Beck Gee-Cohen has a passion for trans issues—and by that, he means talking the greater community through how they can fix their “issues” with trans people. “I identify as transgender,” he says. “And when I talk to clinicians, I explain to them: It’s not us, it’s you.”
Listen to Beck’s first show on our podcast: Gender Matters.
Listen to Beck’s second show on our podcast: The Language of Gender.
Sure, Beck has a personal connection to issues of gender and sexuality. But his background has also afforded him a wealth of experience and skills to further the trans conversation in this country. “I’ve been working with the LGBT population for a long time,” he says. “My passion is with the trans community and helping clinicians, therapists, and the world to know more about trans people.” When he’s talking to an audience on how clinicians can better help their trans clients in addiction treatment (he’s a regular NCAD presenter), he can tell it’s a controversial topic—because not everyone wants to talk about it. But overall, Beck says it’s less about the mistakes you make in speaking the wrong way and more about being open to learning a different and better way. “I wanted to give a voice to the trans community, and that begins by not being afraid to start that conversation,” he says.
Whether he’s talking to professionals at prisons, schools, or treatment facilities, the message about how we can better serve the trans community is clear: Language is powerful. But the healing starts in speaking out. “This is such a traumatized community, and we need to talk about it,” he says. “We need to start asking questions: Why are they hypervigilant? What are they angry? Why are they scared? Because the world around us is scary.”
Beck’s role at MHNR is evolving, and we’re excited to explore more issues that delve into the intricacies of gender and sexuality. Stay tuned for more conversations on the chasm that exists between male and female and how clinicians can better help those clients, who often feel trapped in a world that doesn’t know their name. “Let’s get beyond the semantics of he/she,” says Beck. “It’s really not that difficult. We’re all just people.”
MHNR: Besides identifying as trans yourself, what’s your educational training on the subject of gender issues?
Beck: I earned a bachelor’s of science degree in sociology, with an emphasis on gender and sexuality, from Montana State University. My undergraduate thesis delved into addiction in LGBTQIA+ rural communities. From there, I furthered my studies with a master of arts in addiction counseling from Hazelden Graduate School, where I received an award for excellence in writing for a paper that focused on training addiction counselors to give better treatment to LGBTQIA+ clients.
MHNR: Do you have a personal connection to mental health topics? From where (and when) does your passion for behavioral health topics stem?
Beck: Personally, I have struggled with addiction, depression, and anxiety. I have been sober for 11.5 years. I am a transgender person and though being trans is not a mental health disorder, the struggles of being trans in a society that is unaccepting can lead to mental health issues. I am an advocate for recovery, mental health, and LGBTQIA+ communities.
MHNR: Are there any behavioral health “soft spots” that you most love talking about? If so, what are they and why are they so close to your heart/why is advocacy and education so needed on this issue?
Beck: I love to discuss the topics of gender and sexuality. I believe that gender and sexuality are the foundation of a person. And if we are not looking at these topics, we are missing a big piece of the puzzle. I tend to challenge people about how they look at gender and how they see their own sexuality in themselves, their relationships, and the world around them.
MHNR: How did MHNR make their way to you—or how did you find out about them?
Beck: I believe Kristin [Walker] reached out to me. And really, all my friends were doing the show. Considering I don’t like to miss out (and I give in to peer pressure), I joined in on the fun.
Beck: Kristin and I have done a couple talks about trauma with other clinicians and we have had a talk on gender and basic sexuality terms. I’m looking forward to discussing more in depth the topics of mental health and the LGBTQIA+ community—interviewing specialists in the field on how the world (policies, government, and society) affects the LGBTQIA+ community. We are looking at launching my own podcast on Kristin’s Mental Health News Radio Network.
MHNR: Most important topic you’ve helped spread awareness on to date—and why?
Beck: The topic that I have most helped spread awareness about (and am most proud of) has got to be how to help the transgender community. I hate the term “trans issues” as it’s not really about transgender issues. It’s really more about the community that is not trans—and how they have issues with the trans community. I hope to help mental health therapists as well as the general public open their minds and hearts to trans people.
MHNR: Favorite part of working with the folks at MHNR?
Beck: We just have a blast. We have so much fun and laugh a lot.
MHNR: Most surprising part of this gig?
Beck: I think the most surprising is the growth I get from the shows. Even though our talks are meant to benefit our listeners, I’m getting those benefits too—by being challenged as well as challenging others.
MHNR: What’s your biggest aspiration for your role here at MHNR—or the effects you hope to achieve through your work with MHNR?
Beck: I hope to reach more people with my message of hope. Whether it’s people in rural communities who don’t have any experience with gender or sexuality or someone else who’s suffering through gender issues without a support system, there’s a lot of need out there. I want to reach everyone who needs to hear my message.
MHNR: What’s something most readers (or listeners) might be surprised to learn about you?
Beck: I’m actually pretty open to learning. That may be a surprise to some because I can be very charged and passionate about topics such as gender and sexuality. I’m also so compassionate to help others learn. I think people often get nervous to “make mistakes,” but I believe in inviting that effort into new things, new areas, and then teaching others from those mistakes that may come.
MHNR: What brings you joy, both inside and outside of your professional pursuits?
Beck: Laughing with my wife and my friends, cuddles from my dogs, and music… don’t even get me started on music!
MHNR: And lastly, what would you most like readers (or listeners) to know about who you are and what you seek to accomplish in your role with MHNR, and more broadly in your career?
Beck: I want people to know me—that my being transgender isn’t the end all be all but just a piece of what makes me who I am. The same goes for my recovery, depression, and anxiety. These are all small pieces of a greater whole. I want people to learn from me and the people I have on my show. I want people to gain empathy and understanding so that they can help to change the world around them in regards to LGBTQIA+ rights and overall kindness.
Beck is an addiction counselor originally from Los Angeles California, and is currently on the Board of Directors for NALGAP (The Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Addiction Professionals and Their Allies). Beck is the Assistant Director of Clinical Services at Pride Institute in Minneapolis, MN. as well as a National Speaker on topics of the LGBTQ community and substance abuse. He has a special focus on the Transgender community, trauma, addiction, and helping treatment facilities and clinicians better serve the Trans community.
Have questions for Beck? Please email us!