August 1, 2022

Queer Asterisk makes LGBTQ-plus mental health a priority

BOULDER — The LGBTQ+ community’s relationship with the mental-health establishment has traditionally been fraught. 

“Our identities have historically been considered a form of mental illness. In many parts of the world, they still are. Access to affirming mental health care is essential for this reason. As queer and trans people, we hold collective trauma in our bodies — whether we have personally experienced violence and discrimination or not,” Queer Asterisk program director RP Whitmore-Bard told BizWest.

Queer Asterisk, a non-profit organization founded by Naropa-trained therapists, was launched in 2016 in effort to make specialized mental-health care accessible for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The group provides affirming mental-health services, educational training and community programs. Queer Asterisk, which has facilities in Boulder, Longmont, Denver and Fort Collins serving about 1,000 clients, also hosts support groups and special workshops.

“We wanted to create a specialized work environment for emerging experts in our field to learn and grow, and a therapeutic treatment center for our community that places queer and trans experiences at the forefront,” Whitmore-Bard said. 

You might be wondering: Where does the Queer Asterisk name come from?

“Historically used as a derogatory slur, the word ‘queer’ has been reclaimed by many people as a term of empowerment,” Whitmore-Bard said. “‘Queer’ is sometimes considered an umbrella term to encompass non-normative experiences, expressions, or identities. For some, ‘queer’ represents more than a gender or sexual orientation; it can also reflect an orientation to thought, relationships, work, systems, and more. At our organization, many of us like to think of ‘queer’ as a definition for the indefinable, a placeholder word for the sacred liminal experiences of queer people.”

Well, what about the asterisk part?

“As a symbol designed to reference material that has been omitted, ‘asterisk’ reflects the social marginalization of our stories and experiences as queer people,” Whitmore-Bard said. “‘Asterisk’ also brings to light the reality that who we are can never be fully encompassed in any one term or diagnosis. This framework is an important consideration for anyone working in systematized health care; a reminder of the uniqueness and complexity of each human being’s life.”

The community suffers from disproportionate rates of suicide, addiction and eating disorders, Whitmore-Bard said.

“Mental health providers who understand this, and who are trained to work with it, get to be a part of the collective healing and collective liberation of our communities,” Whitmore-Bard said. “Not by fixing who we are to make us more ‘normal,’ but by journeying alongside us to discover and integrate  the inherent power of who we are as queer people.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a significant uptick in request for services.

“At the same time, we had to learn how to operate in an entirely new way. With the support of grant funding and generous individual donors, we grew our staff and organizational infrastructure to meet the demand as effectively as we could,” said Whitmore-Bard, while offering “huge gratitude to our therapists and our client care team, who have given so much to others over these years, when none of us has been personally exempt from the uncertainty and grief of the pandemic.”

For more information about Queer Asterisk’s programs and ways to support the group, visit www.queerasterisk.com.

BOULDER — The LGBTQ+ community’s relationship with the mental-health establishment has traditionally been fraught. 

“Our identities have historically been considered a form of mental illness. In many parts of the world, they still are. Access to affirming mental health care is essential for this reason. As queer and trans people, we hold collective trauma in our bodies — whether we have personally experienced violence and discrimination or not,” Queer Asterisk program director RP Whitmore-Bard told BizWest.

Queer Asterisk, a non-profit organization founded by Naropa-trained therapists, was launched in 2016 in effort to make specialized mental-health care accessible for members of the LGBTQ+…

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