By: Julia Longenecker, Communications and Marketing Assistant
“As scary as this world is, it is possible for it to be better. Anytime you feel afraid or alone, know your people are out here, we are here and we love you.”
K. Foley (she/they), one of the founding members of the LGBT Coalition, recently sat down with me to discuss their life experiences and contributions to the LGBTQ+ scene in Lancaster County over the past decade. From organizing and participating in Pride week to becoming a founder of Lancaster County’s LGBT Coalition, K. has been actively involved in fostering a sense of inclusivity and support in the Lancaster County area. Originally from Chicago, a city of anonymity, K. moved to Lancaster, a city of community, 12 years ago. She feels that being able to walk down a street and see someone you know is what gives Lancaster the sense of connectedness.
Tell me about your professional background.
K.’s previous jobs include a massage therapist and other types of body work. However, she found these positions to be unfulfilling because “people wanted me to fix them, but I wanted to help people in their healing journey”. Inspired by Octavia Butler’s novel, “Parable of the Sower”, they realized they had a desire to engage in a more intimate level of support. This was part of the reason as to why she decided to go back to school in 2002. Going back to school meant starting her learning journey towards becoming a somatic psychologist, driven by their aspiration of helping people.
In 2011, when K. made her jump from Chicago to Lancaster, she went into a private practice. At the time, she did not see too many openly queer therapists in the area, so after much careful deliberation she chose to be unapologetically themself and embrace their identity as “super gay”! While this decision may have limited their clientele to some extent, K. prioritized authenticity and providing assistance to others who could relate.
K. believes that, especially now, we need to be “demanding our rights be taken care of, that our voices are heard, and that we have support”. They feel the trauma our population is experiencing (and has experienced the past few years) needs to be dealt with, rather than sweeping it under the rug for a later date because it will only keep festering. The “medication” that this community needs is communication. Being able to openly talk about the tragedies that have occurred and continue to occur will be one of the solutions that encourages a new sense of community.
What is your journey with mental wellness?
From the very beginning, K. experienced many traumatic events, from a major car accident to sibling passings. These experiences led them to develop attachment issues, but through the navigation of this trauma she found that the body was the access road to healing. K. firmly believes that healing is a process, not a destination. Their traumatic encounters played a significant role in their decision to become a trauma therapist, along with their passion for ensuring people feel happy, beautiful and free in their body, mind, and spirit.
Why is mental health awareness important in the LGBTQ+ community?
K. believes that these specific subsets of individuals are among the most vulnerable, often facing attacks for being themselves. K. shared how almost every day, one of their clients comes in and tells the story of how they attempted suicide. It is no longer an “I am thinking about suicide” story, rather a shocking reality that the LGBTQ+ community has an attempted suicide every 45 seconds. She believes that it is crucial to decrease these statistics by ensuring that there are LGBTQ+ therapists available in the Lancaster County area, and worldwide as well.
What does mental wellness mean to you?
For K., mental wellness is an entire holistic sense of wellness. As a somatic therapist, K. emphasizes body, mind, and spiritual wellness. She believes that healing needs to occur within the community and relationships.
What is one piece of advice you would give to the youth of Lancaster County who are seeking to improve their mental wellness?
K believes that, “As scary as this world is, it is possible for it to be better. Anytime you feel afraid or alone, know your people are out here, we are here and we love you.”
Throughout my interview with K. Foley, it is apparent that she is very passionate about being unapologetically true to their identity and their line of work. K.’s personality encapsulates their passion and knowledge of their practice and organization. Lancaster LGBTQ+ Coalition is lucky to have an executive director who is as knowledgeable as K., and Touchstone Foundation is thankful to have a great partnership with K. and the Lancaster LGBTQ+ Coalition.
Our partnership with Lancaster LGBTQ+ Coalition has allowed us to build relationships with the community. Some examples of our partnership with LGBTQ+ Coalition are: co-hosted Touchstone Chats conversation on the memoir “In the Dream House” last June, will be co-hosting our Pride Poetry event next week with Lancaster Changemakers, Touchstone foundation, and the LGBTQ+ Coalition. The Coalition was recently awarded a Mental Health Clinical Fellowship grant to support clinical supervision for more LGBTQ+ therapists and counselors for our young people. We are very grateful to partner with this organization, and incredibly happy to be able to interview the founding member, K. Foley!