Gina Thorne: Hi everyone, welcome to the Harmony Foundation podcast series. I’m pleased today to be joined with Luca Pax and Sorin Thomas with Queer Asterisk, out of Boulder, Colorado. Welcome.
Sorin Thomas: Thank you.
Luca Pax: Welcome, thanks for having us.
Gina Thorne: It’s really good to have you here. Before we get into specifics around Queer Asterisk, lets talk a little bit about what got you into the field of addiction treatment, Sorin?
Sorin Thomas: So let’s see, I grew up in Europe where there was a very different culture around drinking, and started drinking young. So, before I had come to the States I was already sober at 17 years old. It was just I think right time, right place so that played into it for sure. But I got to the University of Notre Dame, and the first person I met and really felt a mentorship vibe with was the Director of Alcohol and Drug Treatment Center. So I became a peer mentor, and just got more and more involved, and did that for years. So I started at the University of Notre Dame and I continued to peer mentorship program at Naropa University. Then I went on to do my [kak 00:01:12] classes and get my LAC.
Gina Thorne: Is there something that you feel pulled to in working with people with addiction, and helping them with their recovery?
Sorin Thomas: You know I think that what draws me the most, and now I’m realizing this more as I understand my queer and trans identity. I think the pull is the misunderstood community. I really resonant with the stigma of what addicts have to deal with, it’s similar to mental health and it’s similar to prejudice that marginalized groups deal with.
Gina Thorne: That seems very appropriate. Seems very appropriate.
Sorin Thomas: Yeah.
Gina Thorne: So Luca, Queer Asterisk is a therapeutic program and it provides services to LGBTQPIA, can you describe the type of services you offer and what a client would expect when they come to your program?
Luca Pax: Yeah, so … Yeah you know we have a lot of different ways to get involved with Queer Asterisk, so one thing we’re most known for is our team of, right now it’s six, queer and trans identified therapists who work with individuals or couples, or families. Also, run group sometimes. So that’s the clinical side of things, and with that we have also added a peer mentorship program. So that’s more affordable, either supplement or alternative to folks who are looking for therapy. Our peer mentors have all sorts of different specialties and interests, so it can be really tailored for folks who are looking for a companion or a buddy to go into the world with, or to talk through things with in a more friendly and supportive way.
Luca Pax: Then we have our programming, so it’s all either low cost or donation based groups that happen every week, or twice a month. We have a group called The Queer Conversation, where folks are able to talk about anything related to queerness, or their experience with that. We have a writing group, we have different workshops that happen periodically, everything from an herbalism workshop, to acupuncture. We have folks who are working with … We had a creating style group where folks were doing fashion design. So it’s really broad and open to what members of the community are wanting to see happen, and how they’re wanting to share their skill sets, or passions. We have lots of different community partnerships. So a lot of our events are in relation with other organizations.
Luca Pax: We do queer nights, we had one at Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance, we had one at Buffalo Exchange Clothing store. So again, really focusing on therapeutic ways that we can be in community with each other and really they tend to have like a pretty celebratory theme of not just the sort of resilience. But really what does it look like to thrive as queer and trans people, and do that in community with each other, and supporting each other. Yeah, so those are some of the main avenues of getting connected.
Luca Pax: As far as what people would expect by seeing from our staff, Sorin can speak more to the clinical side. But a lot of our facilitators have a mindfulness approach to holding spaces. So sometimes that looks like being comfortable with discomfort. Holding some pauses, there’s a slightly different feel than a lot of support groups. We don’t segregate based on gender identity or expression. So we get a lot of people in spaces who may have really different experiences of what it means to be queer and or trans. But it ends up being a really unique space where we’re able to connect in a lot of, sometimes, unexpected ways. To acknowledge how many tensions and differences there are within our community. But to be more yeah, more committed to leaning into that instead of just parceling ourselves into smaller and smaller groups.
Gina Thorne: Also, you know going back to what you said Sorin, is also looking at how do you help people understand? How do you help create a safe space? How do you address the stigma that often comes along with that? So it sounds like you all are creating something that’s responding to those issues.
Sorin Thomas: Yeah we do that and we also do it with our community partnerships. That’s why the educational branch of what we do is so important, when we look at the whole of all the aspects of what we do. So that’s going into there, so many organizations who are realizing that they would benefit from a little bit more comfortability with inclusivity and diversity. So then they reach out to organizations like ours and say, hey could you give an all staff training? Or could you look at our materials and make sure that our languaging is inclusive? We really want to have our whole organization behind this, and be able to hold queer and trans clients the way that we hold our other clients. We’re missing some skills.
Gina Thorne: You all are definitely creating a very unique service that is much needed for sure. So I’m going to ask both of you this question because it’s not just about learning about Queer Asterisk, it’s about learning about the people behind it. So we’re going to ask a little bit about your thoughts around this idea, and I’ll start with you first Luca. If you could have a giant billboard anywhere, with anything on it, metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions, what would it say? And why?
Luca Pax: First thing that comes is just a simple statement for anyone, ’cause I believe it applies to anyone. You are valid and you are worthy. I think that for so many people, with so many different identities, within and without of queer communities, that is something that’s incredibly lost in many societies. But I’m speaking specifically to a dominant society here in the US. Like really that’s seems like kind of about the core of a lot of what I care about is this like, sometimes radical notion that we are actually all worthy of love and respect. In light of all of our different experiences of the world and ourselves. Yeah.
Gina Thorne: I really like that, a lot. Let me steal that, I really like that.
Luca Pax: It’s free.
Gina Thorne: It’s true. How about you Sorin?
Sorin Thomas: Yeah, I would say to go off of that I think I would probably say something along the lines of, claim your gifts please, the world needs you. I truly believe, and it’s a value at our organization that everyone has inherent, innate gifts. Sometimes we can get so distracted, especially marginalized people by surviving in this world and fitting in. Proving our worth and our value, that we forget that we also have something to give. So that’s part of, like that’s a huge reason why this organization started with queer and trans folks. Looking around there are enough of us who are professionals, who are capable and competent to bring our gifts to the world. We don’t need to rely on allies. Allies are wonderful, but there was so much gate keeping that was happening and it just perpetuates the sense that queer and trans people are less than. We need to go SIS straight people for our psycho therapy, for our medical examines, yeah.
Gina Thorne: It’s great, I love the messages. Those are significant, I think they’re the best ones I’ve heard so far. Best ones I’ve heard so far. So Sorin playing off the idea of word harmony, what do you think it means to live in harmony?
Sorin Thomas: Yeah, for me when I think of harmony I think of balance and alignment of course. I also think immediately, I mean in this environment that we’re in right now, balance in ourselves, in our relationships, and also our relationships with the non human world. What is it like for humans to truly live, tread lightly and live in harmony with the rest of the beings around us. Then intra personally I think of having a balance of these are things that I’m working on. Things that I can always do better, and then also saying at a certain point, it’s good enough. I also have these gifts, yeah.
Gina Thorne: Like it.
Sorin Thomas: So not going too far into the light, or too far into the dark.
Gina Thorne: Yeah.
Luca Pax: It really makes me think of integrity too, and when we’re looking at the journey of a queer and trans person like, really what does it mean to live in integrity with who you are? What does it mean to have that alignment seen as valid and real? Like have that be reflected in your communities and in your families. Just so much possibility is grown from that place of getting to be in harmony with one’s self, and with one’s purpose and gifts. Yeah, and to have that be supported.
Gina Thorne: Having that tribe of people.
Luca Pax: Yeah true.
Gina Thorne: I agree, makes sense. Makes a lot of sense.
Luca Pax: Yeah community.
Gina Thorne: Yup, so Luca if someone wanted to access services at Queer Asterisk how could they get in touch with you?
Luca Pax: Yeah, so have a website, which is www.queerasterisk.com and that’s A-S-T-E-R-I-S-K, like the punctuation. We have Facebook, which is Facebook.com/queerasterisk. You can also follow us on Instagram, but to reach our clinical director who’s Sorin, you can email info I-N-F-O @queerasterisk.com to get in touch with a therapist. With whom you can do a free 20 minute consultation. Or you can call us anytime at 720-507-6161
Gina Thorne: Outstanding. Well it was a pleasure to have both of you here today at Harmony.
Luca Pax: Thanks so much Gina.
Gina Thorne: Really great.
Sorin Thomas: Yeah, thank you.
Visit them at: www.queerasterisk.com