“I’m not about to whisper the word LGBT and I’m not about to whisper the words ‘sexual health.'”
Royal Oak-based psychotherapist Joe Kort has decided not to move his practice into the Huntington Medical Building in Huntington Woods as a result of a disagreement over signage in the building. Kort said that after he signed his lease that the complete name of his practice – Joe Kort & Associates and the Center for Relationship & Sexual Health – would be included on signage both inside and outside the building.
But when another tenant in the building complained about the words “sexual health” on the directory, the building’s owners Ara and Darren Atesian of Atesian Realty/Atesian Properties, Inc., decided to take them down.
“If you were a patient for the tenant upstairs you are now uncomfortable, because you think there are sexual predators in the building. Because (the space) is now a sexual therapy clinic,” Darren Atesian told Between The Lines when the paper first broke the story in January. “It just seemed to come off that they’re servicing people who are sexual predators. We’re not the only ones who felt this way. Forget our tenants. We asked other people if this could be misconstrued and they said yes.”
Kort was initially confused as to what to do.
“It wasn’t an easy thing,” said Kort in an online video posted to his YouTube page. “I really fretted about this.”
However, he said he was left with no other options.
“We decided not to move into that building,” Kort said. “Those of you who know me know that I’m very much an advocate of LGBT issues and sexual health issues. And a neighbor of ours telling us that we can’t usage the verbiage ‘sexual health’ was too much for me. I couldn’t do it.”
Just days before the anticipated move-in date, Kort told the building’s owners he wanted out of his lease. He chose to stay put in the Woodward Building in Royal Oak, where his practice has been based for the last 19 years.
“They never had a problem with our signage,” Kort said. “The only reason we weren’t staying originally was there wasn’t space available to take over, but it looks now like there might be. So, I’m really looking forward to that possibility.”
Kort said the dispute has taken a lot out of him.
“This has been very stressful for me,” he said. “I’m trying to really take it easy and get my bearings. But those of you who know me know that I’m not about to whisper the words ‘LGBT’ and I’m not about to whisper the words ‘sexual health.’ If I’m going to be in a building it’s going to have that language. There’s no way I wasn’t going to have it on the directory. The directory is very important.”
What’s in a name?
Kort created the Center for Relationship and Sexual Health more than a decade ago in an effort to distinguish itself from his main practice.
“I wanted my name off of it,” he said. “My name is synonymous with LGBT, so when people hear my name they don’t think I work with straight people. I do work with straight people. I always have. So, I created the Center for Relationship and Sexual Health to help people understand that we do much more than that.”
Kort said that today more than ever, sexual health is an important topic to be discussed.
“We need to be talking to our children about it,” he said. “We need to be talking to teenagers about it, and we need to be talking about it as adults. This is an important conversation. Right now, porn is our sex education. Let’s just get that straight: porn is our sex education these days.”