Welcome back to the Coming Out Happy podcast! Today, we have a special guest, all the way from Australia, that has contributed an amazing workshop to our Queer Happiness Collective membership, a space for queer adults to grow, learn together, and explore deeper parts of their sexuality.
Mim Kempson (she/her) is an Australian Relationship and Sex Therapist working with LGBTQIA+ individuals and couples all across the globe. Also a Registered Counsellor, Sexologist and Narrative Therapist, Mim helps her clients peel back the layers of expectations received from family, society and culture of who they're "supposed" to be in order to connect to who they truly are. Previously a journalist, Mim brings a strong valuing of storytelling, communication, and social activism into her work. She is also a workshop facilitator and speaker, specializing in topics around queer relationships, disrupting gender norms, using storytelling for healing, and writing as therapy.
We want to know about you and how you got into what you're doing. How did you start the journey that you’re on today?
“I'm a narrative therapist at heart. That's what I originally trained in, but today, I practice as a sex and relationship therapist working mainly with LGBTQIA+ individuals and couples, sometimes with families. The group of people I work with tend to be young adults, around 18, to people in their 50s or 60s. So there's a huge diversity there. It's quite an honor to be able to see all the kinds of relationships that exist out there and how people are making them work or not work.
I came into the profession for a number of reasons. One, being queer myself, I came out as lesbian when I was 17. And then when I was 25, I came out as bisexual/pansexual. I, personally, use the terms interchangeably. I used to be a photographer, and it didn't quite resonate, so I eventually found myself studying Narrative Therapy, which accredits me in counseling.
Over time, once I opened my private practice, I found that the majority of my clients were queer people, and I had couples inquire and say, ‘Do you do your work with couples?’ I decided to offer a sliding scale where people pay what they can, then I could see what my business would expand into. Naturally, couples work found me, and I absolutely love it.”
We love that you went through so many different transitions to get here. You followed your gut, and you found what you feel called to do. We’d love to know a little bit more about narrative therapy. Tell us about what that means and how you can really support people with that?
“Narrative therapy looks at the stories that inform who we are and how we do life. We have stories we inherit from family, from culture, from the time we exist, and there are going to be dominant narratives. These narratives represent expectations around how we live, even that COVID is real and actually happened. So we have stories like the economy dictates what kind of work we should be doing, what kind of timeline we should function on. We have narratives about how to be a woman, how to be gay, people of color, all these kinds of things, and if they're not our own, they can weigh on our shoulders and influence us to be someone we're not.
This might either be because we want to fit in or we want family to love us, so we think that following them will get us that love. Following could be a matter of safety, even. Why we subscribe to those narratives and the work I do helps people to see what is and what is not, and which narratives they want to live by.”
A great example of a narrative queer people often experience is the expectation from society to be CisHet. You find yourself asking questions like, “Do I include my family in my life? Do I modify myself and acknowledge that I'm not being truly authentic to me, but accept the cost of that?” It’s important to find ways to navigate these experiences that don’t perpetuate shame or guilt, but rather, an active choice.
There's so much shame carried into our relationships. It makes sense to address that shame when you're supporting people with sex as well. It's something important to look at because it pours into every area of our lives when we don't acknowledge who we've been taught to be, especially when you add in messaging from religion.
What are some of the common problems that you see people coming to you with, maybe queer couples that are experiencing shame in their sex life?
“It's all interconnected. So often, when couples come to me with complications or obstacles around sex, it hardly ever has to do with sex. It'll have to do with the fact that hardly any of us have received adequate sex education growing up. There's a lot of misunderstandings that make us think, ‘Oh, my body's not working like other people's,’ but, actually, everyone else goes through that, too. What your family has said or has not said about sex impacts us. The past relationships that we have, if not emotionally processed, carry forward into the next ones.
In fact, I would say, regardless of how much we process them, they're always in our history, so it's part of what we carry forward. So I think the number one need I see is the need to develop the awareness of what is going on within ourselves. Number two, the need to create an outlet that gives justice and meaning to our experience.
I am very passionate about ensuring or helping people to have a healthy relationship with anger because anger is often swept under the rug. When we throw different layers on, say, if you're a woman, you're a person of color, if whatever your status is, influences how your anger is seen, it complicates things further.
For myself, whenever I'm angry, I often hear from my parents or a male partner, they'll say, ‘I can't hear you when you're angry.’ It's like putting a lid on this energy that just needs to combust. So where does that go if we don't have an outlet? The same applies for any other emotion, if it's not fully honored and expressed.
We shouldn’t take it out on the people who elicited that chain of feelings, because, arguably, they don't really deserve those feelings expressed to them. Once we have an awareness of what's going on, how do we then express that and help that to move through us and destigmatize things like anger that can get really enmeshed with sadness? It's about imagining the stories we do want to live by.”
We can’t approach this by focusing on the negative or the things that we don’t want for ourselves. We have to bring in what we want. This is the mindset that couples should have so when they’re asked to stop doing something, they approach it with, “What do I do instead?”
Something we told one of our clients recently was that there's this quote, and I don't know who it's by, but it says, “Pain pushes until the vision pulls,” and it's exactly what Mim was saying of how pain can really keep us stuck. If we can imagine what that vision is of who we want to become, we can allow ourselves to move forward.
For the people reading or the Queer Happiness Collective members that will be watching the workshop, here's something that we can really focus on: How do you want to feel in your sexuality? How do you want to feel when you are confident and you show up as you are and you dress the way that you want? What does that change look like for you? How can it help us drive forward toward your vision?
Is something that you want our listeners to really hear, maybe those that feel alone or are navigating this that you'd really want them to take away from this blog post?
“When things get hard, there's this advice that people can often offer, which is that everything happens for a reason. I'm of two minds with that because when things feel really shitty, that is the most frustrating thing to hear. We can't see why it happened and we just wish that it hadn't. So I tweak that phrase a little bit and I say, ‘Everything doesn't necessarily happen for a reason, but shit happens.’
We're not going to graduate from problems. We're not going to stop being human and suddenly level up and everything evaporates and we're happy. Happiness is always going to be combined with a grief that we carry deep in our heart about something or stress of knowing all the responsibilities of our life. They're always coexisting. We may as well make meaning and choose what that meaning is for our own life. What story do we take out of that experience?
We all can create the life that we want, create the relationships that we want, and learn from every single thing that we go through. So many of us are just overwhelmed by relationship problems or life problems, career, but when we really get to sit down, reflect, and figure out what we want to take with us and what we want to leave behind, we get to live a life that's defined by us and no one else. I think that's the most powerful gift that we can give ourselves.”
It's so beautiful and amazing to see what Mim is doing in the world because all queer people deserve identity-focused support and to be seen as a whole person. It makes the biggest difference when you don't have to teach while you're healing, and queer couples can come to us and completely be themselves, and they don't have to explain the dynamics in the queer community.
And it's really, really beautiful that we've connected and that this life has brought us here where we've been able to make something together for our Queer Happiness Collective members to experience Mim and get to know her and for the people that are reading here to learn more about her as well.
Where can people find you?
“You can find me on Instagram @theconnectioncoach_ or on my website, MimKempson.com.”
We're so grateful we found Mim and for her contributions to the Queer Happiness Collective Membership, which you can join on ComingOutHappy.com!
Loved this blog? Check out the full interview with Mim on the Coming Out Happy Podcast.
Dani & Keely
Have questions for us? Be sure to send us a DM on IG here!
Visit our website for all of the Queer Happiness Collective membership, LGBTQ+ Conversation Cards, and more!