Overview of Metanoia Institute at Pride London
Report back from Lucy Watt, recent graduate, BSc in Reflective Therapeutic Practice with Diploma in Humanistic Counselling
I can’t remember exactly why I suggested that it might be “fun” for Metanoia to join the LGBT+ (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, plus) Pride in London parade this year. I think I had been struck by the slogan chosen for this year’s parade: #nofilter - which is a play on the Instagram tag that people use when they haven’t used a filter on the photo they are sharing, because it looks good just as it is. So in this context, #nofilter is being use to say Pride is about being who you are without filtering yourself for other people who might not accept you as you are, and resonates so closely with the work we all do as trainee counsellors and psychotherapists, and trainers, at Metanoia.
Exploring these LGBT+ issues through the new Equalities and Diversity Committee at Metanoia, and throughout my own training journey, made me realise that it would not only be fun for us to march at Pride, but also very poignant. Poignant, in particular, for the therapy clients we see who still see putting up that filter to protect themselves from the lack of acceptance of others (in a recent survey, 75% of LGBT people still reporting feeling the need to lie about their sexual orientation or gender identity - http://metro.co.uk/2016/06/23/gay-people-still-feel-the-need-to-hide-their-sexuality-5961645/) and have their sense of “not being okay” and internalised homophobia reflected back at them by events such as the recent shooting in an LGBT Latino club in Orlando.
So on 25th June 2016, a group of around 18 Metanoia trainers, trainees, partners and friends, gathered and marched, just behind the Samaritans and Victim Support, through central London, with our banner and flyers making our presence visible to thousands of onlookers in the packed, cheering crowds of Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square. We were making a statement that not only do we fully accept LGBT+ people in the training and therapy rooms at Metanoia, but we (that usually very private profession) are prepared to be seen publically not only supporting, but positively celebrating with, the LGBT+ communities from across the country.
Thank you to everyone who came along and joined in the momentous day (and sorry to Gestalt people as it was your training weekend – thanks for the messages of support..) and watch out for details of our plans for Pride 2017 – we hope you can join us then!
Report back from Carole Shadbolt,M.Sc(Psych) CTA.TSTA.CQSW. App.Soc.Sci.Dip.Sup. TA trainer and superviser.
Times change; small fringe movements representing an idea grow and become large established institutions.
Once a trainer, at what was then “metanoia”, said to me that if you love an idea or project, then it will survive and thrive.
Two examples of the truth of her comment came together on Saturday 25th June London when The Metanoia Institute publicly supported Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender
(LGBT) trainees, trainers and staff as well as LGBT people everywhere at the Pride Parade in London for the first time. Students, staff and graduate members, their friends and families marched together under a Metanoia banner.
The first Gay Pride marches in the mid to late seventies were supported by perhaps a few hundred people, if that. There were no corporate sponsors, and plenty of police.
Memories... as we marched down Oxford Street: a ring of police was thrown around Mothercare, and a lighthearted, and no doubt mischievous, request by one marcher in BHS to be served by a gay shop assistant was met with an unamused police arrest. A horrible gob of someone’s spit landing on my neck was a shocking insult. In those early years, the march symbolised the experience of being gay when most gay people were met with smouldering hostility, outrage by onlookers. Sometimes it felt as if the police actually outnumbered the marchers.
“metanoia” was an embryonic idea in the minds of three friends back then, and at that stage it was not yet called “metanoia”, but was known as Petruska and Sue’s training group. The training material for the first of their TA training groups fitted on one side of an A4 sheet, I still have mine. And grow it did, these days The Metanoia Institute is one of the largest psychotherapy institutes in the world, offering a huge choice of trainings, with over a thousand students, and countless other graduates.
The Pride in London, as it is now known, was attended by over a million people and there were over three hundred organisations represented, Metanoia Institute amongst them. I saw three uniformed policemen in the parade and heard later that during the parade one policeman, marching with a group of police colleagues, stopped the parade to propose to his boyfriend who was an onlooker in the crowds. Such changes are sometimes unbelievable, but changes they are!
The parallel of the growth of two fringe movements, with their founders nurturing an idea and a dream, do not end there. The three people who founded Metanoia, the late Petruska Clarkson, the late Sue Fish and the late Brian Dobson, were “out” in the eighties, as different an experience then as the difference and development in the two organisations now. They understood as well as felt discrimination themselves. They came from South Africa, a country consumed and torn apart by apartheid. Their very presence in the middle of London in those days stood as a dialectic. They had the experience of leaving a country because of the fear of prejudice. They found a similar prejudice here;one being fired for being gay, a deeply shaming experience.
Being “out” in the eighties was a rather different social experience than it is today, and thank goodness it is so. Within psychotherapy itself discrimination was present, coming out in psychoanalytic circles was nothing short of professional suicide. My dreams of being a psychoanalyst were gently accepted by Petruska, but she carefully and lovingly gave me information of the homophobia rife within the profession. She had felt it herself, that much was clear to me. So thanks to brave psychotherapists, the founders of Metanoia amongst them, and those who followed them who have over the years been willing to stand in the face of mostly implicit but sometimes explicit homophobia (or hatred and fear of difference), for example within psychology and psychotherapy, the pathologisation of a person’s sexuality has been removed from such publications as the DSM, and there is robust objection to organisations undertaking gay so called reparative conversion therapy.
These wickednesses are mercifully seen for what they are: acts of psychological terrorism and times have changed, mostly.
The implicit celebration and promotion of difference and freedoms have always run through the cultural heart and instincts of Metanoia, past and present but only with the suggestion of marching in Pride has it Come Out itself...
The celebration of the process of transformation, growth and change (a metanoia) might be complete were it not for the fact that horrific homophobic acts as well as any other form of “othering” and scapegoating are all too present still today. The murders of the young people in the Orlando gay club, the emergence of post-Brexit racism, brings horror, grief and hatred close again. At the heart of all acts of hatred lies grief and loss and a melancholic wish for a long gone unmourned for past, that will never return. That these were only too present meant that as well as the fun of Pride, its flamboyance, freedom and the “#nofilter” message, we were in essence still marching for the same rights and against hatred... and we were walking with ghosts.