LGBTQ+ Voices: Interview with James Pennington
James Pennington, Omaha psychotherapist, was interviewed by Luke Wegener on October 20, 2017 in Omaha, Nebraska. Pennington shared information about his sheltered, Christian upbringing in Oklahoma, coming out as queer and transgender, the dissolution of his first marriage, his passion to become a psychotherapist, and moving to Omaha.
James Pennington, born in Durant, Oklahoma, is a white queer and transgender psychotherapist and mental health advocate. Pennington earned a BA in Psychology from the University of Oklahoma (Norman) in 2008 and an MA in Counseling with a concentration on Trauma, Abuse and Deprivation from Ottowa University (Phoenix) in 2014. Pennington has worked with those suffering from eating disorders, substance abuse issues, and in the area of suicide prevention. They are a member of ASGPP (American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama), ICEEFT (International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy), and APA Division 44: Society for the Study of LGBT Issues. Pennington has presented on gender identity at national conferences such as ASGPP's National Conference in 2015 and 2016, and the Listening to Trauma conference in Washington, DC in 2016. After moving to Omaha in 2016, Pennington opened their own private practice in October 2017, specializing in working with LGBTQ+ clients. Pennington lives with their partner, Dr. Lydia Cooper and one pet cat, Gandalf.
James Pennington, Omaha psychotherapist, was interviewed by Luke Wegener on October 20, 2017 in Omaha, Nebraska. Pennington was born in Durant, Oklahoma and grew up in a small, conservative Christian family. At the age of 5, Pennington's mother was in a car accident and became chronically ill. Because of this, she was unable to care for her children, which forced Pennington to become independent at a very young age. Growing up in a highly sheltered, Christian environment at home and being more effeminate than boys their age, Pennington struggled to fit in and develop friendships at school.
In high school, Pennington began dating a girl, Carly, who would later become his wife of 7 years. After coming out to her and others with mixed reactions at the age of 18, Pennington began the process of coming to terms with their identity as a queer, non-binary person. In college at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Pennington struggled with keeping their GPA up and felt directionless, but a positive experience with an inspiring therapist helped them find their calling as a psychotherapist. In graduate school at Ottowa University in Phoenix, Pennington studied Counseling with a focus in Trauma, Abuse and Deprivation and worked with those suffering from eating disorders, substance abuse issues and in the area of suicide prevention. After the dissolution of Pennington's marriage with Carly and the end of graduate school, Pennington met Dr. Lydia Cooper and in 2016 moved to Omaha to be with her.
In this oral history, Pennington also describes what it is like to be a queer and trans psychotherapist practicing in Omaha, Nebraska, their struggles with memory loss from traumatic brain injuries, the process of losing their faith as they come to terms with their queer and trans identity, and their feelings about the current Trump administration's impact on the LGBT community at large. Pennington is now in private practice, Dream Again Therapy, as a psychotherapist primarily working with queer and trans clients.
An event started next door to James’ office midway through the interview, which was unexpected. Music and children can be heard at various points throughout the interview. There is also a slight echo on the recording due to the high ceilings of James' office. Though the microphone was close to James, at certain points it may be difficult to hear them, as they are a soft talker.