Helping Individuals and Families Understand Sexual Identity and Gender Issues

Behavioral Health Behavioral Health
Sexual identity and gender issues are regularly in the news these days, but while stories of individuals coming out may seem commonplace today, taking that all-important step is not always easy. 

“It is usually difficult to know in advance whether someone will be accepting of a person who comes out, which can create a mounting fear of rejection,” says Suzanne Haggerty, MSW, LSW, Primary Therapist at Penn Medicine Princeton House Behavioral Health (PHBH). In fact, many people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), or who have gender identity issues may remain “closeted.” Maintaining a false façade can be exhausting, and may be accompanied by anxiety or depression. 

“When you are facing these types of challenges and not feeling like you can be your authentic self, altering your world by using substances like drugs and alcohol can appear to ease that pain. In time, they can become a problem as well,” says Haggerty. 

Opening the Lines of Communication 

Some of the most important points to remember when dealing with sexual identity and gender issues is to keep communication lines open and listen to what the other person is saying. 

“At the end of the day,” says Haggerty, “it’s important to remember that regardless of who a person is attracted to or how a person identifies, they are still the same person you always loved, and that we all have much more in common than we do differences.” 

When anxiety, depression, substance use, or disordered eating become severe, LGBT people, like anyone else, may need intensive treatment for these illnesses. PHBH offers a staff that is “welcoming, open and accepting of LGBT individuals,” Haggerty says. “We have experience providing clinical services to the community, and we help guide family members to take a more open perspective.” 

Programs are available for adults and young adults in Eatontown. Sites in Princeton, Hamilton, North Brunswick and Moorestown also offer services for children and teens. 


For more information about PHBH’s services, call 888.437.1610 or visit
Click here to learn more about LGBT care at Penn Medicine Princeton Health, or link to the recorded webinar “Coming out LGBTQ: A sexual identity discussion for families.”

Article as seen in the November/December 2018 issue of Princeton Health.