In her call for submissions for this month’s Carnival, Elizabeth asked people to write about their experiences with therapists, or the considerations they would need to take into account if they wished to seek therapy. I’m not currently in therapy, nor seeking to do so. I have thought about it a few times, however, and realized there are a lot of obstacles.
When I think about visiting a therapist, I have to take into account that I am:
- a sex-averse, aromantic asexual
- a hijab-wearing Muslim convert
- someone with accessibility limitations due to not being able to drive
I don’t tell my primary care physician that I’m asexual. It’s not relevant to any treatment that he might provide me with. What he needs to know (and does) is that I’m not sexually active, have never been, and don’t plan to be. As far as I’m concerned, why is none of his business.
Having said that, I wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about asexuality, aromanticism, or especially sex aversion if it was relevant unless I trusted that my provider understood these identities and accepted them. I feel like someone who wasn’t ace-competent might try to “fix” my sex aversion or tell me that I should try to “get over it”. I also suspect that they might feel that my aromanticism (not falling in love, not having ever dated) was “abnormal”.
If I went to a therapist, it would be to seek help with dealing with how the world treats me as sex-averse, aromantic, and asexual, not for trying to change any of those characteristics.
Another thing I don’t want to deal with from a medical professional is thinking I’m “repressed” or “oppressed” because I wear hijab, or who thought it was strange of me to have converted to Islam. I don’t think my PCP necessarily knows a lot about Islam, but he accepts it without reservation and is able to provide me with culturally competent care.
Earlier this year, I developed knee bursitis, which made it difficult to kneel - something I do a lot of in my five daily prayers. My doctor didn’t try to tell me I shouldn’t pray like that, but instead he helped me find workarounds (such as using a yoga mat under my prayer rug) to continue to pray while my knee recovered. That’s the kind of attitude I need from a provider.
If I did go to a therapist at the current time, it would most likely be to seek help for dealing specifically with the issues I discussed in Coming out of hiding: How isolation, erasure, and invalidation over asexuality have affected my mental health. This is primarily burnout from interactions within online Muslim social justice spaces (which serve as my primary Muslim community).
For a therapist to understand these dynamics, they would probably need to be Muslim themselves in order to have sufficient knowledge, and I would also need them to be familiar with the unique issues that converts face.
Finding an ace-competent therapist seems challenging enough. Finding a convert-competent Muslim therapist probably isn’t easy either, if only because Muslims are a small percentage of the U.S. population and thus of therapists. Finding a therapist who was both Muslim and ace-competent seems like trying to find a unicorn.
And that brings in a third issue. I’m very unlikely to find such a therapist in the city where I live. And if they were in another city in this area, getting there by bus would take up a lot of my time and make it difficult for me to get there very often without having to take time off work regularly. Or what if they could only be found in another state? Do therapists offer sessions over Skype?!
Sometimes I feel like my life is a catch-22. I’m marginalized in multiple ways both in the larger society and in Muslim communities and those multiple marginalizations often seem to intersect (especially with my accessibility limitations) in ways that make it very difficult to get to things that I might need from others.
I also feel like I’m such a rare intersection as an asexual Muslim convert that only a handful of people would even understand my experiences, and those people are other ordinary asexual Muslims and not likely to be therapists.