Flying the rainbow colors with Llama high in the Peruvian Andes (2011). The flag design of Cusco, Peru is actually the rainbow colors.


While attending graduate school in San Francisco more than a decade ago, it came to me that one of my life missions was to import positive sexuality to my great state of Colorado and that’s what I try to do.

In addition to my Ph.D. in Human Sexuality and my clinical training in couples counseling, I have post-graduate certification in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Family Systems. This means that after I already had my master’s degree, I obtained additional education and training to work specifically with the LGBTQ community. Whether you are lesbian, gay, bi, curious, questioning, queer, or men having sex with men; I probably have experience working with similar situations as the ones you are facing.

I specialize in providing individual therapy and couples counseling to sexual minorities, and have particular areas of expertise in the following areas:

  • relationship counseling for lesbian and gay couples
  • a Non-Twelve-Step, sex-positive approach to treating sexual behavior that feels out of control
  • any matter related to sexual orientation or gender identity including coming out
  • alternative forms of sexual expression, including BDSM, fetishes, and open relationships
  • recovery from reparative therapy, aversion therapy, or any other shaming therapeutic experience
  • healing from sexual, emotional, or physical abuse
  • men and women’s sexual function and sexual health

Coming out can complicated. I can be a strong and supportive ally for you in your process. In addition to my work with private clients, I have also done diversity training for the federal government and have worked diligently toward anti-discrimination practices here in Colorado.  I have been involved as a volunteer with The Gender Identity Center of Colorado for the past decade and currently serve on the Board of Trustees.


A Call for the End of Tolerance

June 29, 2016

By Neil Cannon, Ph.D., LMFT

AASECT Certified Sex Therapist

On June 12th, 2016, a gunman walked into a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida and killed 49 people because of who they were. An immediate chorus of pleas from the media, religious leaders and politicians begged the nation for tolerance of the LGBT community.

With each impassioned plea for tolerance, I cringed.

What exactly is it, to “tolerate” something or someone?  Our friends at Merriam-Webster say that to tolerate is to “allow something that is bad or unpleasant to exist.”  So, every time someone asks us to “tolerate” the LGBT community, they’re really implying that there’s something wrong or distasteful about being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered.

I have no doubt that calls for tolerance are well-intentioned.  Soothing words in times of trouble and despair are difficult to come by.  That said, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and these calls for tolerance send exactly the wrong message to a population already struggling to understand and accept the unfamiliar.

If “tolerance” is the wrong message, then what’s the right message? The answer lies in our willingness to understand and embrace all sexual orientations and gender identities.  We desperately need a cultural sea-change that fosters a society where we honor, respect and celebrate our differences, instead of merely “tolerating” each other.

Why, then, is this so very hard for us as a nation?  Human beings find comfort in the familiar.  Members of the LGBT community are, by definition, sexual minorities.  A typical cisgendered heterosexual, even if well-intentioned and kind hearted, will find difficulty in attempts to relate to the life experience of a sexual minority.  My hope, as I write and as you read, is to offer insight and context for well meaning people and help to shine a spotlight on the difference that a few simple words can make.

Let’s begin this walk in the shoes of a sexual minority.  According to the FBI, more than 20% of all hate crimes are committed against members of the LGBT community, a rate almost double the bias motivation for hate crimes driven by ethnicity.  Can you imagine having to fear for your personal safety on a daily basis because of who you are?  How do you think this would affect your ability to live, to work and to love?  These contemplations can begin to help us understand why those who identify as a sexual minority tend to feel a heightened need for continual vigilance around personal safety.  As tragically proven in Orlando, being safe is not a given.  Sadly, even in this day and age, the rainbow colors remain a target for a few ignorant and hateful people.

For sexual minorities, feeling different often starts in childhood.  According to Dr. Catherine Dukes, a Vice President with Planned Parenthood, “Middle school children hear one anti-gay remark every 14 minutes while they are in school.”  This constant negativity is not without consequence.  Being a sexual minority can be so painful that lesbian and gay youth are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight counterparts, and half of all transgender youth have attempted suicide before the age of 20.  This unseen social genocide makes clear that the concept of tolerance for the LGBT community is not only flawed, but deadly.

Once a young person realizes they are sexually attracted to members of the same sex, or begins to identify as a gender different than the one assigned to them at birth, their sexual minority status starts to play a critical role in shaping their sense of self.  If a child hears negative comments or jokes related to their emerging sexual orientation or gender identity, the child internalizes a belief that, “I’m not okay, something is wrong with me, and it’s not safe to let anyone find out.”  These seemingly innocuous external messages can draw a happy, carefree child to a lifetime of secrets, stigma and shame.  Words matter.

Fortunately, this is not an intractable problem, and each of us can make a difference starting today.  Changing our words and phraseology is within our control and it doesn’t cost one penny.  It won’t cost news editors or speech writers one red cent to use the word “embrace” instead of “tolerate.”

So, let’s stop the tolerance.  Stop implying that we’re grudgingly tolerating an unpleasant odor, holding our breath until the moment passes.  We don’t want to merely tolerate our LGBT brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, and co-workers and neighbors.  We want to fully and joyously embrace the rainbow of diversity.  If we are mindful of the words we choose, we can each make a difference starting now.  Let’s actively embrace diversity and make tolerance a thing of the past.




Comments are closed.