Exclusive EHN Canada Webinar on Inclusion and Diversity: Understanding Mental Health and Substance Abuse in the LGBTQ+ Community

June 3, 2021

With Ryan Slobodian, Registered Clinical Counsellor, Edgewood Treatment Centre

And special guest JuiceBoxx, Canada’s Drag Race legend

00:00 INTRODUCTION

 

Suanne: Hello everyone and thank you for joining us on today’s EHN Canada webinar. Today’s session is- today’s session, sorry is a special one on inclusion and diversity. And it’s about understanding mental health and substance abuse in the LGBTQ+ community.

For those of you who are new to us at EHN Canada, we are a nationwide network of industry leading facilities for the treatment of addiction and mental health disorders, and we offer Inpatient/outpatient as well as online treatment options for Canadians across the country.

A few housekeeping items to start off with, today’s session is being recorded and we always do our best to send out a follow up email to everyone who’s attended within one week of today so just expect that, as well as your CE certificate in your inbox next week.

And today, everybody is on mute, and your cameras are off, so you can focus on our speakers for today’s session, but if you do have any questions for our speakers today, please feel free to use the Q and A box at the bottom of your screen.

And so, without any further delay, I am very pleased to introduce our host for today’s webinar, Ryan Slobodian, who is a registered clinical counselor at Edgewood Treatment Center in Nanaimo BC. He has been working in mental health and addictions for the past seven years, and he also has a special interest in trauma, and he has a wonderful way of building that into his talks on our webinars in the past, as well as working that into his daily practice and work with patients.

He is also the program lead of our alliance program at Edgewood, which was specifically dedicated to supporting those in the LGBTQ+ community through treatment. So, without any further ado, welcome Ryan and I’ll let you take it away.

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02:10 EHN Canada’s ALLIANCE Program

 

Ryan: Hello everyone. Umm I am just going to share my screen here, get my slides up. Okay, so yeah so sorry about that we’ll get started now, so I am going to start talking about just briefly our alliance program so, so the alliance program at Edgewood is dedicated to creating a safe residential space for recovery for those in the LGBTQ+ community.

With treatment for addiction mental health, but like, by clinicians who are either members or allies of the LGBTQ+ community so at Edgewood we really value this inclusivity and diversity.

So in my perspective, there’s always this balance, like yes we’re treating addiction as a broad concept and where everyone can relate because that’s what’s bringing them into treatment, but we also have to honour and appreciate the different experiences that minorities experienced in terms of their trauma history, and that’s and that’s a lot of what we try to do in the alliance program is bring that into treatment and discuss it and honour that.

In my personal opinion, I’m very much a trauma therapist so I strongly believe in, in unpacking that those issues in treatment and I’ll get into a little bit more of that in the next slide.

A little bit about me, I am an ally, I started my career in Calgary. I had some wonderful mentors, Dr. Robert Roughley at City University and wonderful sex and relationship therapist, just wonderful the Aura program in Calgary was, is fantastic, previously the boys and girls’ clubs.

There are some issues with that name, obviously, so they switched it to Trellis but being a part of the one of the only LGBTQ+ housing first programs just – it really highlighted the importance of this work and to ensure that we can create safe, inclusive and diverse spaces within mental health treatment.

So, in the program we have small peer groups. This allows individuals to share and explore specific challenges that they face, and we actually base this model from Dr. Shelley Craig out of the University of Toronto. Me and a few of my colleagues had the opportunity to go there and learn directly from her. And she has put together a wonderful a wonderful program based on cognitive behavioral therapy. And that’s, that’s a lot of what we base our program on and use here and again I’ll get into more of that next slide as the how we how we use that.

I really do find that in the short amount of time that we’ve had the alliance program running the I’m finding just more and more people that are coming in they’re uh like this one guy we had just this is the first group and people that I’ve ever really felt validated and heard which is huge, huge agent of change, first time he’s been heard without someone telling him well that’s you know that’s just a phase or you know you’re just lonely and I saw a magnificent shift in him and that’s just one example of how, of many that people feel safe and and folks can share and actually go through some some of their trauma. And, in a way that people will actually listen.

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06:50 Dr. Shelley Craig – AFFIRM model

 

Ryan: So, I’m going to move on to the next slide and get more into this. We’re kind of on a time crunch, I want to get to our special guest, so I could do a whole webinar on this stuff so I’ll go as fast as I can so basically so Shelley Craig, Dr. Shelley Craig, so basically what we’re doing here is where we really want to take a look at how the discrimination and stigma processes affect the individual so and how that how that can be a predisposition and contribute to a lot of mental health issues and can be a piece of the puzzle in terms of healing from addiction.

When you, I just did a wonderful a seminar learning from Gabor Mate and one thing I really liked about his seminar was this idea of recovery, what are we recovering? And that is the self. It’s always been there, it’s just been it’s been hidden, it’s been damaged, and we need to, we need to honour that and we need to create safety, so the self can come out again.

So basically, the way Dr. Craig’s model is run is taking a look at the overarching stigma attitudes and discrimination in society. How our basically our family and and family and friends can buy into that and even communities, churches, organizations, education, even right down to the family unit, how so that step down process how does that affect the individual? It does it’s something when you hear all these negative messages for so long, it really can affect the negative core beliefs about the self. Oftentimes, what I hear the most in group is the core belief of, I don’t belong. And, and when someone’s so disconnected from community and others, the shame can grow and that’s really what we’re trying to do in this group is is create connection with others reprocess these core beliefs that can lead to, from the CBT perspective we go into that can really impact automatic thought processes that are negative and really affects some some behaviors that including addiction so it’s really important to unpack that and take a look at it.

Coupled with the fact that you know research overwhelmingly is, states that the LGBTQ+ population threefold increase in in mental health issues, addiction. In especially working with some youth in Calgary, in seeing how the aura program worked with them.

They’re going through a lot of stuff that others don’t have to deal with and so that’s why it’s so important to unpack that, I remember even just trying to get somebody their license changed when they transition and I’m going, my God like someone’s just trying to simply go in and get a piece of identification and this is so traumatizing for this person. If we don’t bring that into therapy, there’s I feel like we’re doing a disservice.

And this top-down process that affects the individual, something about me is wrong and unacceptable and that’s and that’s not true. But that’s how sometimes it can get filtered in, and we need to unpack that from the trauma informed perspective I’m just going to check on doing on time here, so I need to wrap this up pretty quick.

So basic and also, we touch on concepts of intersectionality. I think that’s very important. Ru talks about that a lot, I remember in one show he talked about being discriminated against by white people because he’s black, discriminated against by straight people because he’s gay, and discriminated against gay people because he’s too femme so lot of intersections and we always have to honour that.

Okay so skipped ahead here, too far. So basically, I’ll wrap this up. I again I could go on forever about this, but I really do think there is a, there is a definite need for more inclusive and affirming spaces to discuss and work through mental health and substance use. If, like I’ve said before, if we’re not bringing these experiences into the therapeutic process that I think we’re missing the mark, I really do believe that there’s so many there’s so many aspects of the experience of folks in the LGBTQ+ community that need to be honoured and discussed in a in a safe environment with like minded people who can validate and support them.

So that’s what we’re trying to do at Alliance, and I’ve seen some success with it. I’ve met a lot of wonderful people and it’s just always an honour to be a part of that change process with folks and it reminds me every day why I do this work. So, I’m going to leave it there, because I want to get to our guest.

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13:04 Introducing JuiceBoxx

Ryan: Okay, so without further ado, I want to introduce JuiceBoxx. Just I’m so excited for this. So JuiceBoxx has been working in Toronto as a drag queen and hostess for over five years, spending the majority of her time in the Toronto village. JuiceBoxx is a frequent and featured performer at fine establishments such as Crews & Tangos and the ever-popular Woody’s. JuiceBoxx also competed on the first ever season of Canada’s Drag Race. Her aesthetic is bright, bubbly, sinful, sexy with a little bit of spice.

Although she is always one to light up the room, JuiceBoxx is also no stranger to the darker sides of struggles with mental health and substance abuse. She is open about her experiences and is a passion passionate advocate for better understanding and compassion for all. So very so I’ll stop sharing my screen here, very excited to introduce JuiceBoxx, Hello JuiceBoxx.

JuiceBoxx: Hi

Ryan: How are you?

JuiceBoxx: How am I? I’m good, how are you?

Ryan: Good, I’m so excited to have you on today.

JuiceBoxx: Thanks, I’m excited to be here.

Ryan: So, is it okay if we just jump right in?

JuiceBoxx: Oh yeah babe let’s do it.

Ryan: Okay let’s just first question, could you tell us about your journey with mental health and substance use?

JuiceBoxx: Um so basically, I think I’ve always been a little bit of an anxious – sorry I was trying to figure out where the chat was on my screen. I’ve always been like a bit of a very anxious person, and I don’t think it really was until like the show or no, no, no sorry, let me back up. I’ve always been a really anxious person, but it wasn’t until I had like some big, big attacks that I think it really started to like kind of come down on me that I am like a maybe a bit of an issue with anxiety, so I remember when I was, oh my God, it’s actually really sweet this story. My husband and I were eating candy and we were a little stoned, we were smoking weed, can I say that?

Ryan: Yeah

JuiceBoxx: Oh great, so we were a little stoned, we were smoking weed and I ate a bunch of sour patch kids and I ended up choking on one. And we were so like, and we were like stoned right so everything’s a lot more dramatic so I’m like choking on this thing, he has to give me the Heimlich maneuver. I have a full blown f*cking panic attack like just like off the walls. But then like after he ended up proposing because he said he couldn’t see his life without me so it was like really cute but but sort of like pushed me into this like realization that like I literally couldn’t eat for the next like three days, because I was so tense in my neck, I was so tense in my chest, like I couldn’t swallow food because I was so worried that I was going to choke and I think that’s when I started realizing that my anxiety wasn’t just like me being like a little bit of an anxious sort of person, it was just like. Oh, like this is probably something I should take care of and then I didn’t take care of it until like four years later, I just ignored it.

Ryan: And so, in terms of the substance use.

 

JuiceBoxx: Oh right

Ryan: Can you tell us a bit more about your journey with that?

JuiceBoxx: Well, I never was like a huge drinker, so when it comes to substances, I like dabbled in marijuana which I was like, because being such an anxious person it wasn’t something even really liked but it was mostly alcohol and, for me, what it was in university and stuff like I just did like the typical university thing, where you would like binge drink on the weekends and then like not touch alcohol all week and then like Saturday, you would just get like f*cking sh*ttered and just like go for the gold right.

It wasn’t until I moved to Toronto, and I started realizing like, Oh, I can go out every night, and I can party every night, and I can drink every night and I was like oh fun that’s fun. And I wouldn’t say I was like abusing the alcohol at that point, but I was just like knock, knock, knocking on the door, and then I eventually got into drag. And when you are a drag queen you don’t pay for alcohol anymore.

Like it becomes extremely accessible for you. For it’s like you get a certain amount of drink tickets and that’s sort of how they try to moderate you, but that means nothing because, like you’ve got a bar of people who are there, who want to be your friend, they want to get near you so if you want booze you just say, hi I’d like a shot and there’s four in front of you right and then there’s people who go to the bar strictly to get you drunk. Like they go to the bar and their goal is to see how drunk they can get the drag queens on stage.

Ryan: Oh wow.

JuiceBoxx: Oh it’s I hate them, but they basically would come with money, and they would come with shots they would come with and they would tip you. What they do is they put a 20 around the shot and they would hand it to you, so like you’re getting tipped out for it, you’re getting a reward for it, but you’re also you know going deeper and deeper into this hole.

So I had a good hold on it, I would say, for like a week. And then, it was just sort of like I was constantly, like anytime I was working I was just getting like drunk and I didn’t like sort of how my life was going. I had been doing drag for about three years and I was just like constantly just getting really wasted at my gigs and there was a point where I started to realize like people didn’t want to work with me. People, I was getting in arguments. People were like it’s rather I didn’t want to be around people because of the interactions we were having, or people didn’t want to be around me.

The crowd I was with people didn’t want to hire me with because they didn’t like them. And they had like associations of being like really late, they’re constantly just getting wasted and they’re not being professional, like those things and people were associating me with that and I was just like I don’t like like, I don’t like that feeling, I don’t like I like idea of me. That’s never been a person that I’ve wanted to be, that’s never been a person that I’ve ever looked up to, so why is that the idea that people are getting about me? So, I started to slowly cut down on the booze and then eventually I just kind of stopped and started of take my health, my fitness and my intake of those kinds of substances a little bit more seriously and I just and it was January 2nd on my honeymoon that I had my last drink and then my husband finished that drink, because it was $17.

Ryan: That must be a nice drink.

JuiceBoxx: It was a, it was just expensive. It wasn’t very good.

Ryan: So, would you say the working and then the nightlife scene influenced your journey and that way, like in terms of like whoa like hold on a second.

 

JuiceBoxx: Yeah well, I mean it’s it’s insanely accessible for you to do things and there’s there’s people around you who they would have a easier hold on things and stuff but you see, it all the time and people, just like going out and all they’re doing is they’re going out just to see how drunk they can get. And I said it’s a lot of binge drinking and it’s a lot of there’s I never had this problem that there’s a lot of there’s a lot of drugs, like that are very easy to get, especially when you’re at like a level in those nightlife things like if you are a bartender, if you’re working at the bar, if you’re an entertainer, if you’re a bouncer, you’re someone that people want to get close to, so those people that then have those substances will offer them to you at a discounted price or cheaper, so it becomes more accessible, so you end up falling into those traps a lot faster

Ryan: What what’s it, what’s it like for you working in that scene now like knowing all this and having experienced it and maybe seeing some other your peers go down this path? What’s that like for you to experience?

 

JuiceBoxx: Well, my patience is a lot thinner. Because you know if you’re ever around if you’re ever sober and you’re around someone who’s just like off their rocker like wasted it’s a little bit it’s like we’re not on the same level, right now, like I can’t be around you like, we need to just be in two separate spaces, so that that is kind of a thing like I’m just like um, but also like there was a while there was a big transition period where a lot of people thought I was boring, a lot of people didn’t want to be around me, a lot of people didn’t want to work with me. And they just sort of kind of disconnected from me, but, and I was upset, and I was hurt by that at first, but then I realized, like those people are completely superficial right?

So now I’ve got more meaningful connections. I’ve got more meaningful friendships. I’ve got a lot of things now when I do go out it’s work right? It’s because I’m an entertainer right, so when I go, I’m going to work. I’m going to do my job and I’m going to leave.

I’m not going out for the party when that’s sometimes a lot of the case when it comes to a lot of entertainers where they’re going out for the party and the job is secondary.

Ryan: Right. And you feel I guess switching gears a bit, but do you feel as if there’s enough support for the LGBTQ+ community specifically to seek mental health treatment or addiction treatment, right now?

 

JuiceBoxx: I mean yeah because I do find that there is a lot of resources out there, I personally never seeked them out because it was for me it was never an issue of addiction, for me, I think it was getting close to that. But, for me it was an issue of just sort of needing to take control, and I think I was just self aware enough to be able to do that early on, but I have found that anyone that I know that has needed it and that also maybe comes from a place of privilege because of who I’m surrounded with, but anyone who I know has been able to reach out and get something. I haven’t found them struggling at all, so that may just be my personal experience, but I think there is.

Ryan: Yeah okay. And from your in your opinion, what are their, what are the benefits for specific programming like what I was talking about before around the Alliance programming like do you see where the benefits, you see, from a focus program like that?

 

JuiceBoxx: Well that’s, that’s really hard for me to speak on because I never did any kind of program right, so I know I don’t have that experience I don’t have that that view of things that’s that it’s not really something that I would know a lot on, so I would say I’m… What I usually say to people when it comes to programming is that a lot of people see sobriety as a line right that point A to point B, that there’s only one way to do things and I think that what some people need to know is that it’s not linear at all. And there is different ways to do it, but if you do need a program if that’s something that you need to reach out and find, please reach out and find those things and be able to benefit from those but if it’s something where you need to go a different route, if you need family, if you need a support system that you built by yourself, if you need, if you need a significant other to be able to help you through those things, then I think that that’s sort of okay as well. Also like sometimes falling off the wagon is okay like I’ve got a friend that relapsed the other day, and they were really upset about it, but it was just like girl like it’s not like you, you have to be so hard on yourself, like shit happens right? As long as you know that you’ve done something that you aren’t proud of, then you can just fix it in the future, you know?

Ryan: Yeah, like the, you know there’s no shame in the relapse. It’s about the courage to come back and keep working the program.

JuiceBoxx: Exactly

Ryan: What kind of things, help you in that in that process in your recovery and and getting sober?

 

JuiceBoxx: Well for me it was sort of rethinking who I surrounded myself with, right like I was surrounded like I said earlier, surrounded by a lot of people who like to use alcohol as a coping mechanism, who used alcohol as a way to be social. And so I sort of just like cut a lot of those people out or really slowed down with my interactions with those people. And I surrounded myself with people who respected me and like when I stopped drinking, I remember, if I went to the bar and asked for a water. If someone gave me a side eye. If someone said why or someone who’s just like oh my God, you’re so boring then I was just like oh God you’re so boring, then I was just like whoop, gone, they’re out of here. We’re done with that one.

So, then I ended up surrounding myself with people who were supportive people, who wanted to be around me still, and people who were like you know what I need a sober buddy tonight, will you be my sober buddy? And it was just like yes, let’s do it. I’ll be your sober buddy, like we can hang out and have Coca Cola, you know?

So that that was it for me and also my husband was an incredible support system. He was just like big on kind of keeping me in gear because, even when the pan Demi Lovato happened, the pandemic. There was moments where I literally looked at my husband, I was just like I’m not going out, I’m not doing anything, like can I have a mimosa? Like what do you like, should I just like I’m not surrounded by the stuff anymore like what do you think? And he was just like I think that’s a stupid idea. I was like oh and he’s like he’s like you’re so happy now. He’s like you’re thriving, your health is great like why would you take all of those benefits and throw them out the window just for something that you’re going to drink, that’s going to give you a bit of a buzz he’s like why is that an issue? Why are you going to do that? Don’t be dumb, so I was like oh yeah.

Ryan: That’s a good point, that the connection with others, is so key, but then also the connection with people are going to hold you accountable and you know have your best interests in mind and yeah. What was I going to say, how has the I guess that’s interesting to touch on is how has the, we’re talking about mental health and substance use, how has this pandemic affected you and has it affected how you a view recovery or mental, taking care of your mental health?

 

JuiceBoxx: Well never in my life have I wanted a mimosa and sangria more, so that, that’s first, I’ve just been sitting here like, Ooh, I could really just go for a giant sangria with just a straw in it, no glasses just right in the top, but I haven’t.

And also, mental health wise oh, I am f*cked, absolutely f*cked, but I have my ways of coping. I’ve got my therapist and I call her.

Also, and I know non-alcoholic drinks exist. I have such good non-alcoholic stuff upstairs it’s amazing. Seed Lip is my favourite, anyways I just saw that on the chat.

But my mental health, I’ve got my therapist. I call her every so often. She like always goes to this thing, she’s like oh my God I’m so happy to be able to talk to you, but I’m, I’m so upset that you’re having a down moment, she’s like it’s so bittersweet.

But it wasn’t actually until I really started taking my mental seriously was when the pandemic happened because the pandemic happened was when Drag Race premiered and Drag Race was when I really saw how kind of like my head sort of wasn’t all together and how I really sort of needed to take those things and take them more seriously and be able to talk to somebody and she’s been able to really help me be able to sort of figure those things out and what’s the what is it called CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy? I’ve been doing a lot of that, so I’ve got my like, my little notebook with all of my homework, so if I’m feeling a little rough, I know what to go through, and how to talk myself through it and how to walk through those things now.

Ryan: I appreciate your honesty and talking about that, that’s amazing that you take advantage of those resources and incorporate that into your life. Thank you. Speaking of Drag Race, how was that experience for you and did that bring anything up for you was that a lot of pressure and?

 

JuiceBoxx: I mean here’s the thing. I love Drag Race. It’s my favourite show. I am so happy and so proud to have been on the first season. I am so happy for all of the opportunities and everything that it’s brought me um I would 100% like, if I were to relive the experience, I would do it again right because it’s brought, it’s changed my life in such an incredible positive way. But it was hard, it was incredibly hard, it’s incredibly taxing, it’s incredibly rough to go through, especially with someone who deals with a lot of anxiety and who hasn’t dealt with it, and who doesn’t have those coping mechanisms in place.

Because a lot of my anxiety deals with death and dying, which is what I found out with through my therapist, thank you Erin. So, I always feel like I’m going to die like constantly. Like I always like if I get a cold, it’s something’s wrong, lungs are shutting down, it’s over, good night. We’re, we’re out of here, so what was happening on the main stage, so I don’t know if anybody if anybody didn’t see when I was on the main stage on the first episode, I was had, I had a panic attack and I felt like I was going to faint and I had to work myself through it, and then I had to lip sync and then womp, womp.

But so, what was happening, when I got on that stage was, I hadn’t eaten all day. Because I was wearing a napkin on my body like it was just barely there, and in my mind thousands and millions of people are going to see this, I didn’t want to look a certain way. I didn’t want to look like I had roles. I didn’t want to look like, I had a belly, which is something I should probably unpack with my therapist already, but you know we’re going to get there, but I basically I hadn’t eaten all day, you guys could see if you did watch, it was freezing. It was so cold in that studio, and I was in like a string bikini with mirrors all over it.

When you’re in drag, a lot of times the wigs, they stab into your head with the pins. So, at the crown of my head, I had three pins stabbing at it. And so, I’ve got all of these triggers now happening around me where I’m in pain, I’m dizzy, and I’m freezing cold so obviously in my mind, my brain immediately goes well you’re dead. You’re going to die. It’s over. So, I’m standing on stage, I immediately go into this panic attack. I start seeing like, like the judges go from there are three people to like there’s 20 of them and they’re all blurry. So, I immediately feel like I’m going to faint and just like keel over, so when I rewatch that, I realized like oh I’ve got a maybe deal with those things.

Ryan: Yeah, I was going to ask, what does that bring up for you even watching it like?

JuiceBoxx: I ate an entire plate of peanut butter cookies that we’re standing in front of me because I felt like if I wasn’t chewing on something I would immediately vomit, because it was so hard to watch. I was sweating. I was freaking out. I was surrounded by my family, which probably was a stupid idea because I should have watched that alone but, and then I immediately, I once I got eliminated, I had to go, I went to the next room, and I had to get ready for interviews. So, I had to, I sat and cried for five minutes, and then I did interviews for the next four hours, which probably was a dumb idea, but you know, here we are.

Ryan: Yeah, that must be very difficult, going through all of that, and then having to do four-hour interviews.

JuiceBoxx: Yeah, I hated it.

Ryan: Um so yeah and you spoke so openly about you know mental health and sobriety. What has the reaction been like post show?

 

JuiceBoxx: Great! It’s been, it’s been incredible. I thought a lot of people were going to drag me through the coals because there is some, there has been some people who have had similar experiences to me on the main stage and they were not as well received. They were shown at some overdramatic. They were shown as um faking it right? There was a lot of that, and I never received that kind of flat or what’s it called? Flash back? Flack! Yeah, and I never received any kind of like flack for anything like that. I got a lot of, I got a lot of support. I got an incredible amount of support. I had people reaching out to me constantly for like for like the rest of the season, saying that they dealt with things the same way. They’re happy that they would have been able to, they’re happy that they saw somebody who had a good experience, and I think it was because I came out on it like positively on the other end, I was able to work through my things. I was very candid about it, and I also I gave like such a solid lip sync like that was like 10 out of 10.

So it was, I think it was one of those sorts of things, because I did come out a little bit more positively at the end of it, but yeah no. It was good. It was solid like I didn’t have it – oh that’s what I was going to say and now a lot of my fans like are just young anxious, bisexuals, it’s great. They’re just like they just saw themselves in me and now they’ve just got like just thousands of young, anxious, bisexual, and queer women. It’s the greatest. I love them so much.

Ryan: What’s that like for you, I mean to be a role model and a leader for a lot of folks?

 

JuiceBoxx: I mean I love it, I do love it, and I love having them around, and they’re the sweetest, most caring, wonderful fan base. It can be emotionally taxing because they do tend to trauma dump. So, they can like, if they have a way to you, if they have access to you in a certain way, like if you’ve opened that door so then like if I open up like a question and answer, if I have some kind of thing where they’re where I’m opening a dialogue between them. A lot of the times, a small percentage of them will just dump their traumas out onto me and sometimes it’s just like listen, I just wanted you to ask like if I was wearing a blonde or blue hair today like I can’t really, I can’t, I’m not a therapist.

There’s been a lot of times, where I’ve gotten video and audio messages of people who are saying things like, I don’t want to be alive anymore. I hate feeling like this, and I have to tell them like I am not a therapist. I am literally a 32-year-old man who happens to be absolutely stunning.

That’s it, like just there’s someone else you need to talk to about this, like there is resources, there is, and I would have to literally just be like, hey I’m not the lion. Like here’s some resources, go and call them. Love you, but I can’t help you right now. I also don’t want to be responsible for that. Right like I’m not your therapist. I’m not going to give you great advice. And I have to constantly be very candid about that because it’s just like a lot of times they are gonna ask me like, what should I do and it’s just like I don’t f*cking know. I’m also like white trash right so it’s like I’m just going to give you should you shitty advice.

Ryan: Yeah so, you’ve had some real test to set some boundaries, I guess.

 

JuiceBoxx: Oh, I love a boundary lately I love a boundary.

Ryan: One thing I’m always interested is like you know through drag, watching the show, and hearing Ru talk about almost like finding yourself within drag. What’s that been experience been for you when you got into drag? Were you able to get in touch with more of yourself, other parts of yourself? What was that experience?

 

JuiceBoxx: I started drag because, well there were 2 reasons that I started. I started drag because the party; it was free booze, it was free entry into things, you were like adored by people, like people wanted to be around you and I was so insecure that I was just like I love that sh*t. I also f*cking hated myself, like I was so insecure. I felt so ugly because when you go to a gay bar, especially in the Toronto village, especially like eight years ago when I started, like there was people who were like it was, it was white gay central, like everybody had abs, everybody was hot, like it was one of those kind of things where they didn’t, there wasn’t a lot of like, it wasn’t very inclusive, like you weren’t surrounded by a spectrum of queer people. You very much were surrounded by like the typical sort of like view of what the gay village you think would look like so it was hard to be around that sort of stuff and not be super fit, and to not be tall, and to not be very muscular and handsome, and I was balding and I was just like it was a lot, so I was just like – don’t worry sis, right under here, it looks the exact same.

But I, so that was really hard, so when I saw how beautiful the Queens could be, and I saw people adored them, and how those people that I wanted to be around gave them the attention that I think I desperately wanted. That’s I think why I went into that. Obviously, my priorities changed, like obviously I fell in love with the art, and I fell in love with you know everything about it and how it could be such an incredible, beautiful career. The attention is still great, but there’s a lot more there’s a lot more artistic things that I appreciate about it now, but that’s sort of why I had started, and it helped me find confidence. It helped me find avenues into creating more of a happy life for me, and to be more confident as myself outside of drag versus how absolutely overconfident I am as Juice. I mean but, but like, how could I not right?

Ryan: Well, you highlighted a couple of good points around the pressures in the LGBTQ+ community. How do you how have you dealt with those pressures and what, do you have any ideas for change and what that could look like?

 

JuiceBoxx: Well, I mean I think we’ve already kind of started that sort of wave of change, especially with the with the massive Black Lives Matter movement last year, so but seeing a lot of sorts of problems within our own communities, when it comes to racism and misogyny and only having a certain type of archetype of gay man that we sort of look to as like the sort of representation for our entire community. I think we’re already sort of on that path of like making like being a little bit more aware of the intersectionality, being a little bit more aware that it isn’t just like white, fit, gay men that are the be all end all of the LGBT community. There’s such an incredible array of like incredible people that we that are a part of this and that we I think need to sort of be a little bit more inclusive with, so I think we’re already there. I think we’re already on, not there, but we’re on like a nice path. We also haven’t left our houses in like two years so it’s a little hard to see it in real life, but hopefully soon.

Ryan: Two years into a two-week lock down, right?

JuiceBoxx: Yeah, it’s uh but I’m thriving in my basement right now.

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40:35 Question and Answer

 

Ryan: Well, I want to leave some time open for questions from the audience, would you like to get into that right now?

JuiceBoxx: Sure

Ryan: All right. Hi Suanne.

Suanne: Hi, hi again. Yes, we do have a couple of questions that have come through. So one of the first ones, actually, because we do have a lot of counselors and therapists attending today as well. So, a couple of the questions have come around, you spoke about connecting with your therapist. Did you have to actually shop around, find someone that you really connected with, and conversely kind of how did your current therapist really make that connection with you and allow you to trust her?

JuiceBoxx: So, the way I found my therapist was that I reached out on my Instagram. I literally was just like does anybody know someone I can talk to, and a friend of mine who, because I wanted someone who understood the show, like I wanted someone who knew what I was going to go through, and sort of knew kind of the… like I remember I went to my doctor and she didn’t know what Drag Race was, so it was hard for me to be able to talk to my doctor about what I was going through when I had to be like this is what I did. So, I’d sort of reached out that way being like is there anybody, and then there was actually a wonderful friend of mine who is, he’s trans and he’s like, this is my therapist. She’s so cool, I love her so much. She knows what Drag Race is, she doesn’t watch it, but she knows what it is so it’ll be, you won’t have to have that much emotional labour to have to explain what the show is versus your experience.

So, then, I just reached out to her, and I let her know and she was great. She just took me on right away, and she was very respectful to my boundaries with COVID because, obviously my anxiety deals with health and like I’m going to die all the time, so I was terrified like I’m going to walk into this room, and this woman is going to give me COVID and I’ll just like shrivel up and die on her coach. So she was extremely respectful and we got along great and she actually, funny enough, she refuses to watch Drag Race now. Because she’s like I don’t want to damper my experience and the way that I had described things, so she won’t watch it. She’s like I won’t watch episode one. I know everything that happened in your experience, and I don’t want to have any kind of preconceived notion after watching it so she’s incredible and so respectful and I just love her so much.

Ryan: Awesome.

Suanne: That’s wonderful. Our next question is people who are queer are expected to be fun, party central, very stereotypical depending on their label. How can we educate people without being angry or not fitting into some of these boxes and kind of really condemning them to a certain label?

JuiceBoxx: Well I mean, I think it just comes down to the person, because if you’re in how your approached and everything, because if someone’s going to come up to me and be like, and if I’m like having one of those days, where I just don’t like care and I don’t want to be Juice and I don’t want to be very big and exciting. I just want to be like the boring frat boy that I am inside. Someone’s going to come up to me and be like, why aren’t you more fun? Like why aren’t you like fierce? It’s like I would, I think I would literally just be like go away like. Because I don’t care, like that’s my problem is like we also don’t have to censor ourselves like not saying, not being angry and not being aggressive about is just like well what’s the big deal with being aggressive and angry about it, because if someone’s going to approach me in a way that’s going to put that on me. That’s going to then have their preconceived notions of what they think a gay person should be like on to me. I’m not gonna police anyone’s tone and I’m not going to expect anyone to police mine, so if someone’s going to come up to me, I’m just gonna be like f*ck off.

Like literally watch a TV show. Literally like touch grass, like learn that there is other people that are completely different out in the world and not everyone has to fit in that box that you’ve made inside of your tiny little brain, like oh my God sorry that makes me so mad.

Ryan: And just to touch on that a bit as well, like that’s often something I see in group a lot is, I need to fit into a certain box here and I feel insecure, and I might not be accepted, and a lot of the process is getting in touch with the self and what the self needs and wants and you don’t have to fit into a certain box, you can just be you. So yeah.

Suanne: And another question is around kind of managing with your mental health and with substance use as well. How important did you feel was your connection with other people in the LGBTQ+ community and did you feel that the support from that community was stronger or better or more important than someone outside of your community?

JuiceBoxx: It was, it was wild because I didn’t actually meet a lot of very sober people when I first started sobering up, because I felt like there’s, especially in the Toronto village, there isn’t a lot of places like safe spaces for people who don’t drink right? It’s very much like, just in the venues that I’m in, it’s very much like if you go and you’re not drinking they’re like, why are you here kind of thing. There’s even like Queens who are just like if you’re not drinking your loitering. It’s like Am I? Okay, so there’s a lot of stuff like that, so I actually didn’t find a lot of people who shared the same experience with me until I actually, funny enough Kendall Gender. So, Kendall Gender is a drag queen from Vancouver; incredible, talented, stunning, love her so much. We were doing an event in Calgary, and I was going fully prepared to be the only sober one. I was going fully prepared to be you know the one who is going to be not going out to the after parties, who is just going to go and do my job, take my lashes off as I’m walking off stage and go back to my hotel and I found out she doesn’t drink.

So it was the first sort of entertainer that I had sort of been around, who was sober, where we both had such different paths on our way to sobriety, but we sort of had this shared experience of not drinking. And it was so nice to be able to be in a bar and working and being able to do my thing and I had somebody there who is like having a similar experience as me and having someone – Oh my God yes Jeremy stan Kendall Gender, I love her so much- But we it was so nice that we connected so deeply and it was just so nice to be able to have somebody there because there isn’t a lot of sober drag queens right, we’re a rare breed lately.

Suanne: A little bit related to that, but just working in the drag community and maybe perhaps a community that’s not always sober, have you ever had issues of feeling unsafe? Either from your peers or other people from that nightlife?

JuiceBoxx: Like in a with a violent way?

Suanne: Yeah, or kind of just in general um any kind of feelings of, just worried about your safety in general?

JuiceBoxx: Oh yeah, oh yeah like there’s been times where like I know people who drink and drive, and they use it like they’re very confident in their abilities to drink and drive, and they’ve like offered me rides home as they’re like, you know, like one eye is f*cking going this way, and the other one’s that way and they’re just like you need a ride? And I’m like, not from you and also what the f*ck? Like so there’s those situations in which I’ve been like this isn’t good. This isn’t good for either of us. People who have been sitting there telling me about the like proud about some things that they’ve done while they’re drunk while I’m sober, and I’m just like you’re not a person I need to be around because this doesn’t make me feel safe, this doesn’t make me feel happy. It also makes me not feel safe for anyone who’s ever around you.

So those have been mine. I’ve never felt like in immediate danger because I’m a Virgo and I’m very much about being in control of things, so I try to be very controlling in those aspects, but those are my sort of experiences with it.

Suanne: And yeah and you’ve actually spoken a lot about, you know, not associating with people who aren’t your same energy right now, especially that you’re choosing not to drink, so we’ve got a question around, you know my experience as a gay man is that being clean and sober is people drink and party and they always question why I’m not drinking or using. It can be very uncomfortable for them, but I don’t really care if they drink or use that’s their business. Has that been your own experience as well?

JuiceBoxx: Yeah, that’s been the same and that’s why I just sort of like found people who wouldn’t question me. And I was very candid with people if they did. I was just like listen like this is my choice, and this is my life, and this is my journey, and if that’s an issue for you like, why like one, why is it an issue for you? Like if it’s so important to you that I am on that same level of drunk as you then we don’t match. We’re not a good connection. Because I am so respectful to those around me who choose to drink. My husband loves a cocktail, loves a cocktail right, but he can keep control of those things, so what he does is he puts on his headphones and has a couple drinks, has a little dance party in the kitchen. It’s great, lovely, enjoy yourself babe, have a good time. But like if there’s people who are around me who, if they need me to be as drunk as them, that’s not a person that needs to be around me we’re not we’re not a good match it’s…

Suanne: Oh, for sure fair enough, we’ve got a couple last questions, I think kind of more around your career in drag and so one question is, how do you manage and handle the ignorance towards your art of being a drag queen? It says this person often works with those who desire to be their authentic self, but the struggle and they feel they’re not accepted by everyone.

JuiceBoxx: Well, I mean I there’s not a huge amount of ignorance lately because of my job, because it is so mainstream like Drag Race made my career such a massive, sort of mainstream thing. Like Drag Race is a monster right, there’s like 800 like spinoffs now. So, I feel like there isn’t a huge amount of stigma around me anymore, but I remember when I first started like there was people who were like, who would associate me with like a kink. Like they were just like, oh so you like to like have sex in drag and I’m like, I mean not with eight pairs of tights on and like four hip pads like absolutely not, nothing about that feels sexy to me. But there was a lot of that, there was a lot of having to explain to people, this is a job, this is entertainment, this is not a kink. Like I’m not putting on a wig and wrapping tape around my head making me feel like my head’s going to explode and being like, oh this is so hot. Like no right? And if it is, great, oh my God enjoy yourself, like go and get your rocks, but for me, absolutely not.

So I think that’s sort of the only everything I’ve had to deal with that sort of ignorance, but like we’re so mainstream now that I think it’s now people see like drag queens is like woah what a cool job kind of thing.

Suanne: Okay kind of along those lines, somebody has asked if you have any tips or advice for someone who may want to get into the world of drag?

JuiceBoxx: Don’t. I’m kidding, I’m kidding that’s a joke. Um well, I mean if you want to get into drag, honestly think about it in two ways. Do you want to do it because you want a career, or do you want to do it because you think it looks fun? Because that’s two very different ways of going about it. If you think it looks fun, you just want to do it casually, enjoy, have fun, pick out a couple of lashes, enjoy yourself just keep in mind, it is so expensive. It is so expensive to look good. It is so expensive to be able to put out a quality product. For the first two to three years, you are going to be putting out more money than you are getting. Check your ego at the door. Don’t be a f*cking asshole. Nobody wants to work with an asshole. I would rather work with an ugly girl who can barely dance, who is the kindest person in the world, than someone who is absolutely striking and there a cock. Like uh no, not at all, I don’t want them around. I’m so sorry for my swearing, by the way, it just like falls out of my mouth.

But those kinds of things, like you got to keep in mind, because it is so expensive. This hair was $150. This outfit was, this outfit here is literally just a slip and it was 100. This was a $200 jacket. Right, everything on my face it’s like you’re thinking about $5,000 worth of like cosmetics, and brushes, and mirrors. So it’s like you have to put so much into this career that you have to be so serious about it, if you want it to be good, so that’s what I would say, have money. Because it’s so expensive, it sucks! It’s a good job, once you kind of get things moving.

Suanne: I think the next question is a very nice and positive one, but can you share what is your memory of a best day that you’ve had and what helps you do you?

JuiceBoxx: Of a best day?

Suanne: Yes.

JuiceBoxx: What’s a best day? Oh just like a generic best day?

Suanne: Yeah, what’s the best day that you can remember that you’ve recently had? Like what made it so great?

JuiceBoxx: Oh my God that’s so nice. Um I would say the best day that I’ve had in a while would be, oh Christmas was very nice. It was far away, but it was very nice. So this was the first Christmas that my husband and I had in our own home. So we just bought a house. We were very privileged and very lucky to be able to purchase a home. I’m very thankful to have been able to do that, but every year for Christmas we’ve always had to do the Christmas shuffle, where you’ve got to go around to like 400 houses and see everybody and visit everyone and it’s always exhausting, but because of you know, Miss pan Demi Lovato, because of the pandemic, we were able to you know say like, hey you know what maybe this year we’re not going to come down. Love you, miss you so much. And it was so nice to be able to just like, we woke up on Christmas morning and we just like cuddled on the couch in front of the tree. And the dog just like got to open all of her presents. We have like a little bag that jingles for our dog and she opened all of her bones, and it was just like, and I made a turkey dinner, it was so nice…Off the top of my head.

Suanne: That sounds beautiful I’m sure, yeah. I’m sure everybody strives for a day like that.

JuiceBoxx: Right, just relaxing and it was like there was so much less pressure because usually there’s so much like pressure for like those family holidays, but it was just like let’s chill, just like cuddle.

Suanne: Okay, so um it’s a time for the last question, but actually this is a question for both you JuiceBoxx and Ryan. To both, how do you feel about mental health care and how it can improve geared to the person first and not requiring education on gender or sexual orientation by either the client or kind of the therapist in the first place?

Pause

Suanne: Because that sounded a little bit confusing, you know now that I’m reading it. This, I think, generally, this is how do you think mental health care can improve and does that require education around gender and sexual orientation and how important of a role does that need to play in mental health care?

JuiceBoxx: Ryan you go first.

Ryan: Okay sure. So, I guess this is, would be a very complex answer, but because I don’t think it’s a simple solution, but I do firmly believe that in my profession as a therapist, it’s an expectation that you to keep up on research, and keep up on cultural awareness ,and incorporate that into your practice, and I do see the need for more therapists to get educated on a number of cultural awareness issues and I think it’s, for me, if I’m going, if I’m accessing therapy and someone doesn’t fully understand then or not even fully understand, but just understand a bit of what I’m going through or use proper language or create a safe space then I’m not, I wouldn’t feel comfortable even going into my own stuff and sharing and being vulnerable, so I think there is a lot of onus on clinicians and organizations to get educated and that’s what I like about what we’re doing here is we’re training people, we’re creating awareness, bringing in an elder for three hours once a month to meet with our patients. I think as clinicians we have a job to do, and I think part of that is educating ourselves all the time. So that would be my long version of the answer, but very complex.

JuiceBoxx: What Ryan said.

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58:35 Conclusion

Suanne: Wonderful. Yes, no, thank you very much, both of you for taking the time today to join us. We’ve had some wonderful questions. I can see lots of wonderful comments and thank yous to you both in our chat. And so, yes, much love and much appreciation to you both for today.

For everyone who’s joined us, thank you as well for taking the time. We will be sending out a follow-up email next week from with some additional resources for you as well and contact information for Ryan, and JuiceBoxx if you’d like to reach out.

Ryan: I just want to say thank you, thank you JuiceBoxx, for your vulnerability, your honesty, and it’s been an absolute privilege and honour to be a part of this and to hear your story. And I just so appreciate your time, so thank you so much.

JuiceBoxx: Thank you, well I appreciate you guys having me. I had a lot of fun, and it was nice to just like chill and chat on a rainy, Thursday? Thursday afternoon? And thank you everybody in the chat I do, I have the chat open on the side of my thing, and I am reading everything right now, so you are all very sweet, thank you so much for all your kind words and I appreciate you guys having me here. Thank you so much.

Suanne: Thank you very much take care, everyone.

JuiceBoxx: Bye.

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