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Black psychologist Dr. Jonathan Lassiter fights for society’s ‘ultimate underdogs’

October 18, 2017

by Adilifu Fundi

A clinician actually fighting for America’s ultimate underdogs – as his academic “focus” – immediately grabbed my attention. Dr. Jonathan Lassiter, PhD, a clinical psychologist and an assistant professor of psychology at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, visited San Francisco this past summer, as he was enrolled in the Visiting Professors’ Program at the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies at UCSF.

Jonathan Lassiter, PhD – Photo: Adilifu Fundi

He’s a polymath (an expert in a significant number of subjects), a critical thinker and notably a healer; to him “breaking down” mental health dynamics for the average person’s easier understanding – and practical life improvement use – is paramount. It’s a key prong on our shared model.

Dr. Lassiter has co-edited a new book with Dr. Lourdes Dolores Follins titled, “Black LGBT Health in the United States: The Intersection of Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation.” His research and courses taught at Muhlenberg highlight this subject as the crux – added is the pivotal component of “spirituality.” For these authors, it’s extremely personal.

Both doctors strive to end a travesty: “Most research on Black LGBT folk has been done by people who are neither Black nor LGBT.” The book is an anthology addressing nearly two dozen physical and mental health issues – giving unprecedented voice to established and aspiring Black clinicians who’re LGBT themselves – determined to “humanize” their kindred. The preface states, unsurprisingly, that there were no previous books “specifically about LGBT healthcare” – still a shocking thought.

And for sadly predictable reasons, such as academia’s restrictions and generational loss, voices from contributing veteran LGBT survivors “over 50” and trans women are missing.

Topics include:

  • “For Us, By Us: A Manifesto of Black SGL [Same Gender Loving] and Trans Health, by Dr. Lassiter”;
  • “Balancing Act: Identity Management and Mental Health among Black LBT Women, by Siobhan Brooks”; and
  • “Status Quo: Intersectionality Theory, Afrocentric Paradigm and Meeting the Healthcare Needs of Gay and Bisexual African American Men, by Dante’ D. Bryant.”

Both doctors strive to end a travesty: “Most research on Black LGBT folk has been done by people who are neither Black nor LGBT.”

While Blacks in general are the most oppressed and broken segment, Black gays and lesbians are crunched under again – making those in the Black LGBT spectrum America’s ultimate underdogs. Lassiter bears this out, stating Black LGBT members are dehumanized by the Black mainstream – and by the white gay community, the dominant source of LGBT services; we’re subjected to layered marginalization in all avenues of communal expression and validation – made isolated and socially invisible.

Conversely, he honors our resilience and self-determination, rejecting that boxed-in, exclusion abuse. What Lassiter implies here is that a multitude of additional physical and mental health issues are tied directly to social oppression – clearly distinct from basic medical challenges. They’re civically linked “conditions.”

Reformist veterans harp about disenfranchisement’s worst byproduct: underdogs at rock bottom attacking each other, ignoring seriously overlapping issues. All miss the shining light of humanity’s age-old tools. Black mainstream reality clearly merges this doctor’s “intersection” – the spectrum on which we all fall.

While Blacks in general are the most oppressed and broken segment, Black gays and lesbians are crunched under again – making those in the Black LGBT spectrum America’s ultimate underdogs.

Spirituality joined with psychotherapy is the most powerful transformational tool, and it appears that Dr. Lassiter agrees. “Evidence based” psychotherapy is the cornerstone of his teaching and consultations.

The doctor is a noted choreographer: dance synchronized in educational force – the spiritual nexus of traditional African and global pre-colonial societies.

In one of UCSF’s sparkling new Mission Bay medical facilities, we hunkered into a relaxed exchange.

Did he know of any national, self-determined Black AIDS agencies still operating autonomously? Besides standard government or community sponsors, do any Black facilities independently set agendas – really calling the shots?

The answer was simply no. He knows of no Black led HIV services that aren’t off-shoots of governments – or satellites from white gay based establishments.

Spirituality joined with psychotherapy is the most powerful transformational tool, and it appears that Dr. Lassiter agrees. “Evidence based” psychotherapy is the cornerstone of his teaching and consultations.

Here’s buried history:

1980s pioneer white gay agencies – and other rarely involved entities – were sued by minority advocates for extreme neglect. Suddenly all mainstream services had to show proof of clinical outreach to minorities to get HIV funding, and many groups pushed for sustainable, independently run minority institutions – for obvious reasons.

Additionally, colonial or “radicalized” Christianity as an all-encompassing religious force sits at the heart of imploding, self-sabotaging Afro culture. Afro-America’s “object of worship” is not Joshua’s – or Christ’s – original intent, but instead this: America’s cosmetics industry, narcissism, isolationist material wealth and colonial warlord brutality – demonstrated by unbridled Black-on-Black violence.

Jonathan feels Black justice advocates coalescing nationally will more quickly materialize, considering social media’s advent. He addressed today’s rising Black psychology “stars’” window-dressing progressiveness – still mired in homophobic trappings.

His work is audacious, critical – and pioneer.

Progress does translate into furthering our own exchange – beyond brief novelty drop-in sessions. Blacks must pool every available proven and novice Black resource – beyond pop culture celebrity bedazzlement.

Jonathan feels Black justice advocates coalescing nationally will more quickly materialize, considering social media’s advent. He addressed today’s rising Black psychology “stars’” window-dressing progressiveness – still mired in homophobic trappings.

No time to expand upon Black and gay “fuzzy leadership” – or homophobia reports in some Black Lives Matter chapters; ancestral neglect; vanishing Black institutions, such as no SF Black LGBT communal depth “moving and shaking”; L.A.’s Minority AIDS Project that may survive; or Black “self-hatred” in LGBT folk – trickiness raising Afro “consciousness” amid white cosmetic gay worship – and the like.

Spiritual legend says unexpected warriors will and do arise – here, Dr. Jonathan Lassiter, PhD, has arrived!

Renaissance man describes the professional singer, actor, dancer, educator, historian, spiritual advocate and published author Adilifu Fundi, a 25-year resident San Franciscan and native of San Diego. Trained in cross-cultural and general social repair, Fundi spent the past 42 years utilizing lectures, workshops and performance in the social trenches, aiding the Black and general American mainstream gay and lesbian, gay people of color and Black LGBTQ segments with creating viable community. He can be reached at adilifufundi@outlook.com. This story first appeared on his blog, Adilifu Fundi, Renaissance Man. The Bay View thanks Erica Finkelstein for her editing assistance.

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