Psychology professor breaks cultural, social norms

By Breanna Fierro

The lack of emotional support made Psychology Professor Joey Luna want to be a therapist, so he could be there for others who need help.
The stigma toward the LGBTQ community helped Luna aspire to break social norms that plagues the Mexican-American Community.
Luna grew up in a Catholic household with strong views against a homosexuality.
Luna has struggled throughout his early life. The hardships that he faced gave him more insight on how to help others with the same struggle, and it also drove him to become a therapist.
He wasn’t able to find work because he had to take care of his brother with cancer. .
Luna teaches in the East Los Angeles College Psychology Department. he teaches psychology clases at ELAC and practices therapy as well
“Being a professor and a therapist has always been one of my dream jobs to have, I didn’t think it would happen so soon. I was only 30 when I became a professor and a therapist.” Luna said.
He was a former student at ELAC before transferring to University of California, Riverside and the University of California, Los Angeles and conducted research for his master’s program at USC.
Luna was in the honor program and enrolled in Dr. Cathy Cleveland’s Honor Biopsychology which entailed conducting research. He did a research poster board with Cleveland that he got to present, won first place and that itself is what exposed Luna to the realm of psychology.
Luna has currently applied to a Doctor of Philosophy program at University of California, Irvine to do research on children, attachment styles and how to use different techniques in understanding childhood abandonment issues.
“I teach research methods because I am passionate about it. For me it is important to do research because there aren’t many people of color who do. I believe we all should learn how necessary it is to conduct your own research,” Luna said.
Growing up as a gay Mexican-American man did not come without its challenges. Having to cope with the transition from Los Angeles to Fresno at 16 years old, moving away from family including his father to live with his mother and to help with his disabled brother Richie.
It wasn’t until Luna was 17 years old when he decided to come out to his family and friends, which ultimately resulted in his family not being supportive of his life choices.
His mother had trouble supporting because much of her focus was on his younger brother, who was battling cancer.
Luna’s younger brother Richie was diagnosed with leukemia at three years old, and shortly after went into remission. Because of his brother’s constant stays and treatments at the hospital, he developed a seizure disorder, and was also intellectually disabled, said Luna.
He helped his mother care for Richie as much as he could, which ultimately ended up restricting Luna from anything on his own, and it became depressing being so far from family. Richie was always in special education and had an aid to assist just in case he was to have a seizure.
His brother Richie died when he was 27 years old in 2017, after his second battle with cancer.
Richie impacted his life in a major way, leading him in wanting to work with disabled children and children with autism. Luna said his ultimate goal will be in leading the LGBTQ youth to learn the resilience they hold as he did.

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