President’s Column

Presidential Initiatives and Recent Activities

Addressing issues of racism, gender diversity, mentoring, and connecting LGBT science to contemporary social problems.

By Kimberly Balsam

Greetings, Div. 44 members and students. I hope you all are having a productive and energizing fall, whatever roles and activities you may be engaging in in your professional and personal lives. I am now nearly three months into my presidency, and it is amazing how time flies. I would like to use this column to give you all an update on my presidential initiatives, recent activities in Div. 44, and some of my vision for the upcoming year. I hope this will be the first of three such columns you will see from me this year, as we are working to get the newsletter up and running again three times a year – fall, winter and spring.

Before looking ahead, I want to take a moment to look back and thank everyone involved for an amazing convention last summer in Denver. Our program featured cutting-edge work on research, practice, and advocacy with diverse LGBT populations. Special thanks to lore dickey for serving as program chair and Matthew Skinta for his work as suite coordinator, and also to the student reps Skyler Jackson (now past-student rep) and Dawn Brown for their work in coordinating volunteers and staffing the suite.

In this newsletter issue, Gary Howell, our fundraising coordinator, also provides information about our fun and successful fundraising dinner at Marlowe's in Denver and I want to thank him profusely for his work in organizing this important effort for our division. As president-elect, I had the great fortune to conduct one of the most rewarding parts of our division's program – the awards ceremony. It brought me great joy to be able to recognize the important work and contributions of so many of our talented members and students. An article about the awards is also included in this issue of the newsletter.

Next, I want to talk some more about my presidential initiatives. I sent out an email about my initiatives in August and here I will share them again along with some updates about what we have accomplished so far and what work remains to do. I am very pleased with the progress we have made in just three short months and am very grateful for all of the collaborative efforts and enthusiasm I have received from all of you.

Initiative 1

To address racism within our division, profession and society through reflection, dialogue, collaboration and activities designed to tackle racism and intersectional oppression on institutional and attitudinal levels.

I had always intended to include this initiative during my term, but intentionally listed it first as I reflected on the many tragic and painful events of 2016 that highlighted the extent to which racism is still so deeply embedded in our social structures, interactions, and internal beliefs and attitudes. I believe that it is incumbent upon all of us in this division to engage in anti-racism work and to challenge ourselves to engage in an ongoing process of interrogation, deep listening, and willingness to change and grow. I also want to especially ask that our members who do not identify as people of color – our white members – in particular step forward and do some of this work so that the burden of addressing racism and intersectional issues within our division does not just fall on people of color. Racism limits us all, and we all benefit from racial justice.

To work on this initiative, so far I have been collaborating with the Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity (CoRED) to build the capacity of this committee and its activities within the division. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact Carlton Green and Cirleen DeBlaere and please cc me. I have also developed a program hour for the National Multicultural Summit (NMCS) in January, focusing on responses to the Orlando massacre, including the need for an intersectional perspective when working with trauma and healing.

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 the division.

This initiative is one that is particularly timely and deeply personal for me as well as relevant for our division. Even before I came out and became involved in LGBT activism and scholarship, I was keenly aware of gender as a feminist and women's studies student. And yet now, in 2016, we are all challenged to look at the meaning of gender in new and more complex ways. In particular, it is time for us to begin to recognize that gender is not a binary construct and to challenge ourselves to think outside of the traditional boxes we have had available to us. At the same time, we can't forget the historical and ongoing sexism experienced by women and the important role of feminism and feminist perspectives for the field of psychology.

To work on this initiative, I have been working with a group of four people from the Committee for Transgender People and Gender Diversity to develop a fact sheet on non-binary gender identities for our division and other APA members. We hope to have this available on the website within the next month. We are also encouraging submission of programming for convention in 2017, both in the main program and the suite, on non-binary gender identities. I am also interested in developing programming on difficult dialogues regarding historical tensions between trans and feminist communities and the complex interplay of diversity, power, and privilege with respect to gender. We are also interested in building the capacity of the Committee for Transgender People and Gender Diversity and if you are interested in getting involved, please contact Mira Krishnan and cc me.

Initiative 3

To provide stronger mentoring and networking opportunities for graduate students and early career professionals within LGBT psychology in science and practice.

At convention this summer, I shared the story of the origins of my involvement with Div. 44. In 1998, when I was planning to apply to doctoral programs after several years out of my master's degree program, I stumbled into the Div. 44 suite at convention. Scared, shy and awkward would probably be the best adjectives to describe me as I sat by myself in a room full of people I did not know. A Div. 44 board member at the time, Jim Fitzgerald, came up and introduced himself to me, asking me about myself and engaging in an enthusiastic conversation about the division. At that moment, I saw a place for myself, and a lifelong dedication to the division was born. Two years later, I was student representative, and have continued on a path that eventually led me to become division president.

Hence, I issued my “reach out to a student” challenge to members this summer, and I will continue to remind you of this every chance that I can: The next time you encounter a student – whether it is at NMCS, on the listserv or at convention – reach out and introduce yourself. Ask them about themselves, their work, their goals, their lives. Ask them if they have any questions for you. Introduce them to someone you know. Our students are our future leaders and contributors. Make them feel welcome and valued.

In accord with this initiative, I am very pleased to have offered the first ever “Meet the President-Elect” session for students in the suite in August. More than 25 students attended and after informal introductions, we had an excellent discussion about the division and the future of LGBT psychology. I hope that this tradition will be carried forward, as there is clearly an eagerness among students to connect with division leaders. Along with the student representatives, Dawn Brown and Jacks Cheng, as well as the Executive Committee, we have launched the 2016-2017 student webinar series. The first webinar, held on Oct. 21, was entitled “Meet the President” and was an extended and more didactic version of my meeting last summer. We will be offering two additional webinars over the course of this academic year in order to engage students and promote their professional development.

Additionally, the student representatives are working on other projects of relevance to students. Recently a call for student ambassadors was sent out; this new program will identify ambassadors in geographic regions who will develop and host regional gatherings for students to get together in person during the year for networking and support. The student representatives are also working to connect with LGBT students and committees within other professional organizations for better collaboration. For more information and to get involved, see the Student Representative Committee report in this issue of the newsletter.

Finally, I also am interested in promoting the career development of early career professionals. We are talking about forming an ECP committee within the division, please email me if you are interested in getting involved. Another idea is to host a networking or discussion hour in the suite at convention specifically for those who are within 10 years post-PhD.

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, anti-LGBT legislation).

I have always been interested in finding ways to share our expertise outside of our professional circles. This has become particularly apparent given the events of 2016 that have highlighted the ongoing violence, oppression, and ongoing challenges that LGBT people continue to face in our country. We in psychology have unique insights into the personal side of public events and the ways in which we can help people to thrive and heal in the face of adversity. To date, our work on developing our social media platforms (see Initiative 5 below), the listserv, and the Div. 44 program hour at NMCS (above) are first steps in implementing this initiative. I welcome your input on ways that we can further this goal within Div. 44.

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.

This is an initiative that I am very excited about, as we have already made great progress. Working with Jayme Peta, our new communications coordinator, we have revamped and updated the Div. 44 website and will continue to do so in the near future. We hope to provide more links to resources of use to our members and the public, such as the fact sheet that we are developing on non-binary gender identity, and to further facilitate Initiative 4 by providing information in response to current events.

We have also taken some steps to enhance our presence in social media. In September, and in consultation with APA and other divisions, we revised our division Facebook page and invited members to like us in order to get our updates. Jayme and I, along with the student representatives, have regularly been posting things of interest to our members, including news articles, links to new scientific articles and PSOGD issues, and events within Div. 44, such as our webinars. We are now up to nearly 1000 likes and continually growing. If you haven't yet done so, check us out at the Div. 44 Facebook page. In addition to the public Facebook page, the student representatives have created a closed Facebook group for Div.44 student members to meet, network, and discuss issues of relevance to them. This was in response to student feedback we received this summer at convention. If you are interested in joining the group, contact Dawn Brown. In addition to Facebook, we created a Twitter account which has slowly but surely been getting new followers. Twitter is a quick way for us to send out information and links, and we also invite you to follow us there at Div44APA.

Finally, our webinar series is an additional way for us to stay connected outside of convention and NMCS. In addition to the three-webinar student series described above, we will also be offering three webinars for the general membership this year. One CE credit will be available with each of these webinars for an additional fee. The first webinar features Michelle Vaughn, PhD, on Nov. 9 talking about a strengths-based perspective on LGBTQ identity.

These are just some of our preliminary activities as my presidential term has gotten started over the past three months. There is much more to do, and we need your help. Please – if you have any interest in doing so, send me an email and talk to me about getting involved, in big ways or small.

Finally, in keeping with many of my initiatives, I gave a talk at the Commonwealth Club of California on Sept. 22 entitled “At the Crossroads: Oppression and resilience in diverse LGBT communities.” The talk is now available as a podcast and you can hear it on their website.

In the talk, I addressed some of the issues that I think are most salient for LGBT people and communities now, post-Orlando and post-marriage equality, and focused particularly on intersectionality, non-binary identities, and the importance of a trauma-informed perspective on LGBT health. You will be hearing more about these topics from me in the months to come, and I invite your input and feedback on these issues, as always.

Thanks to all of you for your interest, engagement, and for doing the work that you do. I am so pleased with how far we have come in three short months and I look forward to the rest of the year.

Kimberly Balsam
President, Div. 44