Louise Head is a queer, femme writer and associate marriage and family therapist (MFT) who believes that fact-based sex and relationship education is a human right. We all deserve to explore our bodies, intimacy, and desire with awareness and consent. Through her writing, work with clients, and budding Instagram account, Head is committed to helping individuals achieve a more fulfilling and conscious sexuality. Because of her perspective, experience, and focus on various intersections, her work is able to reach audiences that have historically been left out of mainstream discussions around family planning and reproductive health, bringing these communities information, validation, and nuance to complex issues. Yeah, we know — she’s kind of (totally and completely) amazing.
You're an associate therapist, sex educator, and writer. How do you practice self care, especially after working with other people's problems all day?
I have to say, I feel like I have gotten way better at self care in my recent adult life! I am very selfish with my own time. I need a lot of space and time alone and I have gotten better at feeling OK about this, even when I have to say “no” to plans with people.
That said, I think one of my best ongoing self care practices has been investing in my community. I have a little, magical group of people that I trust and love deeply who provide me with a stable sense of connection and love. I know when I spin out that they will stabilize me. Nurturing these relationships has become much more conscious and intentional over the past few years. Feeling seen and understood by just one person when I am having a hard time makes such a difference in how much stress I am able to handle.
Also, when it’s been a really tough day with clients, I play music so loud in the car on my drive home. The volume makes me feel like some of the pain I’m holding gets shaken out of me.
What inspired you to work with couples and write and educate on gender and sexuality?
I truly feel like our culture offers us a pretty one-dimensional story of what desire, attraction, gender, and sexuality are allowed to be. That’s so limiting! It makes me irritated. Because desire does not behave — it is not heterosexual and cis and white. Seriously, there is an infinite universe out there of what your gender expression and sexual experience can be, and I think it’s a tragedy that those options are often invisible to us. I had never met an openly gay person until I went to college. So, how was I meant to imagine who I could be as a young person? Where do bondage ropes, high heels, and messy, inconvenient desire fit in here? One huge problem I think we have today is that family and children aren’t seen as compatible with a life that is super sex-forward. We need more visibility for people who are kinky and non-conforming and parents. I absolutely want children someday and I practice some alternative sexualities. I don’t see that changing.
I love being a sex educator because I get to write and talk about the things that I wish I knew a decade ago when I was sleeping with someone for the first time. I look at kids in highschool today and they’re already confidently talking about identifying as non binary, asexual, demisexual, queer, etc. That makes me really happy. They’re maybe the first generation that I believe really has access to a multi-faceted narrative of what desire, sex, and gender can be at the onset of puberty and sexual activity. Thank god. Maybe we’re halfway finished with birthing a queer, intersectional America.
As for couples, I love love stories! Every romantic relationship creates its own culture. As an associate marriage and family therapist who works with couples, I get the opportunity to be enchanted by the tiny worlds people who are in love have built together. Most of my job is helping people get back in touch with that world. Somehow, they’ve gotten disconnected from what’s particularly beautiful about their communion because they feel judged or unsafe with their partner. Everyone experiences this at some point. Mostly, I get to facilitate moments where partners can feel deeply seen and understood by each other. That’s so rewarding.
What puts the biggest smile on your face about what you do?
Romantic relationships can feel so fulfilling, but they also have the power to cause us pain and confusion like nothing else. When a couple comes in feeling so alone and stuck and I see them start to remember what initially drew them to each other and they get vulnerable enough to reach out and ask for that love and that connection again, I feel so happy. That takes a lot of courage.
Is there a piece of advice that someone gave you that has shifted your outlook or your perspective on something?
Yes! I wish this was less heavy, but this really did change my life when I was 21. I read Trinh T. Minh-ha’s book, Woman, Native, Other: Writing Post-Coloniality and Feminism and the message I took away from it was: Always, always think about whose voice gets to tell a certain story. Only those who have lived an experience can tell the story of that identity. If you’re not black, you don’t get to tell stories or evaluate stories about the black experience. You must be a listener and nothing else.
I use this principle in every moment of my life now. When I have a client sitting in front of me whose identity or experience is different than mine, I trust their voice even when I may not completely understand where they are coming from. This keeps me from taking someone’s agency. Everyone has the right to define themselves. This principle also helps give me confidence in my own voice. Having been raised female, I am primed to defer to people with more power than me. Understanding that no one else can give voice to my story and my experiences has empowered me to actually share it. This concept sounds kind of theoretical, but I honestly use it to navigate how much I talk versus listen in most daily personal interactions.
As a queer woman of color, do you feel that the information available on reproductive health, and the conversation around it, includes resources for someone with your identity?
It is still difficult to build a family in this country if you are not cisgender and heterosexual. Some resources for people who are queer, transgender, poor, or not-white do exist, but they are often more accessible to those who live in coastal, metropolitan areas. They feel few and far between. Meanwhile, family law in the United States privileges two-parent, married, cis, heterosexual households and our Child Protective Services disproportionately monitors poor families of color in comparison to white families. In this sense, I think we still have a lot of work to do before queer people of color can family plan with the same security and excitement that white, heterosexual people can.
That said, I think that the queer community has pioneered some of the most thoughtful, alternative forms of family. I see queer people using modern technology to build families, navigating multi-parent households, engaging with the foster care system, and all around being really intentional to achieve their vision of a family.
You work with couples in the queer community. How has working with them through family planning been different than working with straight couples?
I actually haven’t really worked with queer couples specifically around family planning. What I would say is that there tends to be less assumptions about how a queer relationship is going to look. People spend a lot more time communicating expectations and agreements as to how the relationship is going to work. This applies to family as well. I see lots and lots of very thoughtful straight couples doing the same thing, but I think because straight relationships don’t draw the same level of societal examination that queer relationships do, they can sometimes operate smoothly without a lot of reflection on what assumptions make up relationship “norms.” That said, each couple is unique and I am lucky to work with very reflective, engaged couples and families, both queer and straight.