University Park, IL,
14:27 PM

Take Pride, GSU

It’s difficult for Ethan Swift to share details of life circumstances that left him feeling lost—unfocused and in financial straits—in the months before he arrived at Governors State University.  

Emotional wounds remain unhealed, though a salve came from his work in Student Counseling Center as part of a training for a doctoral program at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

Carefully weighing his words, Swift does reveal that his journey of self-discovery and resiliency was a long road that led him to GSU.

“Governors State was a second chance for me. My time here reminds me I am capable of achieving my goals,’’ said Swift who completes his doctoral therapy externship this month just in time to celebrate Pride Month.

Though the LGBTQ community is highlighted each year with June parades and festivals, the need to create a culture of inclusion that embraces all stretches across each month to fill the entire year.

It starts with self-acceptance, Swift said. “We have to love ourselves a little extra because so many of us are rejected by those who are supposed to love us.” That’s the message Swift infused into every individual and group interaction when he arrived in 2017.

On campus, he started two support groups one for transgender, non-binary, and gender questioning individuals and another for the broader community of LGBTQI+, which encompasses everyone under the sexual minority and gender minority spectrum.

Fellow doctoral therapy extern Jordan Biedrzycki and GSU psychology Professor Amina Dahleh co-facilitated the groups, which met weekly to explore and celebrate the identities of participants, as well as to offer support to allies of individuals seeking love, acceptance, and healing.

For those who were murdered shattering any sense of peace, Swift launched the Transgender Day of Remembrance in November. In the ceremony, the resiliency of life was celebrated even as the individuals lost were commemorated. The names of those who died the year before at their own hands or the hands of others were called during the ceremony.

The celebrations and support groups were a nice complement to the daily conservations Swift had in the Student Counseling Center with students, faculty, and staff seeking answers to questions on how to cope with identity struggles or how to help a professor introduce or explore a sensitive topic.

In the days leading up to Swift’s departure, he reflected on a steady stream of emails expressing gratitude as he closed out his projects. His goals, once buried in life’s overwhelming circumstances, came into focus during his time at Governors State.

“I’m grateful that GSU was an integral part of my journey to find my purpose. My life’s goal is to help people feel loved and accepted and to move mental health forward. People should know that self-love is self-healing.’’

Did you or will you attend a Pride event this month? We want to see your photos! Show us how you Pride! Tag your photos #GovState on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

If you are struggling with any part of your identity, questioning your orientation, or are otherwise in need of mental health care or resources, the GSU Counseling Center can be reached at 708.235.7334 or by email.