You are a licensed counselor who works with folks exploring their sexuality, kinks/fetishes & more than monogamous relationships. Why did you choose these topics to specialize in?
What a great question. Folx are often surprised when I tell them some of my specialties.
At the heart of this, I came out and fully accepted myself when I was twenty. I was seeing a counselor at the university counseling center, she had given me a simple assignment.
I had to take a box and on the outside (using words and pictures) describe what I project to the world, while on the inside show what I hid. My sexuality was everything hidden. I did not know it at the time, but that would become the foundation of my work as a therapist. I knew, going through graduate school, that I wanted to work with the LGBTQ+ community and do relationship work.
The more I worked with my community, the more it came to light that kinks and fetishes were going to be a part of my work. Once a person challenges one social expectation (to be heterosexual) that allows them the unique gift to challenge other social expectations, such as conventional sex or monogamy. I came to realize that our culture’s shame around sex was, and continues, to hurt so many people.
So I decided to focus on being a sex positive therapist. I wanted to create a space where people could examine their sexuality, without shame, and decide what was best for them. Beyond that, I wanted folx to be able to consider how their sexuality might be a support to their goals in life, as well as mental health.
What do we often get wrong about sexual health?
Our culture’s shame around sex actually creates and maintains a number of issues. A great example of this are STIs.
There is so much stigma about STIs and it absolutely hurts people physically and psychologically. If being diagnosed with an STI makes a person “dirty,” then how likely are they to get tested regularly?
As long a person is asymptomatic (having no symptoms of an STI) they can sidestep the potential shame they might feel for being diagnosed with a STI by avoiding management of their own sexual health. This puts their health and the health of their partners at risk.
The shame associated with having a STI not only keeps folx from regular sexual health screenings, it causes a great deal of stress for individuals when they happen to be diagnosed with a STI. Sometimes causing isolation, anxiety, depression.
All of this is unnecessary, we just have to take the shame out of sex. STIs are just viruses and bacterias trying to live, just like any other microorganism. When we remove shame from the conversation, we are much more prepared to minimize the spread of them.
I also see sexual shame as a major factor contributing to a lack of consent, which can lead to sexual assault and rape.If people are not aware of their sexual desires and healthy ways to explore them they often end up hurting others when those desires are eventually expressed.
Power and control are common themes explored in the kink/fetish community. It is done so with safety, respect, communication, and consent being key factors. Folx can objectify others with permission, as they take control and they feel a sense of power they have longed for; all while having that dynamic celebrated. Consenting partners who willingly take a sub/bottom position are escorted out of the erotic world and back into their everyday lives through aftercare.
Their autonomy and power returned to them. Sexual shame keeps too many people from considering BDSM as a healthy outlet for their desire to have power or control, yet that desire remains. So, unfortunately, it gets expressed and harms individuals who did not give their consent to be objectified. Victims have their power and autonomy ripped away from them.
There is no aftercare for them, no connection to help them feel whole and taken care off after being violated. When shame is removed from sexuality, people can find many willing participants to indulge their fantasies; and reduce the harm of those desires being expressed on unwilling, unknowing people.
What do we often get wrong about communication in relationships?
People often think that if somebody loves you then they should just know what you want, which leads to a lot of unmet needs and wants; and causes relationships to end. People are complex, sometimes we want contradictory things at the same time! You might want to be held and left alone.
Communication in relationships starts within, examine yourself and then practice kind, compassionate ways of sharing with your partner/s.
What’s something you wish you could say to your 16 year old self?
This is a uniquely challenging question for me to answer. At 16 I was deep into the Christian faith as a way to manage the toxic shame I felt for being gay. In that time I came out to my youth group leaders, and they tried to pray my gay away.
Spoiler alert, it did not take.
At the time, I thought it was because I didn’t love god enough and two weeks after the failed pray I secretly tried to end my life. Well, it was unsuccessful and that shifted my perspective. I thought, if god made men and women in his image then god is genderqueer, like me.
I thought, god must really like me to make me so much like him; and I started challenging messages from my church which lead to my coming out and self acceptance when I was twenty. So advice I’d give myself at sixteen, “Gurl, you do you and don’t worry about them.”
What’s one challenge you face in your work that your still working on navigating?
In the wake of the #metoo movement I am working with a number of men who are examining their past interactions with women.
Many of them are considering how they might have inadvertently mishandled flirting, dating, sex without a guide on how to do it respectfully.
So, I help them process those moments, take responsibility while managing shame. That way they can do better now and in the future.
What’s something you’re working to unlearn?
We all learn ways to deal with the chaos of the world that are useful in many situations, just not all of them. It’s like trying to build a house with just a hammer, it’s great for nailing things and even prying things.
A hammer is pretty wonderful until you need to cut some wood. The hammer will get the job done, it will just be janky.
Much more janky than if you’d considered using a saw instead. I am a queer in Texas, I’ve learned to dismiss a great deal of nonsense. Many politicians have pontificated that me, and people like me, are somehow less than.
Dismissing that rhetoric helps operate on a daily basis, but if I try to dismiss the words of people I care about when it is not convenient to hear them it can do some real damage to that relationship.
What’s one way you’ve been seeking to heal?
I practice self-compassion daily, allowing myself to make mistakes and grow from them. It makes me a kinder person to the people in my life, and something I longed for when I was a closeted kid. To be seen, completely. Accepted with love and understanding.
What’s at the intersection of sex & healing?
I think sex itself can be healing. Sex is where we can connect physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. So, connection would be in the center of all that.
Who do you go to when you’re needing support and guidance?
I have so many brilliant colleagues, who also happen to be kind, caring people. I am also married to the sweetest person I know. He is wonderful at providing support in any form it is requested to come in, from food to feelings.
When was the last time you practiced self-care and why is self-care important to you?
I practice it everyday in multiple ways, and the last was working out. I workout five days a week, to feel my own strength and for the emotional benefits of exercise. Self-care is important to me because it encourages me to manage myself, check inwards and take action to meet my own needs. It rejuvenates me so that I can continue to be a caretaker to others.
Question: Who are a few amazing people that we should follow and why?
Goody Howard is the real deal sexpert and makes learning fun. She taught a workshop in Austin that I helped support and it was wild. Goody also makes dope content for all folx.
Imagine that all your life’s work disappeared and you only had 1 minute to tell the world what you truly believe to be true. What would you say?
Explore yourself, understand your own values and what makes them priorities for you, then build your life around that.
Adam Maurer, LMFT, LPC is a sex positive, genderqueer therapist in Austin, TX. She helps folx explore topics such as: coming out, more than monogamous relationships, kinks and fetishes, and gender. When he is not helping folx in therapy he can be found performing and speaking at events across Texas. Learn more about Adam and connect: Instagram + Web.