NMCS Travel Award Winner Essays

Winner: Experiences of a first-time 2015 NMCS attendee

Psychologists must understand the various ways discrimination affects people, especially when there are intersecting identities.

By Arvin Sanders

The principles in the APA Ethics Code speak to the responsibility of psychologists to be engaged in social justice. While this is important for all psychologists to be engaged, because we are bound to be just and unbiased in our practices, members of marginalized communities should be particularly engaged in social justice advocacy and activities.

My experiences at the 2015 National Multicultural Conference and Summit (NMCS) awarded me the opportunity to engage in dialogue with other members of the LGBTQ people of color community and others who are involved in this specific research area. My research is focused on the internal oppressions that African-American men who have sex with men encounter and how it affects their health behaviors. Due to my attendance at the 2015 NMCS, I was able to gain significant knowledge about intersecting identities and their impact on internal oppressions. Kevin Nadal, PhD (2015), presented on how the intersection of multiple identities influence microaggressions that members of marginalized communities encountered. Of particular interest, he had us self-reflect on the microaggressions we commit on a daily basis. This helped all attendees, whether LGBTQ people of color or not, gain a good understanding of the biases that we have and how they affect our work as psychologists and everyday lives.

Another presentation, focused on internalized racial oppressions, addressed the differences in racism that people of color experience. This is important to mention because racism is typically treated as a generic social construct when in actuality it is experienced differently among different racial groups. I believe that this is important because unique racial oppression among LGBTQ people of color influences other areas of intersecting oppression. As psychologists—whether researchers, clinicians or professors—we must understand the various ways discrimination affects people, especially when there are intersecting identities.

Additionally, presentations on LGBTQ and faith development, as well as the impact of LGBTQ people of color on the LGBT movement and advocacy were particularly informative. There was a discussion about the persecution of Muslim LGBTQ members. The issues surrounding their imprisonment and death is important for psychologists because it is our duty to understand the nuances of the relationship between Islam and sexuality so that we can be involved in educating the communities in regards to sexual orientation. The presentation by Eduardo Morales, PhD, spoke to the untold history of LGBT people of color. He provided information about the importance of understanding the contribution of LGBT people to the LGBT movement as well as advocacy. Ethically, when these important members are overlooked when telling LGBT history, it provides a limited picture of the complex history of LGBT people.

With all that has been transpiring in the United States, from the gay marriage debate to race relations with law enforcement, the 2015 NMCS provided an excellent forum to address issues of diversity. I am hopeful that through continued dialogue, especially among LGBTQ psychologists of color, we can assist in providing a solution.