President's Column

Presidential Reflection: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Looking back on a busy year, looking ahead to convention and beyond for Div. 44.

By Kimberly Balsam

Kimberly BalsamGreetings Div. 44 members and students. This will be my third and final president's column, and I would like to take this opportunity to review the progress we have made this year and discuss the upcoming activities at APA's 2017 Annual Convention and beyond.

First of all, I want to thank Dr. Stacey Williams for her work on this newsletter. It's been great to see the diversity of articles and the initiation of new columns, such as the Clinical Corner. This newsletter is an important way for us all to stay informed about the activities of Div. 44. I know that some of you have requested a PDF version that is easily downloadable and printable, and I want to thank Richard Sprott for his work on making this possible. I also want to thank. Jayme Peta, our communications chair, for his hard work this year on the website, Listserv and social media outlets.

Next, I want to reflect on the progress we have made on my five Presidential Initiatives. As a recap, these were:

  • Initiative 1. To address racism within Div. 44, our profession and society through reflection, dialogue, collaboration and activities designed to tackle racism and intersectional oppression on institutional and attitudinal levels.
  • Initiative 2. To promote awareness, education and scientific research on gender diversity, especially pertaining to non-binary gender identities and the role of women and feminism within Div. 44.
  • Initiative 3. To provide stronger mentoring and networking opportunities for graduate students and early career professionals within LGBT psychology in science and practice
  • Initiative 4. To support efforts to bring our collective expertise and scientific data in LGBT psychology to bear on contemporary social problems (e.g., violence and its aftermath and anti-LGBT legislation).
  • Initiative 5. Increasing our web presence to facilitate sharing of information and engagement of members via our web page, social media presence and a webinar series.

In my previous two President's columns in March and December, I described some of the specific activities that were underway to achieve these initiatives. As I approach the end of my presidential year, I am highly impressed by the ways in which the Div. 44 board and members, students and collaborators have worked to bring these initiatives to life. Div. 44 is a volunteer organization, and I appreciate the countless hours that have been put in to this work.

A major theme of my initiatives is diversity. Building on the work of our predecessors, I set forth initiatives to challenge us to keep growing and make room for greater diversity within Div. 44. This means not just being diverse in name only, but really doing the messy and uncomfortable work necessary to really stretch further than we have before. This means being inclusive of the diversity of identities, diversity of age cohorts, diversity of professional roles and diversity of opinions within Div. 44. It means really acknowledging the diversity of complex and intersectional identities that we each bring to the table. It means critically examining the privileges we benefit from and the oppressions that hold us back. It means opening our eyes to the ways in which many of us don't fit in the boxes of L, G, B or T in the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (LGBT) acronym while respecting the fact that many of us do. Truly making Div. 44 an inclusive place across all of this diversity is an ambitious and ongoing project; one that I hope we will continue to work on in the months and years to come, especially as we find ourselves in a shifting social context.

In the past three months, we have had several activities that have woven together the intent of my initiatives. One example of this is our new Div. 44 Webinar Series. We hosted webinars in March, May and June. All three of these webinars addressed segments of LGBT populations that are less visible in our scholarship and our communities. The first, featuring Joshua Wolff and Paul Southwick, JD, co-sponsored by the American Bar Association, discussed the challenges facing sexual and gender minority students in non-affirming, faith-based higher educational settings. The second, featuring Heath Schlessinger and organized by Chris Davids and Laurel Watson of the Bisexual Issues Committee, focused on clinical work with clients in consensual, non-monogamous relationships and the intersection of bisexuality and polyamory. Finally, Carlton Green and Cirleen DeBlaere of the Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity organized a student-oriented mentoring webinar on June 2 entitled “Triumphs and Challenges: Peer Mentoring for LGBTQ Students of Color.” The webinar featured four advanced doctoral students: Kevin Delucio, MA; Skyler Jackson, MS; Emmie Matsuno, MA; and Della V. Mosley, EdS, who discussed their own experiences in graduate school and shared strategies and perspectives on being an LGBTQ person of color in academia. I was truly impressed with the honesty and thoughtfulness that these presenters brought to the webinar. This webinar had over 70 registrants – our highest-attended webinar yet. Clearly there is a need for this topic to be addressed, and it is my hope that we can continue to offer high quality programming to meet the complex needs of LGBTQ students of color.

I have described previously that the initiative of addressing racism became my top priority for my presidential year after the tragic shooting in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016. As the one-year anniversary approached, it seemed important to do something to honor the victims and support our communities. Yet the date itself fell during one of the busiest weeks in the life of an academic: finals week. Because I couldn't organize a physical event, I began to think about social media and how it might allow me to host a virtual event, even with these constraints on my time and availability. I ran the idea by some others in Div. 44, and we quickly fostered collaborative relationships with several other psychology and mental health related organizations to get the event up and running, including Div. 45, Section 4 of Div. 35, National Latina/o Psychological Association, American Academy of Physician Assistants, Session Initiation Protocol, Florida Psychological Association, Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs and Counselors for Social Justice. As a Generation X-er who previously had limited Twitter experience, organizing a Twitter chat was a steep learning curve for me. Efua Andoh of APA's Public Interest Directorate was instrumental in teaching me the ropes and in developing our promotional materials. Three weeks later, on June 12, 2017, I logged on to the Div. 44 Twitter account during my students' final exam and facilitated a discussion on the impact and legacy of the pulse shooting on LGBTQ and Latinx communities. It was an informative, engaged and very moving discussion, which was captured as in Storify.

The Twitter chat was an excellent example of how the initiative to increase our web presence can really be used in service of our diversity and social justice goals, in this case, Initiatives one, racism and intersectionality, and four, addressing contemporary social problems. Organizing a real-time live event with so many groups around the country would normally involve travel and a great deal of lead time. With the help of social media, we were able to co-host an event that came together in the span of weeks, without any of us having to leave our desks. Perhaps even more importantly, discussions have emerged with several of these partner organizations about future collaborations.

Looking ahead to convention, I would like to call your attention to several things we have planned. First of all, I am very excited about our preconvention workshop on Wednesday, Aug. 2: “ Dismantling Privilege & Oppression in LGBTQ Communities.” If you haven't done so, please sign up today. We have discounted rates for members and for students, and you can earn 5.5 CEs. During the main convention, our program includes symposia, workshops and posters showcasing high-quality scholarly work on a diverse range of topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity. Also check out our suite program (PDF, 87KB) for more Div. 44 activities. In particular, I want to call attention to our second annual Meet the President event that is open to all students, where David Pantalone and I will be available to for mentoring and answering questions. Following that event is our student pizza party and our general suite party, so please stop by for some socializing with good people. Our annual fundraising dinner this year will be at Carmine's on Saturday, Aug. 5. Please get your tickets now for this fun event that provides crucial support to Div. 44's activities all year long. After the dinner, we will be cosponsoring a dance with Div. 35 and Div. 45. Proceeds go to the local Washington, D.C., organization Trans Women of Color Collective. Finally, I invite you to attend my presidential address, “Getting out of the box: Intersectionality, non-binary identities, and the future of LGBT psychology,” which will be held in the Marriott Marquis, Liberty Salons O and P at 2 pm, Aug. 5. In it I will address themes related to the work we have done this year and directions in years to come.

I also want to remind you of my “reach out to a student” challenge as part of Presidential Initiative 3. Members, you have the power to make a difference in students' lives through your actions and your words. If you are coming to convention, please reach out and introduce yourself. Ask them about themselves, their work, their goals and their lives. Invite them to ask you questions about your own life and work. Introduce them to others in Div. 44. Sponsor one or more students for the fundraising dinner. Our students are our future leaders and contributors. Please make them feel valued and welcomed.

In closing, it has truly been an honor to serve as your Div. 44 president over the past year. My presidency spanned the 2016 election and a very challenging time in our history for LGBT people, people of color and other diverse communities. The challenges and threats we face are real but so is our strength, our resilience and our courage. More than anything, that is the lesson I will take with me at the end of the day when I hand the gavel to David Pantalone, your next president, on Aug. 5. My hope is that we will continue to do the hard work of promoting diversity and inclusion within Div. 44 and continue to use the tools of our profession to promote justice and healing for diverse LGBT people in our broader communities.