You want to feel calm, confident, and powerful in your own, unique skin, even in a world that doesn’t always celebrate your various, intersecting identities.

You want to find a community that supports you on the days when you feel like you have nothing left to give and will simply say, “Keep holding on! You’re doing great. (Kitten meme)”

You want to do more than just survive and you need ideas and tools to help you get there. You want to feel free and happy without feeling like you have to hide parts of yourself.  

You want to feel like you have some space to breathe.

Oh, Hi! I’m Rena McDaniel, MEd, LCPC, Certified Sexologist.

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QUEER | PLEASURE-POSITIVE SEX THERAPIST, COACH, AND EDUCATOR | WRITER/SPEAKER/CONVERSATION-HAVER | PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT JUNKIE | LOVER OF COFFEE & BRUNCH | ADVENTURER | HOGWARTS ENTHUSIAST | DANCING IT OUT

 

I’m a Clinical Sexologist who works with folks like you feeling anxious and lost about a transition you’re experiencing in sex, gender, sexual identity, or relationships. You want a queer-identified, trauma-informed professional to help you uncover more of who you are so you feel confident in your own skin. I provide you with the support you need to go from feeling broken and alone to whole and part of a community.

 Creating the World I Want to Live in

I also provide teaching, training, and consultation for professionals (such as businesses, mental health providers, doctors, and physical therapists) wishing to uplevel their knowledge and expertise in these areas. If you want to know more about my work with professionals, message me here.

 

As the adopted child of a very conservative, religious family in the South, the message that you could be loved, accepted, and seen for all of who you are was often couched in the unsaid caveat of “as long as…” I grew up in a culture that said: “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”

This version of love never quite made sense to me.

The first exposure I had to the LGBTQ community was at church. I listened in as my parents and their friends spoke about how selfish the HIV+ brother of a congregation member was for “putting his sister through this.” “This” meaning AIDS. I was seven.

I wasn't happy with the box I was supposed to fit into and I found ways to express that even as a young teen: a closet full of Goodwill, band shirts (all black of course), studded belts, chucks, and a music collection that included lots of screaming, moshing, and fist pumps. A concert wasn’t good if I could hear at the end. #rocknrollbaby

I ended up at a tiny, conservative liberal arts college in the woods of East Texas for undergrad (mostly because it was close). One of my favorite college memories is quite an ordinary moment. I was sitting around with my best friends from undergrad, a gaggle of gay men from my beloved theater department, on a lazy, hot day watching movies after class. We put on The Little Mermaid and, all at once, with the rising crescendo of “...part of your worlllddddd..," my friends started singing. Loudly. The entire living room started singing louder and louder as I joined in. I remember the sense of family and joy like it was yesterday. As I watched my friends attempt to navigate their emerging sexuality and identity in an oppressive environment, I realized I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up: a therapist for the LGBTQ population.

During this time, I was also diagnosed with a pelvic pain disorder. As someone who had zero sex education outside of the books I snuck from the library, I had never felt more hopeless, alone, and broken than I did try to navigate and understand pelvic pain, especially with mental and physical health providers who also had a lack of education about these issues.

Spoiler alert: My challenges with pelvic pain, paired with growing up in an oppressive culture, became some of my biggest strengths and catalysts for doing the work I do now. (Subtext: Thinly veiled life-lesson.)

After undergrad, I put down roots in Chicago for graduate school, focused all my work on the LGBTQ population and trauma, and became a licensed therapist in the state of Illinois. Unsurprisingly, I also came out as queer pretty quickly after moving to Chicago. My family wasn't thrilled to say the least. First, Sodom and Gomorrah is a popular topic in my family (wamp, wamp). Second, while I believe that love and authentic relationships are based on all parties being able to bring all of themselves to the table, my family believes that keeping things peaceful and pleasant, even if it means hiding large parts of yourself, is best.

In the words of Jeanette Winterson, “I have no idea what happens next.”

Fresh out of graduate school, I got a job helping run and grow a group counseling practice focused on the LGBTQ population. Over my six years with the practice, I was able to help grow the business from five therapists in one office to twenty-two therapists in two different locations and establish ourselves as one of the leaders in LGBTQ mental health care in Chicago. I am proud to say that we were able to serve 300-400 clients a year that came to us specifically because they wanted a place to feel safe and affirmed when talking about mental health concerns.  

The Missing Piece of the Puzzle

Despite my love of working with the LGBTQ population, I felt like I was missing a piece of the puzzle. Through my work with the LGBTQ population, as well as my personal experiences, I knew both how deeply painful concerns about sex and sexuality can be, as well as how powerful and affirming healthy sexuality and pleasure in our own bodies can feel. I was hungry for more information and training, so I completed the University of Michigan’s Sexual Health Certificate Program with specializations in Sex Therapy and Sexuality Education and learned that I could happily read boring research studies about sex and sexuality for hours. I went on to become a Certified Sexologist through the American College of Sexologists and kept hungrily devouring more and more information to build my knowledge and expertise about LGBTQ population, sex and sexuality, and trauma. I had found the missing piece of my professional puzzle in sex therapy and education.

Where I am Today

Today, I have a chosen family that will cheer me on in my victories, and watch movies with me in onesies on bad days, and will dance about with me on all of the days in between to the sounds of Whitney Houston, Solange, and Beyonce.

A couple years into my time in Chicago, a friend from college visited me. As we sat in a quintessential Chicago dive bar sipping Goose Island beer, she looked at me and said, “Wow! I’ve never seen you so comfortable in your own skin.” I thought to myself, “You’re right.” And it just keeps getting better.  

I get to do work I love with people that I think are the tops.

I feel like the luckiest duck to be able to spend my days doing sex therapy, coaching, consulting, teaching, speaking, and writing that helps you uncover more of who you are so you can also feel confident in your own skin and teaching other professionals to do the same.

I provide folks with the support they need to go from feeling broken and alone to whole and part of a community. Because I know what it feels like to not have that.

Join the movement or contact me for more details on how we can work together.

***Please note that the views expressed on this site are my own and not necessarily those of my place of employment and any information provided or interaction that we have does not replace you seeing a therapist, seeking necessary mental or physical health care, or constitutes a professional relationship with a therapist. If you feel like your life or another's life is in danger, please call 911 immediately or go to your nearest emergency room.***

 

 

The Manifesto

I understand that simply existing in a world that is unwelcoming of who you are is an act of resistance and courage and that all the yoga in the world won’t solve systemic injustice and oppression.

You have to figure out how to live a life that feels good for you despite this and sometimes that feels impossible.

I'm here to give you space to breathe.

I believe that pleasure is powerful and I am committed to helping you experience more of it. Audre Lorde said in The Uses of the Erotic, "Recognizing the power of the erotic within our lives can give us the energy to pursue genuine change within our world, rather than merely settling for a shift of characters in the same weary drama.”

I believe that pleasure is an act of resistance.

I’m here to provide practical (and scientifically accurate!) info, tools, and resources to help you venture beyond the commonplace, the familiar, and the obvious and help expand your world to new, infinite possibilities for pleasure, authenticity, audacity, and connection.

I want to live in a world where you feel loved, accepted, and truly seen when you bring all of yourself (even the messy parts) to the table and I'm committed to providing top-notch education to professionals in mental health, physical health, and business to help create the world I want to live in.

I’m here to create a community of people and professionals who see you. All of you.

Coaching sessions with Rena have been so helpful during an exciting yet confusing transition in my life. I am new to polyamory and in a primary relationship with a wonderful man. He and I decided to open our relationship to other woman. Rena helped us navigate how to do this in an ethical and responsible way that benefits us all. She was very positive, warm and validating and gave me practical tools and resources that helped give me be more clear about what I want and who I am. Thank you Rena!
— -Lynn
I teach a graduate course called Sexual Behavior: Research and Practice Issues, and this past summer, I invited Rena to come and give a guest lecture. Her presentation was accessible, thought provoking, and clear, and it provided a wonderful outside perspective for the students in the course. I especially appreciated Rena’s sensitivity to how gender, sexual orientation, disability, and other aspects of difference can impact what sexual and romantic relationships might look like, and she put the class at ease with her approachability and frank way of speaking. Rena’s perspective and knowledge were a valuable addition to the course experience!
— -Fawna Stockwell, PhD, BCBA-D Affiliate Professor, Applied Behavior Analysis Department, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology