Update on Presidential Initiatives and Activities
By Kimberly Balsam
As I write this column in February 2017, I am halfway through my term as president of this division. I am very pleased with how much we have accomplished, and I will share with you in this column some of the highlights that have occurred since my last column in the fall newsletter.
Div. 44 collaborates with Divs 17, 35 and 45 every two years, in odd numbered years, to coordinate the National Multicultural Conference and Summit (NMCS). This year, NMCS was held in Portland, Oregon, on Jan. 4-6. It was highly successful, with over 700 attendees and programming spanning multiple dimensions of human diversity. Unlike other conferences that focus on a specific topic or identity, NMCS is truly a place where intersectionality is embraced, while at the same time, space is created to explore some of the difficult dialogues that emerge when fully addressing issues of power, privilege, and diversity. Thanks to our very own David Rivera and to the entire Coordinating Committee for their hard work and dedication to making this conference go so smoothly for attendees. David Rivera will be taking over as lead coordinator as our division is the lead division for the 2019 NMCS. For those of you who have not previously attended, I would highly recommend putting this on your radar for January 2019.
Our Midwinter Executive Board Meeting was held immediately following NMCS at the Portland Waterfront Marriott Hotel on Jan. 7-8, 2017. Over the two days, we met for over 13 hours to review the progress of all of the committees and position holders, discuss business items, and plan for future activities. I am so proud of the work that we did together, and so impressed with the attendees' dedication, persistence, and willingness to tackle difficult challenges and brainstorm solutions. Overall, we accomplished a great deal during our time together.
First of all, an important theme throughout the meeting was intersectionality and inclusion of marginalized voices. Reflecting on the presidential initiatives I set out at the beginning of my term last summer, it was particularly important to me that all of our work reflect a critical attention to issues of race/ethnicity and other forms of diversity within our division. To that end, we began the meeting by taking a few moments to do some personal journaling on ways we each have felt included in LGBT communities and ways that we have felt excluded. This exercise was intended to foster self-reflection and empathy – key elements that we must continue to return to as we struggle to examine our own biases and work toward true inclusion and affirmation of all of the diversity in our division. Next, we discussed some tangible examples of how certain groups have not been fully included in Div. 44 so that we could begin to address this structurally and systematically. Throughout the meeting, we strove to reflect on privilege and oppression and attempted to listen to diverse perspectives on the issues being considered and the decisions being made. While this is a work in progress, I am grateful to everyone for sticking with some difficult dialogues and being willing to engage in this process.
In terms of tangible progress on my presidential initiative No. 1 (addressing racism), the first motion we passed was a motion to restructure CoRED (Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity) to “move discussions of race and ethnic culture from the periphery of Division dialogues and decisions to a more central focus.” The motion states that as ex-officios, the following will be appointed by the president to work with CoRED: the third-year member-at-large, one student representative, one member of the executive committee, and a council member. It passed unanimously.
One of the biggest items on the agenda for midwinter was the name change proposal. To prepare for this discussion, board members reviewed the original proposal, the emails sent to the division, and over 30 pages of feedback and suggestions from members. I also reported on a conference call that I had with the presidents of Divs 35 and 51, who were supportive of the proposed change. After considering all of this input, as well as the perspectives of the diverse people and committees represented in the meeting, we were in general agreement about the shift from “LGBT” to “sexual orientation and gender diversity.” We then discussed whether or not to keep “study of” in the name, given that our activities as a division span research, practice, education, and advocacy. We eventually amended the proposal and voted on whether to change the name to “Society for the Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity.” This motion passed unanimously.
Along with the name, we worked on some changes to the mission and goals statement and the bylaws that better reflect the broadening of identity perspectives reflected in the new proposed name, add an explicit social justice component (an issue raised by Past President Allen Omoto in his presidential address last summer) and further clarify the direction of the division. In response to feedback from some members regarding the proposed name change, we also made explicit in our mission that we honor the historic struggles of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. All of these proposed changes – the name change, the bylaws, and the mission and goals statement – will be coming to you for a vote this spring. Please be sure to complete your ballot, as this is your division and your vote counts.
Another diversity-related issue that we tackled at Midwinter was the extent to which our program at convention reflects the true diversity within our division and within LGBT communities. We passed two motions reflecting both our desire to have high quality programming and our recognition of the systemic biases that often lead to more marginalized groups within LGBT communities having less visibility. The first motion states that our three diversity-related committees in our division – Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity, Bisexual Issues Committee, and Committee for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People – should have a protected program hour available to them, assuming they submit a program that meets minimal standards of peer review. The second motion states that the program chair will make a good faith effort to include representation of the diverse identities within Div. 44 in the final program.
Many other issues related to division business were worked on at our meeting. We passed our budget, selected a venue for our annual fundraising dinner to be held on Aug. 5, 2017, and began planning for a preconvention workshop on LGBT people of color. We discussed the status of our journal, Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity (PSOGD), and the need to put some attention to the archiving of past division activities and information. We heard updates from all of our committees and position holders and from the APA Office of LGBT Concerns. We also worked on and passed a motion to adopt a procedure to follow if we ever lose a council seat in the future. We heard about the terrific work that our student representatives are doing in setting up the Student Ambassador Program.
As we move ahead into 2017, we have much to look forward to as a division. With the efforts of our new communications coordinator, Jayme Peta, PhD, our newly enhanced social media presence continues to thrive, and we encourage you to follow us on Facebook and Twitter if you haven't already. We are welcoming a new newsletter editor, Stacey Williams, PhD, with this edition, and are also planning to create a PDF, printable version along with the web version. Our program chair, Matthew Skinta, PhD, has put together an outstanding program of symposia and posters for Convention in Washington, D.C., this August that truly accomplishes the spirit of the motions passed. And finally, the Committee for Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People has created a fact sheet on non-binary gender identity that is now on our website and available for dissemination. Thanks to Mira Krishnan, PhD, Stephanie Budge, PhD, and Div. 44 student members Arielle Webb and Emmie Matsuno for their work on this effort.
In these challenging sociopolitical times, it is important that we continue to draw upon our expertise as clinicians, researchers, educators, and advocates to promote justice for LGBT people and to advance the health and well-being of those in our communities. I, along with the Executive Board, welcome input and ideas from members about ways that we can further these efforts.
Finally, we are always looking for volunteers to help with committees and projects. If you would like to get involved, send me an email.
Photos from the midwinter meeting and NMCS, January 2017, Portland, Oregon