By Sheilah M. Powell

Mobilize Recovery officially launches on Labor Day – TOMORROW – and already we’re making a splash in Sin City. Yesterday, Beck Gee-Cohen, Director of LGBTQ+ Programming at Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, facilitated an engaging conversation about the idea of belonging and not just accepting in front of a standing-room-only crowd at The Center, an organization that serves as a haven for all those in Southern Nevada. 

“My ‘why’ is because I’m a queer trans person in recovery and I know there’s not one path to recovery,” Beck said. “I do this because I’m so tired of seeing my community die of addiction.”

As part of his work, Beck provides intentional care for adolescents who are part of the LGBTQ+ community and their families. He also speaks and trains internationally to help others create a more inclusive system of care. 

“This is my journey and I have to use my privilege in different ways,” he continued. 

Among the topics discussed were the importance of asking meaningful questions, why using affirming language is so powerful, the effects of micro-aggressions and aggressions like misgendering, fostering a sense of belonging, the elements of disclosure for a person to be their true selves, some self-reflection about our own gender and sexual identities, living in recovery, trans-affirming care, and how everyone can verbally and non-verbally show support for the LGBTQ+ community. Yes, it truly was a jam-packed presentation! 

So, what can we do TODAY to make spaces more LGBTQ+ friendly? One basic way is to realize our privilege and use that in a way that helps others who are not in a position of power. 

“In any relationship I am in, I have to recognize where my power is in the dynamic,” he said. “Safety is subjective. When I sit down with my clients, I ask if they are feeling safe here.”

One small way to make spaces more inclusive is to meaningfully use a person’s correct pronouns and the names they want us to use – and also make sure we pronounce names correctly. “Pronouns matter because they do – they’re respectful,” he said. 

“Today when you leave here, you can start using names and pronouns right away. Yes, the bar is set very low for that one,” he quipped. 

Another way is to vote – in every single election. “Our food, water, shelter, survival is still in the hands of the voters so we need to show up,” he said. “We have to vote, we have to advocate for all spaces.”

Beck also discussed code-switching or switching up our language and conversations depending on what crowd we are in at the moment, creating a sense of inauthenticity.  

“Code-switching is about safety. When we’re talking about treatment and housing, we want people NOT to have to do this. We want them to be heard and seen, and that’s where recovery happens.”

Beck was later joined on stage by Benjamin H. Nguyen from the Opioid Response Network and Jessica Geschke from Serve You Rx.  

As part of the nationwide bus tour, Jessica and Serve You Rx are installing OAK boxes, which stands for Overdose Aid Kits, all over the country at numerous stops along the bus tour. The project began with Jessica and Sharon Murillo of Serve You Rx who unfortunately passed away recently. Each OAK box includes overdose prevention supplies including the life-saving drug naloxone, fentanyl test strips, face masks, and other supplies. The box is accessible to anyone and can save so many lives.  

“Sharon and I had a vision for our OAK program and we were so excited to get our Overdose Aid Kits out into our state and across the country,” Jessica said previously. “It’s my mission to keep Sharon’s vision alive for this day. A mission to remind those still suffering from an addiction and their family and friends that we, as organizations, companies and advocates are here for them. They are seen and heard.” 

The Center welcomes and celebrates the diversity of our communities and strives to empower all to live authentic lives. According to their website, the Center is a space to give back, volunteer, make connections and build community together with pride. 

Follow us on Facebook, @MobilizeRecover on Twitter, and @MobilizeRecovery on TikTok along on the bus tour launching TOMORROW as we go from the West Coast to the East and back again.