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How to Come Out About Your Psychedelic Experiences Ft. Steven Huang of MAPS

Today, we are joined by special guest Steven Huang of the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), as we delve into the importance of sharing one’s psychedelic experiences. 

With Steven we explore the parallels between coming out narratives in the LGBTQ+ community and sharing psychedelic experiences. Steve’s personal journey, highlighted by his experiences as a queer Chinese American, adds a poignant layer to the discussion.

Today’s reading provides a roadmap for individuals contemplating sharing their own psychedelic stories, emphasizing the role of privilege, accessibility, and ethical responsibility, while stressing the importance of sensitivity, consent, and considering the audience and purpose behind sharing, whether it’s for personal catharsis, connection, or advocacy. 

We discuss the challenges of navigating conversations in different settings, from intimate one-on-one discussions to casual social interactions or even professional environments like the workplace. 

We also touch on the delicate balance between authenticity and performance, cautioning against oversimplifying or sensationalizing experiences for the sake of storytelling. Throughout the article, we’ll encourage you to reflect on your motivations, intentions, and the broader societal context when sharing psychedelic narratives.

This article is inspired by our insightful podcast episode hosted by Psychedelic Passage co-founder, Jimmy Nguyen, which you can listen to on all streaming platforms. 

Key Takeaways

  • The Power of Personal Narratives: Drawing parallels between Harvey Milk’s LGBTQ+ advocacy and the psychedelic movement, the article emphasizes the transformative impact of personal narratives in humanizing and normalizing marginalized experiences, whether related to sexual orientation or psychedelic use.
  • Leveraging Privilege for Access: Acknowledging the privilege associated with accessing psychedelics, the article calls on individuals to share stories as a way to ensure equitable opportunities for healing.
  • Thoughtful Storytelling and Risk Navigation: The article stresses the importance of nuanced storytelling when coming out about psychedelic experiences, considering motivations, and periodic self-examination during storytelling.
  • Psychedelic Passage: Your Psychedelic Concierge — The easy, legal way to find trustworthy psilocybin guides, facilitators and psychedelic-assisted therapy near you in the United States.

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For harm-reduction purposes, we provide links to online psilocybin vendors, local stores, delivery services, and spore vendors for growing your own medicine at home.

Humanization’s Effect On Acceptance

Harvey Milk’s Legacy

In 1978, during the battle over the Briggs Initiative, an attempt to make it illegal for gay people to be teachers, Harvey Milk emerged as a powerful advocate. Led by John Briggs, the initiative aimed at the mandatory firing of all gay teachers and anyone supporting gay rights. 

Harvey Milk recognized the urgency of the situation and implored the LGBTQ+ community to come out of the closet, giving a passionate speech in the summer of ‘78. 

By encouraging hundreds of thousands to share their stories, he humanized the community, showcasing the real faces impacted by the discriminatory proposition. His efforts ultimately led to the defeat of the Briggs Initiative and was a major step forward for the LGBTQ+ community. 

The Power of Coming Out

Less than 50 years ago the LGBTQ+ community was fighting much of the same fight that the psychedelic community sees today. Milk used coming out as a strategic move to reveal the diversity and humanity within the affected group. 

This act of unveiling his own personal narrative came at a deadly cost, as he was assassinated 2 weeks after the Briggs Initiative was defeated, underscoring the high personal stakes involved in standing up for societal change.

This struggle also rings true in the black community in embracing psychedelics. One of the biggest reasons there is so much hesitancy towards psychedelic use in the black community is because of the lack of sharing positive psychedelic narratives within the community. 

“I was asking my friend DeAndre, who lives in Atlanta, ‘Why is it that the black community is so averse to psychedelics?’ 

And of course there’s obviously straightforward things that we could point to, the war on drugs, incarceration of people for nonviolent drug offenses. 

But the one really poignant thing that he said was that, ‘It’s not like we have an uncle or a cousin who can come back and say, I actually had a positive psychedelic experience and this is how it’s affected my life.’” — Jimmy Nguyen

The Importance of A First-Degree Connection In Psychedelic Acceptance

Drawing parallels to Harvey Milk’s strategy, we can see how sharing positive experiences can help bridge the gap, making psychedelics more relatable and acceptable. A Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics study shows real world implications of sharing personal narratives

The study showed that having a first-degree connection to someone who used psychedelics significantly increases acceptance across various measures. 

This personal connection becomes a lever for positive policy changes and reflects the potential societal shift towards understanding and embracing psychedelic experiences.

Leveraging Privilege for Access

To have access to psychedelics in America is to have a privilege, one that involves the ability to experience personal healing, which shouldn’t be a privilege at all. 

“You have to be pretty privileged in America to have access to psychedelics. Culturally, you have to have the safety to feel like you can take psychedelics. 

You have to have access to something that might be illegal where you live. 

You might need to have access to information to know how to test psychedelics in the right way to make sure it’s safe and to feel safe taking it. 

And I want to say that coming out requires you to use your privilege to extend that safety to someone else, right? 

It’s safer for me to take it because people like Steven and Jimmy are using their privilege and talking about it, they normalize it for people like me.’” – Steven Huang

If you’re lucky enough to have the privilege associated with accessing psychedelics, this is your call to action to use this privilege to extend safety to others. Creating access for marginalized communities by sharing stories is a responsibility to ensure equitable opportunities for healing.

Steven Huang’s Entry Into Psychedelic Social Justice

How The Rave Community Started It All

“Festivals and the music environment is like a microcosm of the human experience or even the psychedelic experience, where one of the things that I really like in those environments is there is this permission to just be as you are and to express yourself.” — Jimmy Nguyen

Steven is frequently asked about how he came into the role of the first justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) officer for MAPS, and his answer may be surprising.

It begins at EDC (The Electric Daisy Festival) in 2015. Steven found himself on psychedelics surrounded by the “rave community”, which has a reputation for checking systemic challenges at the door in exchange for inclusivity.  

As he stood there in the middle of the crowd, he had an “aha” moment, thinking to himself ‘this is what diversity is like, this is what the world is supposed to feel like.’ 

A deep sense of belonging overcame him, which is what the rave community as a whole stands for. In leaning into and embracing his “raver” identity, he naturally discovered his calling to his line of work.

Living Your Truth: A Duty To Yourself & Your Community 

Drawing on parallels from coming out about his sexuality, Steven explains the freeing feeling that comes from unapologetically living your truth. 

He also highlights the balance between personal liberation and the obligation to contribute to collective liberation by normalizing psychedelic experiences. 

While being true to yourself is essential to your personal happiness, encouraging individuals to use their stories to break down stereotypes and create a more inclusive space is equally important.

“In my coming out story, I talked about my sense of privilege, and I want to create access for people that look like me and that have identities like me to be able to have the same access to healing that I’ve had. So I’m taking on myself to create a path for them by telling my story.” — Steven Huang

Jimmy shares a deeply personal story about a best friend of his taking his own life in high school. Jimmy is often left pondering how the situation may have been different if his friend had access to psychedelics.

By opening up the societal dialogue to psychedelic healing, it gives more people opportunities to access psychedelic healing modalities that everyone deserves to have access to.

Framing Your Psychedelic Story: Considering Motivations

Coming out about psychedelic experiences involves more than a play-by-play report; it requires nuanced storytelling. Consideration of the context, audience, and the broader impact of the narrative is essential to ensure a meaningful and relatable connection.

Internal Dialogue Before Sharing

Before sharing your psychedelic experiences, introspection regarding your motivations is of the utmost importance. 

Are you sharing to enlighten, convince, or simply for personal catharsis? Acknowledging and understanding these motivations helps in crafting a genuine and intentional narrative.

Sharing your story can help get rid of feelings of ostracization or loneliness, Jimmy compares sharing your psychedelic story to sharing any potentially life-changing experience. On a human level it can act as a bridge to bringing people closer. 

Self-Examination during Storytelling

“If you are telling someone a story because you want them to try psychedelics, maybe sit and examine that motivation, right? Because if I’m trying to convince you, why is that? 

Is it about me, or is it that I’m trying to help you? Or am I trying to make myself feel better about my drug use? Examine your motivations, especially if you would catch yourself skipping over some of the difficult experiences that come with this process.” – Steven Huang

A good practice is periodic self-checks during storytelling. Are you glossing over the difficult parts? Is the experience so meaningful you want to shout about it from the rooftops? 

If you find yourself emphasizing only positive aspects or glossing over challenges, question whether your agenda is influencing the narrative. Authenticity involves sharing both the highs and lows of the experience.

Whatever your motivations may be, examine them with an honest heart. Think about the language you should use, and what you want to portray in order to align your storytelling with your intentions. 

Navigating Risks in Sharing Your Psychedelic Journey in Different Environments

Considering the legal and social context, Steven acknowledges the risks associated with openly sharing psychedelic experiences. 

Factors like one’s profession, local regulations, and cultural attitudes toward psychedelics should be weighed when deciding to disclose personal experiences.

Sometimes the easiest person to share a personal story with is someone you don’t know too well. Finding like-minded people on the internet can be a great way to break in your coming out story, especially when you feel like you don’t have a close community to share with. 

There are integration groups and organizations specifically designed for sharing with people outside of your close circle. Having a community to hold space for you can have a lot of healing potential

Acknowledging that risk exposure varies, certain professions like nursing may carry greater risks when openly discussing psychedelic use. Individuals must evaluate their own risk tolerance and decide how openly they can share their experiences based on their unique circumstances.

“I have a friend who disclosed that he tried to microdose before a board meeting to deal with a lot of the racism that he was experiencing. And then years later was, in my opinion, wrongfully terminated because of his drug use.” — Steven Huang

This anecdote shows that no matter how privileged a seat you’re in, we still live in a society where the use of psychedelics can enact a wide range of reactions. There is still a lot of work to be done for the psychedelic community to be accepted by mainstream society in America.

You may find yourself caught off guard when asked if you’ve ever had a psychedelic experience or what it was like. 

You always have the option of saying something like, “I’m still processing that experience” or “It’s just not the right time to share, but when I have the ability I will.” 

Advice on Facing Criticism & Unhealthy Environments

It is important to recognize one’s own feelings and emotions, assert autonomy, and set boundaries in uncomfortable situations. If you begin to share your story and receive negative backlash or someone is not ready to receive it, there is no shame in cutting your story short. 

“This is a call for empowerment. You have to take the reins back and say, ‘that’s all that I actually have to share about that.’” —Jimmy Nguyen

You have a responsibility to your own well-being and hold the power to stop conversations that become unhealthy. 

Navigating the psychedelic closet involves thoughtful introspection, consideration of motivations, and awareness of the risks associated with different environments. 

As we craft and share our stories with intention, we contribute to a more accepting and informed society, fostering understanding and dismantling stigma around psychedelic experiences.

A Guide to Ethical Psychedelic Narratives and Community Support

As we navigate the complexities and personal narratives of psychedelic experiences, we understand the importance of community, support, and comprehensive information.

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        Frequently Asked Questions

        1. Why is Harvey Milk’s legacy relevant to the psychedelic community?

        Harvey Milk’s strategic use of coming out to humanize and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community draws parallels with the need for positive narratives in the psychedelic community. 

        Both faced societal stigma, and Milk’s approach highlights the power of personal stories in driving acceptance.

        2. How does having a first-degree connection to someone who used psychedelics impact acceptance?

        A study from the Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics suggests that having a first-degree connection significantly increases acceptance. 

        This connection serves as a lever for positive policy changes, emphasizing the importance of personal narratives in shaping societal attitudes.

        3. What role does privilege play in accessing psychedelics, and why is it a call to action?

        Access to psychedelics is considered a privilege, and the article calls on individuals to use this privilege responsibly. 

        The responsibility involves extending safety to others by creating access for marginalized communities through the sharing of stories, aiming for equitable opportunities for healing.

        4. How did Steven Huang’s experience at a rave festival contribute to his role as a justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion officer for MAPS?

        Steven Huang’s experience at EDC in 2015, while on psychedelics, led to an “aha” moment where he felt a deep sense of belonging in the inclusive rave community. This experience inspired him to embrace his identity and eventually pursue a role as a JEDI officer for MAPS.

        5. What risks should individuals consider when openly sharing their psychedelic experiences?

        Risks associated with openly sharing psychedelic experiences include legal and professional considerations. Factors such as one’s profession, local regulations, and cultural attitudes toward psychedelics should be weighed. 

        The article emphasizes the need for individuals to evaluate their unique circumstances and risk tolerance before disclosing personal experiences.


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