.
And it was more, it was a hard conversation to bring up, to be like, hey, but, I think it was needed because where we started, she was like sleeping and noise canceling headphones. We would have like all of these like sleeping accommodations and things like that. Like we would bring, I would get like little earplugs to go everywhere.
but even just learning more about being neuro divergent and like what works and what doesn't work, I think has been a big game changer for both of us just in that. We can do anything and everything. Like we just have to kind of plan a little bit more sometimes, and like take those things into consideration.
And like a lot of people have to think about like their energy level, like their battery. We have to kind of consider like that social battery and like how much masking is gonna be involved and like how much that kind of can wear people out too.
Tara: It's so cool to talk about this because, I mean, Maddie completely changed my life. I was no longer the weirdo, um, who wants to be alone. I was no longer, I mean, in the beginning I think it was really hard for both of us because I can be very blunt and oftentimes that could be interpreted as rude or, unkind. Short, or I just don't.
Maddie: Just like from New York. I kind of thought it was at the beginning, but then I was like traveling like elsewhere. but like we have the cute little rules of like, sometimes we'll be like, are necessary. Is it necessary? Is it kind and is it true?
Tara: That was helpful. And then I wore this bracelet forever. That's said
Maddie: Kindness. Kindness is everything.
Tara: Yeah. Kindness is everything. And I should be like, look at your bracelet.
Melisa: It really sounds like the context of the right diagnosis helped you release a lot of shame and then build together into the relationship. Just the accommodations. I, I, I use that word that you needed to make everything work.
Maddie: I think it also helped our families too. just like in me coming out and I feel like I know my family so much kind of better now. Like. There's not, there's just like nothing in between kind of in that way. And your mom used to be like, oh, she makes me cry all the time. Because like, she would, she would say something and like, Oh, you were like, yeah, if you're dying in the hospital, I'm not gonna wanna go see you.
I'm not gonna go see you. And I was like, actually, yes we are. We will absolutely go visit you, Debbie. Like we will be there to see. And I,
Tara: And my reasoning was, I wanna be on the beach and say goodbye to my mom and my heart without seeing her like deteriorate. So, and if that's what
Maddie: you truly wanna do, we'll make it happen. But we, you've gotta at least be like, of course Debbie, we, yeah, we will be there. but it's like, I understand what she means in those contexts. Like, I'm like, oh, that's not what you meant. That's what you said is not what you actually meant. Like you meant to say like, I would like to be at a peaceful place.
Maddie: But we'll do what you'd like.
Keely: So really what I'm hearing is that the two of you are able to talk about these mental health struggles and differences in how you handle life and life circumstances, especially Oh my gosh. Like handling the decline of a parent, you know, the health, and I think you is your mom deceased now, Tara?
Tara: No, we just had a, a death in the family and you know, the woman, my, it's my step aunt. My aunt, she had Alzheimer's, so it was decline and so I just, yeah, she was not doing well and we were driving in the car and I was like talking about my cousin who was at the beach, um, cuz she didn't realize.
She didn't know her mom had passed away and she was making her way back home and everybody was upset that she was at the beach. And I was like, mom, but it's just like so beautiful. She probably sat by the beach and like connected with her mom in some way and said goodbye. And that was my like meaning.
But it came out like, I'm not gonna be there. I'm gonna be on a beach when you're suffering. So, but
Maddie: We cleared that up.
Tara: We cleared that.
Melisa: You had some support kind of translating what the message was.
I'm curious, I don't wanna pivot too quickly, but you indicated that there, there may be some interesting, juicy things to talk about in your relationship, and I'm curious what intimacy looks like for you and what sex looks like. If we can, if we could talk about that.
Maddie: It's been a journey for sure. I, myself and you have a history of, like. physical abuse in that kind of way, and a lot of trauma, like that's kind of like held in our bodies in that aspect. and then for me, especially this being my first like long-term, queer relationship, I didn't even really know how things worked in an aspect.
Like my idea was like, okay, what I've like either seen in porn or like movies in media, I hadn't even seen the L word at that point. Like there was nothing to go, was like new newbie. so we started out kind of like doing what we thought was expected.
Maddie: Like when we went to like one of the first, it was early in our relationships. I remember we were at the standard in New York City and you were like, oh, I'm gonna get the strap on. And I was like, okay. Like what? And it wasn't like, we didn't really like talk about like what size or any, like, any of those kinds of details that now we know like a little more planning. Like there's certain things we like and don't like.
Tara: Not one size fits all.
Maddie: Yeah, absolutely.
Keely: So you didn't have the STARS talks beforehand?
Tara: Yeah. And it's been I guess the juicy part is just the juicy part, right? Like being with each other, being naked, touching each other's bodies, learning what touch is. Cause we call it like the sexy touch. Yeah. Sexy touch or touch, right? So there has been sexual abuse in both of our sides. So it's been very, learning different touch, learning different feelings and what they're, what's okay and what's safe.
And if it wasn't safe in the past, Tara, it's safe now. Like, and kind of really staying mindful, like, which is a beautiful thing. it's also when you're mindful, I think about sex, there's just so much, that doesn't matter, especially in a lesbian relationship. So, when I say it doesn't matter, we were real, I felt really pressured in getting the sex right every time so that we orgasmed within 20 minutes and we were both
Maddie: Like out of breath and just frustrated.
Tara: And it really like connecting our bodies to orgasm,
Maddie: Like. It doesn't require a specific angle. Like it's not,
Tara: But it's also hard.
Maddie: Oh yeah.
Tara: we thought that it was about scissoring and we're like, oh my God, if we don't get this right, like, what are we doing? It doesn't work to, we still love each other.
Tara: And I'm like, how are we gonna,
Maddie: how am my good like, future wife if I can't figure out like where to put things and like don't have the add strength,
Tara: How many fingers to use? Like that was a big thing. I think we came to the conclusion, walking around in Miami and there was this, I dunno if you remember. There was a saying on the floor and it sat on this sidewalk. It said,
Maddie: One finger is medical, two fingers is magical.
Keely: I love that. One finger is medical and two is magical in my head.
Maddie: Yeah. I mean, it opened my eyes. It was like graffiti on the sidewalk, like,
Tara: And I was like, ok, figuring this all out is like a human condition. Like we're okay. Like, we're gonna figure out if it's two or one thing.
Maddie: Yeah. We're good.
Tara: And like recently we took a little break, from sex and like, what is that? Like, why is it, are we gonna fall apart? Because we're not just, um.
Maddie: We didn't.
Tara: We didn't.
Maddie: We didn't.
Tara: And we had sex like two days ago and we can't stop touching each other now. And I feel like it's, I feel like it's the day after we met where I was like, I don't want you leaving. Don't leave.
Tara: I didn't say that to you, but I eventually said, yeah, so it's okay. Like all if it's okay, like to get nervous about positions or satisfying each other or just going through a spell where we kind of were both, just had our own shit.
Maddie: Like, some of my like PTSD kind of things were flaring up and like I had to kind of readjust what my plan was and prioritize kind of like meeting with my therapist and just like feeling safe for a little while. So it was I don't want to like open up that intimacy right now if I feel like I can't like fully be present and I don't want to like, harm her in that way if I'm not kind of fully there.
Tara: It was getting a little mechanical, like, and that was, it was just getting mechanical.
Melisa: What a great use of that like tool though. And that is something that we recommend in sex therapy at times. Take it off the table or take orgasm off the table for that matter, you know, and all these expectations. And I hear that.
You were able to do those things without inserting all the problematic meaning making, or at least you were able to like notice when you were making meaning and then challenge it, which is so, so brilliant and so good for our listeners to hear.
Keely: Well, and you're providing by talking about this, and thank you for talking about something that's so vulnerable for many people that you're providing that modeling or just the opening for a conversation for others.
Because as we were just pointing out where is the guidelines or how do you know what to do? And we so often in every realm of sex therapy and sex education are sex. This idea that sex comes natural, it's just not a thing. And the beauty of what you were just talking about, of learning each other's bodies and communicating through all this and knowing that.
Things change and accommodations. And I think from all that you've said so far, the two of you guys you've been talking is how much you've been supportive to each other and navigating all these different life things going on.
Keely: And I'm curious now, the place you're at right now, if you were to say what is working really well, what's working really well in your relationship?
Tara: Slow. We've slowed down a lot. I think yes, just taking things slow and honoring each other.
Maddie: I think just being open to each other about what is difficult. Even I kind of had to have the realization of like, it's easier for me to tell Tara like what I'm struggling with or like, what is really hard for me, even if it, like, with that shame and like guilt, because research has shown that like evidence is proven that like she helps me figure them out and like she's supportive through all of those things. So it's not like, it's truly like a partnership where I can bring anything to the table. Like even if I've screwed something up and like made a huge, like, whoops. to her, like it's still just a little
Tara: Whoops, like, yeah, we don't, we don't, like we used to get mad for mistakes or whatever and then we were, I was like, just say oops.
Tara: And like when things go wrong, it's like shit. Sorry. but our intentions are always like, really? Loving
Melisa: Sounds like you give each other a lot of grace. And we've talked about that recently, like room to be human and understanding we're gonna make mistakes and we're even going to perhaps unintentionally harm each other. And how do we come back from that and recover from that, you know? Sounds like you figured out how to do that.
Tara: Yeah, and it's, you know, interesting about the modeling thing, you know, for the last 25 years. and so I was about 16. Didn't wanna be, my parents were, aspects of 'em were amazing. Other aspects, um, like most parents weren't amazing. and I knew I needed mental healthcare from a very early age. and it was seen as a luxury. then, so I worked really hard, at making sure that. And navigating my own mental health. and so with all of that work, it's so important to me to be as honest and raw as possible. because my struggle should help, or I hope could help somebody else that's, you know, hoping to get there one day or, really anything. I feel like my life at this point is about service, because I have a life beyond my wildest dreams.
Maddie: That's beautiful.
Keely: That's so sweet. I'm not sure where to go from there.
Hey, Hey, it's Cardinal. You're behind the scenes buddy. Q RQ J is hiring podcast editor. Editors. Do you know, a rad Percy. Person who loves love sex and audio transcription. BiPAP to the front. Work with Keely and Melissa and get paid to make this awesome community resource. It's seriously, freaking great.
Uh, compensation depends on experience and you can work from home. Email your resume to media at Connective Therapy, Collective dot com. And let's talk. All right. Back to the show.
Melisa: Well, in some ways, Tara, that transitions really well into, I know we're gonna spotlight kind of things at the end of our episode as we do, but that transitions well into the work you're doing and I love hearing your backstory cuz that informs the why I imagined behind the work you're doing.
But do you wanna take a few minutes to share, what's going on and what you're creating with our audience?
Tara: So, thank you for that. It's, yeah, it's really exciting. I'll start with the Alana Faith Chen Foundation, if that's okay. Yeah. as I said in the beginning, it's a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that, allows therapists to engage with folks that they might have turn, had to turn away, because they couldn't afford therapy, especially in the LGBTQ plus community.
So we have a network of amazing queer affirming, queer educated, therapists that we are in their back pocket, AFCF is in their back pocket for, if they have somebody that is suffering from severe depression, suicidality, ideation, self harm. we are there and, you know, we negotiate a rate with a therapist and then we commit to being there for six months to six years, on this person's healing journey, so that they never have to worry about.
You know, getting their help taken away. I believe very strongly that everybody needs one neutral person in their lives to survive, and thrive fully. and the reason or how our, grants work, and why it's deemed Alana Faith Chen Foundation is that, my cousin Alana died by suicide at the end of 2019.
Alana and I were very different, but we were both lesbians, in the closet. I didn't know that she was struggling from oppression within her community. Within her, she was very into church. We were very different. But for her, she was into church, and she had a community. And when she told a priest that she felt feelings for somebody else of the same sex, they put her in same sex attraction therapy, a k a conversion therapy.
So, and Alana didn't have access to mental healthcare consistently because her parents couldn't afford it. She was underinsured. and we are affirming therapy never even was on anybody's radar. and I think it was a huge miss. so, we formed the 501(c)(3) about two weeks after Alana had passed in 2019.
And I'm gonna read something because, I don't have it memorized and because I think it's really important.
Keely: Okay. Yeah, let's hear.
Tara: That's okay. Yeah. So Alana did a lot of writing, and so it's called Alana's Vision and it's written by her. it is my dream and will be my life's work to help empower those who are oppressed margin marginalized, to find freedom, to find healing, to find a voice.
Adventure therapy, art therapy, and dialectical behavioral therapy, were all paramount in my recovery and healing. And I hope to specialize in those areas when I become a counselor. It is my hope to some somehow help make access to quality mental health services more accessible and more affordable.
so I'm here to carry out Alana's mission. I was privileged to get the he- therapy I needed after suicide attempts, and not belonging. and so this is how I dealt with, losing my cousin. and we every day are helping, you know, dozens of people, have access to queer affirming mental healthcare.
that won't be taken away because they're under and short or uninsured. so that's my biggest passion, um, for sure.
Keely: That's so beautiful. Thank you for sharing that. I'm, I don't know about you, Melisa. I'm might.
Maddie: Yeah, we're both like, I'm not crying.
Keely: Thank you for sharing that. That's really beautiful. I'm so sorry you lost your cousin. That's horrible, and to continue her legacy in such a beautiful way. It's really powerful.
Tara: Yeah, I mean, she was amazing. She heard her parents though one day she had gotten back from a really, I mean, it was art therapy, adventure therapy. she was really flourished and loved, loved going, and it was impatient.
and she got home and she has like three other. Siblings. And she heard her parents in the kitchen saying like, shit, I don't know how we're gonna pay for therapy. Like, what are we gonna do? Like, how do we do this? And she heard her parents talking. And so the next couple of days she was like, I'm good.
Thank you so much for what you've given me. and then, you know, a week later you were looking for her. So, so that's one thing that I'm doing, that I'm really passionate about. And, um, so that's been since 2019 has been, a lot of work. I am an accountant. I am a, I don't know, I wear every hat, in things.
Maddie: Yeah. Like an accountant, the coordinator, the secretary, like the intern, every single role. like sometimes like. When I'll leave for work or for like to go to school in the morning for like this six and a half hour day. Like I'll come home and she's still in the same chair in the living room in the same spot. Like
Tara: Cold cup of coffee.
Maddie: Yeah. Cold cup of coffee. And I'm like, okay, you have not eaten. Let's go. Um, but she figures out all of these amazing things, like herself, like wrote a pro, like a product loss statement, a profit loss statement. And I was like, I don't know what that even is, like in like setting up the whole website from the ground, like in the hours that it's taken in meeting every single therapist, like for this network that you're on, you're doing that.
Because through the Alana Faith Chen Foundation, we were like, oh, we're re you're reaching out to all of these like queer affirming therapists. But they don't have any way to connect with each other. They don't have ways like a platform where, like for potential clients or anyone for them to have a network and say, Hey, like I am really struggling with like, this aspect of someone, like supporting them through their gender identity.
Like those things, there's nowhere for them to turn to. So it just, it amazes me to kind of see how it's like, most people will be like, oh no, a problem we encountered, like, that sucks. And she's like, oh no a problem. I'll fix it myself. Sure. but you, we've, you've done everything and more that you've expected to, which, so
Tara: Well it's all great, but our therapists are really, for AFCF, like I've, we have built a network of the most incredible amazing therapists that are queer or in love with queers, and just a beautiful community. And everyone I talked to when I talked about the foundation or I talk about getting therapists together so that we have, I'm not a therapist, but I've navigated it for my entire, almost my entire adult life. So, I feel really strongly about bringing people together.
and so I did see, you know, there's good old psychology today. and it still to this day, I needed to find an ASD psychiatrist, that there's very few that's, that, that I could find that were, did adult autism, so not just, you know, there you'll see a lot about a child. so where did I, where did it leave me?
da. My search psychology today, and I'm like, This is it? Like this is all we got.
Maddie: Yes. and that little check mark that they have that says like L G B T, like af- affirmative, like that is something that they clicked on a box to like say, yeah, I could do that if I, we love, we love all people.
Melisa: Right. We know what that means.
Maddie: Yeah. There's no spec- there's no like training behind it. There's no like length of work or like clientele that proves that you've been successful. Like you could claim to be LGBTQ, affirmative on Psychology to today and also offer like conversion therapy services, which is terrifying. Like there's not any real kind of checking of licensure. And actual like experience and what makes someone affirming in that way.
Tara: Yeah, so when I went there as it just reaffirms what we're doing with Queer Psych. So Queer Psych is launching in end of June, of mid-June, mid June. we're really excited. We're halfway through the development. and so I decided that, you know, we made a long list of therapists that say they're queer affirming and most of them are, and educated.
and it's every time I decided that, you know, we want as many therapists as possible, it'll eventually be a directory which people pay for to be on. We need to pay for site maintenance and all that. So, that will be coming later on, but I've committed to talking to every single therapist that will be on queer psych personally.
Keely: Woo. That's quite a task.
Keely: Amazing. Yeah, I mean that's something that is lacking when you're talking about this, is that screening process. Cuz you know when Tara and I met you were like, yeah, people will say there's these coin phrases and let's be real. It's for SEO. You know when you're on a website and there's these catchphrases of queer affirming and, but what does that even mean?
There's nothing in licensure. There's no board that's checking that. If you say that you are queer affirming, that you actually have some guidelines to the education you've had outside of grad. Cuz grad work does not educate you within marginalized communities. There's no standard, so people can just put whatever they want on their website and then that leaves an already vulnerable population even more vulnerable to potential. oh not oh it's not always overt compersion therapy, but definitely there are flavorings of conversion therapy with very different language and these groups around, and they're a therapist practicing that. And so how do you find, figure out who those people are and not suggest them, but they use phrases that can be scally similar.
And so if you're not, if you don't know as a person looking for therapy and they'll say things about like sexuality or gender, and so you think, oh, this is a person where I can go explore my gender or explore my sexuality and it's actually a form of conversion therapy.
Tara: Yeah. Yeah.
Melisa: Even in addition to that too, I mean there's some clinicians who I think might be really great allies and are queer affirming in the sense that they are not gonna shame or stigmatize the identity of the person coming in. But I have had clients who, even with those therapists, haven't felt comfortable talking about the details about their sex life.
Melisa: And the position they were in when somebody had a flashback. And so it time and time again, I've had clients feel so relieved of like, I can't believe I'm talking about this. I've never been able to say this in therapy. So that's not to shame people who are not queer, who are queer for make therapists, but I think that's where like the consultation before the therapy becomes really important to make sure this is somebody who's really gonna be able to hold space for what you need.
Tara: Yeah. And I think another, important thing that I learned, So I've worked with all these therapists through A F C F, and I'm starting. We have this list. I'm going through one by one. and it's amazing because like when I re reached out to you Melisa, then you introduced me to, Keely, which is amazing.
and so that's the way it's been working. and so yeah, I cannot wait to start doing online events and meet in person and just be there for each other. and one other thing that I wanna say is that I personally only wanted to make queer psych open to queer affirming and L G B T Q educated and all of that.
and I recently decided that I wanna allow other therapists in some way to get involved. Let's say that they are, they love everyone, right? everybody needs to learn pronouns. There are just so many things that even, you know, straight cis folks. Are wanting to learn but don't know where to go or what have you.
so I do wanna start doing some training on the site, which is gonna be so exciting. we're doing these, upcoming events just to introduce our trainers or our content contributors. so I'm super excited about all that and I think that just finish up the thought on, on letting other therapists in.
you know, they might not be in the directory right away, or, but they will have access to talk to peers, and really, you know, start getting in there and getting educated and then maybe they can be added to the directory, one day. so we wanna help 'em get there. so if you're not able to be on the list, there are ways to get there eventually, and we wanna support you in that.
Keely: I love it and I'm so excited. Yeah. Cuz I get to do some of those trainings. I get to be part of your training team and it's so exciting and I know I've talked to people and one of the things as a trainer is there are queer people and there are trans people that don't want to have to do the labor to educate cis hetero folks.
And for me, doing trainings that are accessible to all people, specifically people who aren't queer, so that they can learn more and be more compassionate as a therapist, but also as a human. Like there's opportunities and have a safe place where they can ask the questions where they then don't do unintentional harm to their clients.
Because regardless, even if someone isn't labeled as gender affirming or queer affirming therapist, they're gonna have people in their office that come to them randomly that are queer. And so yeah, it is important. For everyone to be educated and what a great access point to be able to provide that.
Tara: You know, one other thing that I think about too is I we're talking about my mom. I think about my mom a lot cuz I ha- I was closeted, I was kind of sad. I said, I like girls. And it was always like, okay, you're going through a phase or is like being Tara was being different. and you know, now after losing Alana, it was my mom's, niece, so, and everybody wishes that we could turn back time and make Alana feel more welcomed and really take her towards to heart and all of that.
And so my mom, she told me the other night, she was out with a group of like five friends getting together. and she said one of my, one of the people that were there. Was saying that pronouns are stupid and unnecessary, and my mom was enraged. Yet, I don't think she'd know how to answer the question why it's, she felt it in her heart that it was wrong what her, but she couldn't explain to her table why. Right?
Tara: Like how do we one day maybe educate regular everyday people to be better humans? that are more inclusive. So that's also on my mind.
Maddie: And luckily I handle the speech, language, pathology, and language part of things. so that's a- an extra bonus,
another issue for queer folks. Like language is dynamic in the meaning of things have changed. Like it has always changed. There's like all like, that's something of the English language that is like a core characteristic of language. That over time things can mean different things. They can mean plural, and it can also mean someone who doesn't identify as a she or he type of like, in that aspect of things.
so I think it's nice to have like the science research part, background and then be able to be like, Hey, this is how you can actually, like, from the communication standpoint. Like not show specific tendencies in your language.
Tara: Oh. We're also talking about how people sometimes have shame around the way their voice sounds, whether it's more masculine or feminine.
I think speech is also, yeah,
Maddie: we do, like transgender voice therapy is a huge part of, my field, which is really nice. so there's like a lot of kind of science and behind what is masculine or feminine communication look like, body language wise, like how do you kind of manipulate those things in order to present yourself the way that you feel most, most comfortable.
so that's something that I'm excited about as well.
Keely: Oh, well thank you. So both of you. Thank you. Oh my gosh. amazing things on the on the horizon nearby. So at this point, and thank you for sharing and please, oh, before we go to Queer Joy, can you share your, how would people contact you now that they hear this?
How would they contact you about this information?
Tara: Yeah, so you could reach out to me on Instagram. It's @taralshap.
you can always DM me there. or email email@example.com. yeah.
Keely: Great. Well, we always like to wrap up. This has been a variety of joy and sadness and this amazing opportunities that you're presenting out of sadness and grief. And we like to wrap things up with talking about queer joy. So, We'll have share.
Yeah. Yeah. Are you ready? I love it. we don't usually have guests here.
Tara: And you know what? It popped into my head just now. Yes.
Melisa: Brilliant. It's the best kinda choice. Spontaneous joy.
Tara: So I was like, okay. So good news is we're getting married, we're engaged, we're married, um, 4 20 24. and I just thought about this. We're getting married on a rooftop in the city. we're back in New York City after me being away for like 10 years. we have a very small posted stamp size apartment in the West Village in New York City. It's the gayest queerest area where we feel home like I could pinch her butt or give her a hug in the street. And it's amazing.
Maddie: we have like, the cubby hole around the corner, Uhhuh, the last like OG lesbian bars around. like the graffiti on the streets is like kindness and like spray painted hearts. We have like the pleasure chest down there that has like, every amazing thing. I love, depending on what month it is, I like make up a little slogan for like, for them in their store.
It was like anal August, like 25% off, like all anal toy. And like I've, I'm very heavily invested in like those staples in our neighborhood. but I think like the joy of it is that like we both spent so much time thinking that a community. Like this, or life like this didn't exist, or we were like, she was sneaking out to like Limelight when she was like 14 years old and like with the club kids in New York City.
and like we were both escaping to the mountains and trying to find that like inner peace and kind of wholeness in our community. But we have it here, we have it like with each other. We live, and our house in the Berkshires is on Manville Street. And our neighbors across the street are also lesbians that are our age.
and like an older woman. And we are like the women of Manville Street. we have a group of people we watch Drag Race with in our tiny little town at one of like the nice restaurants. it's just like we, we found our home and our niches, which is,
Tara: and the other thing, just the last thing I'll end with is that, I have hope today, I guess is the queer joy. nothing's off the table anymore. and I want to have kids one day and it's now possible again. and so that's like to have hope of things that didn't seem like it would be possible. I thought I'd end up, I was positive for a very long time that I would end my own life at some point.
And now I can't even imagine about the things I would've missed. Yeah.
Maddie: It's like, yeah. It's insane to think back and be that we're so lucky that none of that worked out, that we had the opportunities cuz it's better than anything could have imagined.
Tara: Yeah. Thank you for having us.
Keely: Totally, totally. Melisa, do you wanna share a queer joy?
Tara: Sure. Yeah.
Melisa: I'm still coming down for my queer joy. I had shared in an episode maybe a month or so ago that my high school drama teacher passed away, in February, and I had the opportunity to go back to California over the weekend and attend a celebration of her life. And, by far it was like the, just the best celebration of life I've been to. and part of that was the setting, it was held at my high school in the theater, and there was a big presentation where they actually pulled, she worked there for about 37, 38 years, and they pulled footage from every single show she directed while she was there.
And I ran into people I have not seen for 20 years who were, you know, the leads of the shows with me. It was better than any high school reunion would've, which, those are just for your class. But in theater, you know, it's a family of like the seniors of the freshman all the way down to the freshman.
And so to get to see all of these people from the most, one of the most pivotal periods of my life was just phenomenal. and for me, in addition to the people, I have a very big attachment to spaces and I got to go into the classroom where she taught us, and I got to walk from the green room backstage out onto the stage and look at that whole wide audience.
And that it just, there's so much joy. That was, like I said, a really pivotal period of my life. And for me, that space is sacred. Glad I got to go back.
Maddie: As a former drama kid. I can attest. Yeah. That's like a first like queer family kind of that Oh yeah. Everyone ever gets is. Like the theater family. Totally.
Melisa: And like, I mean like kind of as you were saying in your stories. I wasn't out in high school. I wasn't out until I was 31. No one was out at that point. Like we didn't know bisexuality was like a thing. So that was part of it. All of us comparing notes were like, you out yet, you're out. Yeah. Okay. Cool.
Keely: That's awesome. Totally. I am also a former theater person as well, so Yes. All the, it was throughout the years as more people come out, it's been his own adventure. Like, oh yeah, duh. Oh yeah. Oh, that's why you treated me that way. Oh, the really closeted Christians that would like pick on me or shame me.
Oh, now that makes more sense. Well, my queer Joy is a, just a good old standard, like celebrating drag queens. I went to drag bingo last night. Nice. And got to just hang out. And what was really beautiful about it though, Is I'd been at, there's this local bar named Escape and it's not technically a lesbian bar, but it's owned by a couple who are lesbians and it's often very queer and they, it's been interesting watching them.
When they first started owning the bar about 12 years ago and took the bar over, they were like almost resistant to really call it a queer bar or like own that part of it. They wanted to be inclusive. And then I've just seen throughout the years, it really models what has happened in the nation and in Portland, Oregon as this has become more and more mainstream, that they have jumped onto it and now.
So 10 years ago they were not doing drag shows, they weren't doing events. It was all like for everyone, still for everyone, but all these queer events now. And so I was there with a friend drinking, having a drink, and I didn't know the event was going on later. And she was ready to, she wanted to leave cuz she had to go running.
She's like this amazing runner. And I was like, what's the event going on at six, I heard someone say that and this person comes up and is like, oh, you could come join our table. So before my friend even left, this group of queer people had already offered to have me sit down and hang with them. And so I just hung out with a bunch of strangers, did drag bingo.
And then at one point I was outside as this person I'd been kind of eyeing at the bar and she's like, I'm really cold. will you hug me?
Melisa: Oh. What a line. I'm gonna have to u-. Okay.
Keely: Something beautiful about it though. Was that. That happened, and there was like a little bit of edge of flirtiness, but it didn't really go any further than that. And there was something really beautiful and queer about that, you know, because I feel like, I mean, if I was dating cis men and some cis dude asked me to hug him, a, I probably wouldn't do it.
And b, there would've been probably a lot more trying to happen than a hug. And this was just an authentic hug and giving some a body form. It was just really sweet and awesome. So that's my queer joy. And, otherwise, thanks both of you for your vulnerability, your lovely story, really sharing so much today.
Thank you. Thank you, thank you. And for everyone listening, we hope you all have a queer and joyful week.
Thanks for listening to queer relationships, queer joy, a podcast by the Connective. Therapy collective. Hosted by Keely C. Helmick and Melissa DeSegiurant with audio edited by Ley Supapo Bernido. I'm your producer, Cardinal marking. Intro music is by bad snacks. This week's guests were Tara sharp and Maddie doused.
I find Tara on Instagram at Tara L sharp or at Alana faith Chen foundation or at queer psych. If this episode made you smile or think, tell us about it. If you hated it, tell us about that. Reviews on iTunes or Spotify. Or send us an email at media at Connective Therapy, Collective dot com. For more queer joy, visit our Instagram at queer underscore relationships. Underscore queer underscore joy.
Love ya. Bye