Marina Silva is one of Nourishing Hope’s therapists who provide free mental health counseling. 

This Pride Month, I have been reminded, now more than ever, that we need each other. We need each other to celebrate our authentic selves, to learn to engage with the whole person standing in front of me at any given moment and to create community where there might be none.

As I approach my one-year anniversary this month with Nourishing Hope, formerly known as Lakeview Pantry, I relish the opportunity to reflect on my work as a therapist with an organization that empowers me to bring my whole self into the work.

As a therapist, I believe my duty is to walk alongside my clients through the tough work and equip them with the confidence and belief that they will accomplish goals to move closer to the vision of the life they deserve.

My team includes five licensed therapists and two mental wellness interns who are in their final year of graduate school for clinical counseling or social work. We collaborate through weekly meetings to discuss our clients and make sure we are serving them to the best of our abilities to meet their unique needs. Our work with clients is crucial to their overall well-being, and sometimes we find we are the only support that a client might have in their life.

As a queer therapist of color, I feel a heightened sense of urgency in this work. My clients who identify as LGBTQIA+ and/or as Black, Indigenous, people of color, face a higher probability of experiencing food insecurity, homelessness, isolation and discrimination — simply for being who they are.

These challenges are compounded by the institutional systems and structures that allow suffering to persist. At Nourishing Hope, my colleagues and I work to support our clients, so they can thrive and not merely survive.

This summer I will be starting a new therapy group for LGBTQIA+ people who are hoping to explore and celebrate being queer. This is a group where people will investigate gender, sexuality, their intersections and work to build queer community. My wish is that all who participate, including myself, gain confidence and a deeper sense of connection to our authentic selves and to each other.

Everyone has a right to peace, love and joy. If I can share that with each person that I come into contact with, then I have done my job that day. I can see love and joy manifest in queer community, but the idea and experience of peace is more elusive. Especially in our troubled world today, my clients’ worries often reflect how hard peace is to obtain. When our governments and elected officials endorse harmful ideologies that lead to things like the “Don’t Say Gay” law in Florida, or purport that there is nothing we can do about mass shootings — how is a person supposed to feel peace?

I think COVID lockdown has also led folks to challenge assumptions and stories about these systems to the surface. Sometimes the stories we tell ourselves, the narratives that often define and confine us, prevent us from truly experiencing peace. I encourage you to reflect on these questions:

Do you have peace in your life? When do you feel like your best self? When does your community make you feel joyful? How can you work with your community to bring about the world as it should be? How will you choose to move about the world in the way that affirms all that you are?

To my LGBTQIA+ peers, thank you for showing up and out this month! Our peace, our love and our joy is something to be proud of!

To everyone: Let’s work toward making our world a place where we can all celebrate our most authentic selves.