Why I’m an optimist

Posted: October 28th, 2016 | Columns, Featured, Life Beyond Therapy | No Comments

By Michael Kimmel | Life Beyond Therapy

You might think with so much ugliness, cruelty and fear in the world, that optimism would be foolish or naïve.


The ugliness has always been there, but now, it’s all out there for everyone to see it. These days, the ugliness is coming out of the closet.

Michael Kimmel

Michael Kimmel

I grew up in small-town Ohio and most of my relatives are voting for Trump. People make fun of Trump supporters, but Trump supporters deserve to be heard too. Folks back in my hometown are scared: Their factory jobs are disappearing, they are afraid us queer folks are making fun of their marriages (which don’t do well when jobs are scarce) and the mostly-white community I grew up in is afraid that people of color are doing better than they are.

I am not here to discuss politics or economics, but I believe that all people — whatever their point-of-view — deserve to be respected and their fears need to be heard and addressed.

I read exhaustively from a variety of points-of-view. I hear people bemoan the increase in child abuse, domestic violence, racial discrimination, date rape and a whole lot of other really bad stuff. But, in my experience, this stuff has always been there. Now, it’s just being brought out of the closet to be heard, seen and addressed.

I was born in 1953 and for many of my early years, child abuse, racism, domestic violence and homophobia weren’t talked about. I remember witnessing and experiencing plenty of examples of these “evils” and being told to “Mind your own business” and “Nice people don’t talk about things like that.”

I am very pleased to be living in 2016 where these things are talked about so we can’t ignore them anymore. I never thought I’d live to see legal same-sex marriage, an African-American president or even a woman president (I hope). I am pleasantly surprised to be wrong.

Only when we tell the truth about what’s happening can we begin a change process. For many of us, the change process is happening too slowly. I count myself in that camp, yet, I see that change is happening.

I have long-admired President Obama’s long-term strategy: Change is a process and if it’s going to “stick,” it happens gradually.

To me, the president has consistently and persistently plugged away at making changes whenever he could. When he hit a roadblock, he tried to find another way to proceed. To me, the passage of Obamacare is a miracle. Sure, it’s not perfect. But it’s a huge step in the right direction of affordable health care for us all.

I used to wash pots and pans in a restaurant. At the end of the night, I got the crustiest pots with burnt-on potatoes or gravy and had to get them clean for the next day’s shift. When I filled up these huge pots with soap and water and stuck my hand in to begin to scrub, it was gross; my whole arm was covered by disgusting pieces of food coming loose and floating upward.

If I stopped there — because it was too disgusting — the pot never would have gotten clean. So, I kept going, and eventually, those floating pieces of food stopped covering my arm as the pot got cleaner and cleaner.

I think the state of the world is like those crusty old pots. If we stop now and give up, just when the disgusting stuff is floating to the surface, we lose.

There is plenty of disgusting stuff in the news these days, but all this formerly hidden stuff is just now coming out of the closet, and it’s a good thing. We can’t clean it up unless we know it’s there.

People blame the media for creating such a bleak image of the world. I acknowledge that the media focuses on highly sensational stories to boost their ratings, but I also am grateful to the media for showing us all the disgusting stuff that needs to be cleaned up.

Things are changing. Greed, abuse and cruelty are coming out of the closet. Now that we see them clearly, we can do the hard work of change.

And it is hard work, but we can do it. Indeed, we’ve already started … and that’s why I’m an optimist.

—Michael Kimmel is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in helping LGBT clients achieve their goals and deal with anxiety, depression, grief, sexually addictive behavior, coming out, relationship challenges and homophobia. Michael is currently accepting new clients. Contact him at 619-955-3311 or visit

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