Nick Fager is an LGBTQ psychotherapist practicing in New York. He is also the coordinator for LGBTQ services at the Kull Initiative for Psychotherapy, and he runs a support group for gay men struggling with dating app addictions called Grindr’ed Down.
“It’s for people who are recognizing that apps are not fulfilling them, yet are having a really hard time changing themselves,” Fager tells Out.
One of Fager’s other projects is an Instagram page @gaytherapy, which he created last October. The page features inspiration quotes, educational videos, and powerful first-person narratives from LGBTQ people of all walks of life. The stories range from heartbreaking to hopeful, and each one serves as a reminder to keep your head up, think positively, and live the best life you can.
Scroll down for a sampling of @gaytherapy…
"Growing up, we never thought that we were worthy of love. We didn't see examples of healthy frames of possibility for queer and trans people of color. Every story we saw in the media about a queer character ended in tragedy. That's why our love for each other is so radical and revolutionary for not just us but for people who found in our relationship, a sense of hope. We learned to love ourselves through the reflection in the other person's eyes. We learned how to love and be loved despite the world telling us that we are not worthy of this. Our relationship allows us to grow, change, struggle, and heal while learning to center radical self-love in our activism, and life. We want all queer and trans people, especially queer and trans people of color, to know that they deserve to love themselves and others openly and without apology." #gaytherapy @alexjenny_ @effeecoello @alexandeffee
"For me the hardest part about being HIV positive isn’t the tests or medications – it’s the lack of HIV education in the LGBT community. I’m still amazed that when I tell someone I’m HIV positive or that I’m undetectable that they don’t know what those two terms really mean. They will tell me they’re on PReP but won’t understand what PReP really does in the prevention of HIV. They think having unprotected sex with a stranger who was recently tested is safer than having “safe” sex with someone who is HIV positive and undetectable. Spoiler alert: It’s not. The lack of education or awareness for this disease can be seen in the day-to-day stigma that the LGBT community perpetrates on HIV positive individuals. As the community in the US that this disease effects the most, we should not only know the most about it but show the most compassion. Instead, we shun those who are HIV positive as lepers; we forget that attached to the status is human being. We refuse to educate ourselves. For me, the lack of empathy brings an unwanted sense of vulnerability. Like HIV negative people, I want to be loved and I wanted to be accepted. I think I’ve resigned myself to the idea that the same people who reject me for my status are the same people that think “No Fats, No Fems, No Asians” is “just a preference”. They aren’t self-aware enough to understand that excluding large groups of people for something they cannot control isn’t a “preference”. It’s intolerance." Keith, New York City @keithmmyers #gaytherapy
Joy is often a future concept in our minds. We'll be happy as soon as we get that perfect job, or that perfect apartment, or that perfect boyfriend, or that perfect body. But the problem with linking joy with perfection is that we never really get there. We'll always find that one minor flaw that can be improved upon. Cultivating joy is a daily practice. Unlike other emotions, joy can be very fleeting. It can strike us for just a moment, and if we're not paying attention, we can easily miss it. If we're devoting all of our attention to the pursuit of perfection or validation, we are sure to miss it altogether. Make a conscious effort to slow down this weekend, calm the voices that are striving for perfection, and notice those little things in life that bring you joy. Then make more room in your life for those things. #gaytherapy
"I was forced to deal with racism at a young age. Or not deal, but be exposed to it. Growing up in rural West Michigan meant living in a heavily white area, and having white parents as an Asian kid. Growing up gay was fine because my identity was never contingent around being gay. Coming out was fine and easy, and I was so excited to finally dive into a group of other gay men who all had similar struggles. You can imagine my shock as I maneuvered my way around the United States getting as much, if not more, discrimination within the gay scene. We're all attracted to what we're attracted to, but there still seems to be a lot of marginalization in the gay community. Grindr, Scruff, Tinder, and the other apps are big perpetrators, but I've also been called a chink at more than one gay establishments by the people who work there, and with no disciplinary action taken by upper management because their "employees were hot", it's made me equally as self conscious and outraged about my race. I never got my validation based on masculinity, sex or appearance like most of us do; it was always through being well spoken, talented, and hard working. Most days are good, but there are many, even at the age of 30, where I feel like my race has become the crumbling factor to me missing out on a lot of things that my Midwestern upbringing instilled in me – the desire to be in a healthy relationship, building a life, and being successful. Regardless of how I try to ignore it, I will always be gay, and have had to assimilate to being constantly judged, perceived and rejected based on my race within the community. My race, like my sexuality, is the way I was born, yet I've found it unsettling that the majority of gay men don't want to be judged for being gay but have no problem separating things based on race. We're all just working through this thing called life, and I wish someone felt the same way about me that I feel about myself." Ross, New York City. #gaytherapy @rossholesaaays
"The moment I realized I was ok being HIV positive, the power and meaning of the word took over me… being positive had a strong impact in the way I looked at every single occasion, every new person I met, every new chance I had to learn something. Becoming positive has affected me not only in a sense of seroconversion, but also the conversion of my soul, the prisms I use to look at the gifts that life provide. In a sense, it catapulted me to own my true self and made me strong enough to be vulnerable and real to the world." Ariel, New York City @arielelo #gaytherapy
In many ways, our phones have become our most secure attachments. They are our safety nets that keep us connected to an identity that feels comfortable. They are able to meet more of our needs than any human – they can provide us with social connection, food, sex, games, directions, transportation, humor, music etc. When we feel lost or confused, we turn to them for answers. When we feel distressed, we turn to them for comfort or distraction. When they run out of battery, we feel anxious and abandoned. We want to stay connected to our phones at all times, just like at one point, we wanted to stay connected to our parents at all times, but like any curious child, we have to journey away from that safety net and explore the world. If we stay within our comfort zone, we will never change or grow. When something or someone calls you away from your phone, let it happen. Let yourself explore, experiment, and take risks without the constant reminder of who you are or who you should be. Step outside of yourself for a little while, your phone will be there waiting for you when you return. #gaytherapy
"I'm a transmasculine, non-binary person. I'm 18 years old. When I was in high school I always used the mens bathroom. Since I was pre-transition I was often made to feel unsafe there, being taunted, and even cornered. Now that I've been on testosterone for a little over 6 months, I feel more comfortable in the men's bathroom. However, if I were still in high school, I'd be terrified. I can't imagine finally being comfortable and unafraid to go into the bathroom I need to be in, and having to go back to a bathroom where I don't belong. I'm also terrified for those who are gender-fluid or gender non-conforming, or simply choose not to transition. What bathroom will they be free of harassment in, if any? and will this happen to be the one they're allowed to go into? Today's news makes me feel ignored and worthless, like they don't care about us, but I won't stop standing up for people and I'll never stop being proud of who I am." Blake Moran, Concord, North Carolina @ekalb_m
"I was in my 20s in the late 80s when people were just starting to hear about AIDS. I was coming out, at least to myself, at the same time. There was a definite feeling of fear in the air. We didn't know what it was, and how fearful we should or shouldn't be during sex. It also didn't help that some people freaked out when I came out to them. “Oh my god, be careful, I don't want you to die", said one. I had a friend/mentor, Ted, older by a few years, guiding me through the coming out process. He was protective of me and advised being really cautious with sex, which I was. This was fortunate because playing it safe didn't expose me, but I also felt like I was missing out on something. I didn't know many people personally that died at that time – but Ted did, and I felt his pain. However, the long arm of that disease caught up to affect me personally in 2012, when it took a good friend of mine, who had been fine up to that point. We thought by then it was a manageable disease and we assumed he was out of the woods, so it was a terrible shock." – Tom, New York City. This weekend the New York City AIDS Memorial opened in the West Village, as a tribute to over 100,000 people that were lost to AIDS during the epidemic in New York City alone. As the AIDS crisis is far from over, the memorial is also meant to energize and inspire future generations of activists. #nycaidsmemorial #gaytherapy