March 2012

At our most recent Spirituality group, the discussion opened with someone mentioning that they thought three spiritual principles were: 1) putting oneself first with good self care; 2) service; and 3) balance in one’s life, say between work and leisure, service and time for self.  Another person took up the discussion with the remark that when our spirits are good, because we are taking care of ourselves well, we are likely to share that good feeling with others.  An example another participant spoke of was his reaching out for friendship and support when his sister died recently and his ability to give back that support by calling his sick father every night.
The facilitator suggested we think about what kinds of activities make us feel good in the day.  Numerous people took their turns talking about what makes them feel good: going for a walk; exercise in the morning; writing; artwork; and dancing, as well as the importance of saying a warm-hearted “Good morning,” to those around us.
Others chimed in with their ideas of what helps when they’re having a bad experience and they want to turn it into something positive.  One person said “When I dress up and they insult me, I take it as something positive, because that’s how I was taught in the Philippines, that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people are not only accepted in the Philippines, but they are embraced.  In high schools there, there are three bathrooms, one of which is for Transgender students.”

She went on to say that she found a bar that she went to in the Village was segregated all into their own “cliques,” (in contrast to clubs in the Philippines); but after she made the effort to reach out to people, she was able to make friends.  Our facilitator then remarked that he felt that it is up to the newcomer to reach out to others and not to expect others to do the work.

Someone else noted that we are very fortunate the Governor [and Legislature] of New York State passed the Marriage Equality law, because LGBT people want to be happy like everybody else.  The discussion evolved into a talk about acceptance of our LGBT identity by family members.  The general consensus was that we did not ask to be gay, that our best happiness comes from accepting ourselves.  But it was noted that it is very difficult to accept and love oneself in a vacuum – when everyone around us is negative about and towards us.

That’s why we need places like Rainbow Heights Club, which bathe us in positive energy and affirmation and acceptance of who we are.  The result is people like us finding our own way to self esteem and self love and ultimately to good choices for ourselves and for those around us in the community.
The final comment made in our discussion was that we need to give out love when we encounter hatred and intolerance, even when and especially when that hatred and intolerance come from our families.  By so doing, we keep the door open to hatred and intolerance being transmuted (changed) to love and acceptance.

-Julie C., Member

February 2012

And you laugh at me
a silly dream
of romance yet to come.

Mother Goddess

And Africa was in her
i could smell its vibes
like the sound of heritage speaking my voice
like the Ebo sands chanting my name
in a whisper
in a sound
as ancient as the color purple
i could hear the rain falling from her laughter
i could smell the hint of heritage days to come,
and her spirit called the dawn
giving Africa its name
and i prayed, and prayed
in surrealist laughter
my breath called the moon
my emotions called the dawn



Return my soul
my tribal pride
my breath of wind
the magic of the conga drum
Return my song
i sing to thee
of romance
born of climax in the desert storm

Chapelle H, Member


I would like to get people to work to together for a better world for the human race so that we can evolve into a better human  society and a  highly  developed specimen of  human beings. Instead of fighting to decide our differences we should talk  it out. We should study the arts the sciences mathematics and philosophy and religion and history. And more communication and more dialogue . People need to learn to get to be at peace with each other. In my way of thinking we more education than fighting. And more peaceful discussion than anger lets sit down and talk to each other and work a solution to our problems lets all join hands together and work out our problems and bring about world peace. We as a people should use our minds. I love you all. Thanks for listened to me my name is Philip Wilson I am out.

-Phillip W., Member


The E/Quality Care Conference was held Wednesday, September 14, 2011 from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in New York.  The funders for the Conference were the Johnson Family Foundation and the Milton and Tamara Multch Family Foundation, as well as the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the New York State Department of Health.  The Conference was organized by Dr. Christian Huygen, the Executive Director at Rainbow Heights Club and it was also co-organized by Robert Coffman and the Citywide LGBT Committee of the New York City Federation for Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Alcoholism Services as an Advisory Body to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The opening session with Dr. Adam Carpati, the Executive Deputy Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene spoke along with Carmen Vazquez who is the Coordinator of the LGBT Health and Human Services Unit of the New York State Department of Health, and the last speaker of the opening session was Frances Priester who is the Director of the Bureau of Cultural Competence for New York State Office of Mental Health.  The opening session also included a keynote consumer presentation – a consumer film, by Michael Posner titled “What Helps and What Doesn’t.” 

After the opening session, there were three workshops in the late morning.  Those three workshops were:  “Start Where You Are:  Providing LGBT-Affirming Services in a Mainstream Setting.”  The other morning session was called: “Meet Me In The Middle: Engaging LGBTQ Individuals with Developmental Disabilities and Mental Health Issues in Group Counseling,” presented by Jason Conover, Licensed Creative Art Therapist.  Then the final morning session was a break-out session.   It was an open forum for consumers, providers and funders.  It was an opportunity for consumers to talk about what were their priorities, what they wanted more of, what was not working so well and they were able to speak directly with providers and funders.

The Conference was free of charge and breakfast and lunch were both provided free of charge.   Lunch was an hour long and started at 12:15 p.m.  After lunch, there were three sessions in the early afternoon and then three more break-out sessions in the late afternoon.  There were a total of nine break-out sessions.

There was “Addressing and Preventing LGBT Suicide and Intimate Partner Violence;” as well as “Providing Culturally-Competent Services to Transgender and Gender-Non-Conforming Clients;” and “Providing LGBT-Affirming Substance Abuse Services.”  In the late afternoon, there were three sessions:  “Providing Culturally-Competent Services to LGBT Clients and Communities of Color;” as well as “Providing Affirming Services to LGBT Youth;” and “Providing LGBT-Affirming Services to Elders.”

Concluding the Conference was a closing session with Dr. Christian Huygen and Ben Davis, MA., who wanted to hear feedback from the audience about what they enjoyed and what they wanted more of for the next time.  Surveys were also done so participants could rate the Conference.
In addition, a second conference was scheduled for November 9th – “Advancing E/Quality Care” geared towards providers only, for purposes of “Advancing E/Quality Care – From Policy into Practice.”  It was a free half-day seminar, limited to 50 participants.  It focused on concrete steps for working with clients on how they present their sexual orientation and gender identity as well as ways to engage administration and colleagues around equality.  The experiences providers have had working at Rainbow Heights Club have informed a larger pool of clinicians who need to become more culturally competent at working with LGBT clients.

-Julie C., Member

August 2011

Rainbow Heights Club played host to OMH’s New York State Regional Multicultural Advisory Committee (MAC) for the New York City Region, today, Wednesday, August 17, 2011.
Present were consumers of mental health services, family members and mental health services providers. 
The purpose for our gathering was to determine:
1) Unmet needs of mental health consumers as expressed by diverse communities of color, religion, socio-economic status, culture, sexual orientation and gender identity.
2) “Blue Sky” (if money were no object and all things were possible) solutions we would like to see brought to reality for mental health consumers, their families and their service providers.
Out of the three smaller break-out groups, four main areas of focus became apparent:
1. Housing
2. Employment
3. Respect for our many and varied cultural expressions
4. Education of consumers and providers
The meeting ended with the following conclusions:
1. The information gathered from today’s meeting will be e-mailed to all participants.
2. We decided we needed a basic structure to create an on-going committee or group to work together.
3. We were encouraged to consider which one of the four areas was most critical to get started working on and to e-mail that preference to NYS Office of Mental Health Bureau of Cultural Competence.
4. We were asked, both providers and consumers, to get involved as much as we were able to contribute – that we all had an important voice in improving how mental health and other services are delivered to mental health consumers and their families.

-Julie C., Member

July 2011

Another very interesting Spirituality Group started at approximately 6:00 p.m.  The group was led by Bob, one of our social workers.  (Christian, our regular moderator had to leave the Club early).

We opened with a discussion on the nature of suffering.  One person shared about a deep disappointment he had had.  He’d had to terminate a project in which he was ghostwriting a memoir for a client and spoke about how sad he was to have the project end. 

Another person spoke about having his locks destroyed by vandals so they were unusable and added that he was living in public housing.  He’d tried to repair them but to no avail and had been virtually a prisoner in his apartment because there was no way to secure his home against thieves.  Another shared that the nature of his illness is that he frequently screams in his apartment.  Three people shared about having to take anti-seizure medication in addition to psychiatric medication.  One person’s seizures had been caused by her alcoholism (she is sober now many years); another said he’d had seizures since he’d had a head injury.

Then, as a group, we pondered whether there was a spiritual significance to our sufferings, to the nature of suffering as we had experienced it.  Could suffering teach us something?

It so happened that the writer of the group, who had written 3 chapters of the memoir before the project was scrapped, had written a chapter describing his client’s suffering through serious illness.  He’d written about how the experience had taught his client to “feel for” other people – to truly feel other people’s pain – to care.  He added that his client went so far as to thank God for her suffering, because, in the end, it changed her – it taught her compassion.

One member of the group then piped up and said that he felt he had suffered quite enough to last his whole lifetime and that he hoped he wouldn’t have to suffer any more.  He added that his whole problem had been one of being over-empathetic with others to the point of codependency and now his journey consisted in being able to focus constructively and creatively on himself.  I felt this was an interesting counterpoint.

The discussion wrapped up with an inventory of what Club members do to make ourselves feel better that is healthy and constructive; and, might not such activities serve a spiritual purpose in that they bring us out of negativity.

One member talked about how he turns up the music nice and loud and sings and dances – he does this every day.  Another shared about how she loves to sing karaoke on Fridays at the Club.  Others chimed in.  Finally, it was concluded that perhaps these activities could be considered a “spiritual practice” as much as anyone who prayed or meditated or did other healing work.

This group is one of the many groups held at the Rainbow Heights Club.  If you would like to stop by, we’d love to have you!  In the meantime, Happy Rainbows to you. . . .

-Julie C., Member

June 2011

Spirituality Group started shortly after 6:10 p.m.  Christian was away so Bob took over for what was a very interesting group meeting.  We opened with each person giving a brief statement about what they thought and felt was meant by the term “spirituality.”

One person said spirituality was something larger than oneself.  Another said spirituality meant to her that something existed before humanity and will exist after humanity is gone.  Another said spirituality means how we treat one another. 

We opened with a discussion of love, one person for another and how Love is a spiritual principle.  We talked about how 12-Step addiction recovery programs have a spiritual theme.

One person mentioned about how when he was young, if a kid disrespected the adults, he would hear about it not only from his parents but from the other parents as well.  Someone responded that it seemed kids these days did not fear their parents, or adults or perhaps even God, anymore.  Someone chimed in it was perhaps more of a matter of respect, rather than fear; that children learn to be respectful when they are treated with respect.  Even setting limits and appropriate boundaries can be a way of showing respect to children, as much as showing affection to them and being a good example.

Then the discussion moved onto “fear of God.”  Someone piped in then that according to Catholic tradition, it was not so much fear of God but “Awe.”  A whole new spirit seemed to enter the room, as one person after another shared images that brought them to “Awe” – a double rainbow in the skies of Park Slope after a rain shower; panoramic views of the Grand Canyon, and the recent incident of a human baby who had fallen into an orangutan enclosure at the zoo, and the scene of the female orangutan nuzzling the baby to her bosom until the infant could be retrieved.

This group is one of the many groups held at the Rainbow Heights Club.  If you would like to stop by, we’d love to have you!  In the meantime, Happy Rainbows to you. . . .

-Julie C., Member





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