Tag Archives: Advocacy

Why Policy?

US Capitol Rotunda

U.S. Capitol Rotunda, Source: Flickr, user sidkid

“Why policy?”

I have been asked this simple, two-word question more times than any other question in the past year. Back in September, I began working as a graduate-level policy scholar for the Public Interest Government Relations office at the American Psychological Association. As this opportunity coincided with my fifth year of doctoral studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, I have often had to explain my hectic schedule upon meeting new individuals. Research and academia, most will understand, as those things fit seamlessly into the doctoral studies mold. But then comes the follow-up question: Why policy?

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Take the ally challenge!

I am sick of writing posts in the wake of tragedies, and sickened to know that unless something drastically changes, they will continue to happen as they have for so many years. But I also know we can do better; I can do better. Specifically, allies need to do more in the times when there is no system-based tragedy making headlines. Therefore I am taking a 30-day ally challenge and I would love you to join me!

Sometimes trying to be an ally can feel overwhelming because there are so many social justice issues around the world to care about. Sometimes I end up doing nothing because I do not know where to begin, or how to begin. Sometimes I get stuck because I know there are people who dedicate their lives to social justice, whether on a global scale by people like Paul Farmer, or on a local scale, like the founders of the Wisconsin youth organization Proud Theater, and that as much as I would like to be, I am not one of them. It is too easy for daily life to get in the way when there is no crisis to respond to. I realize, of course, that the ability to not engage fully in a topic if it doesn’t fit in my schedule is the result of the many privileged identities I hold, but that does not change the fact that I often end up analyzing data or checking Facebook, rather than really engaging as an ally.

If you are like me, and want to do more to make the world better but are feeling stuck, let’s try this month-long experiment together. I would contend, as others have, that being an ally is a verb rather than an identity label. It is not something someone is, but something someone does, and therefore something we can practice daily in order to improve.

This is my plan of attack to practice becoming a better ally.

Step 1: Choose a topic.

We know that in order to make behavior changes, the goals have to be manageable. There are countless areas of disparity and oppression in the world, but in order to prevent inertia, I will pick one topic to focus on for two weeks – just one! (With the sad exception of responding to crises, like the recent shootings)

Step 2: Pick a time.

Behavior change works best if we can incorporate it into our daily routine. What time works best for you to do your allying? It might take some scheduling trial and error, but I think I’ll try lunchtime…

Step 3: Become an informed ally.

Without knowing about an issue, it is difficult to effectively work for change. Every day I will spend 10 minutes learning about the topic I have chosen. Is this enough time to spend allying? No. It is not even close to enough time to do justice to learning deeply about a topic. However, it is ten minutes more than I am currently spending and therefore a step in the right direction. Specifically, I will seek out perspectives of members of communities affected by the issue, as well as the perspectives of those whose beliefs run counter to my own. It is difficult to create change without dialogue, and difficult to create dialogue without understanding perspectives across the aisle.

Step 4: Take action.

Knowing about the ways in which our system is broken is a start, but allying also requires doing something about it. Each week I will therefore also do some sort of action outside my comfort zone. There are a lot of ways to be an ally in daily life, some of which might not be entirely within my control. For example, it is important to speak up about microaggressions when we see them. We can do things to increase our efficacy speaking up, like learning about how to recognize microaggressions and how to communicate effectively about them. But what if I spend the day doing research in my office and legitimately do not encounter any microaggressions to challenge? The action I take each week has to be something I can initiate that I would not have done otherwise, whether that means attending a solidarity event, volunteering, donating, starting a dialogue, or calling a legislator.

Step 5: Tell your friends.

Behaviors changes are more likely to be maintained when people have social support for making the change. Share what you’re doing and what you’ve learned with your friends and family. Spread the word. Create a network of people practicing allying.

Step 6: Do it again the next month!

In this way at the end of one month I will know more about two topics and have taken four small actions related to them. If I keep it up over a year, that will lead to knowing more about 24 topics with 48 small actions. If I get my friends to join me, who knows how big the ripples may go.

I may not ever be an ally rock star, but I sure can work at becoming a better one than I currently am.  If those of us who hold privileged identities make an effort to be more intentional allies when there is not a national tragedy, not only might that make us better at responding to tragedies when they do happen, but it might also help us start using our power more effectively to prevent them in the first place. We might not be able to solve all broken things all at once, but that shouldn’t stop us from practicing the actions needed to learn about what is broken and be part of the solution. I hope you join me in this allying challenge!

#WeAreOrlando

By Julia Benjamin, Chair of the APAGS Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity (CSOGD)

And James J. García, Chair of the APAGS Committee for the Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Diversity (CARED)

Early Sunday morning, the deadliest mass shooting in United States history took the lives of 50 people. The community and countless individuals will bear scars from this attack for the rest of their lives. It occurred on “Latin Night” at an LGBT+-affirming nightclub during Pride month.

We are devastated. We are furious. We are scared. We are heartsick.

Orlando ribbonWe each attended vigils yesterday in remembrance of the victims and survivors, one in Tucson and one in Madison. They were separated by hundreds of miles but at each, we heard our feelings echoed by other voices. It was easy to feel overwhelmed as they spoke of the stark realities LGBT+ individuals face daily and the complex intersecting evils that contributed to this tragedy: fear for our safety, racism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, and the now real fear of guns. Yet through it all, the other themes that rang loud and clear were those of peace, solidarity, hope, and love.

As graduate students in psychology we are called on to use our knowledge and skills to fight oppression and provide support in times of trial. When the world feels complicated and broken, how can we take steps on our own campuses and in our own lives to hold onto hope and move toward healing systems and souls? Here are some practical things you can do, whether you identify as LGBT+ or as an ally:

  1. Show up
  • Attend the candlelight vigils that are being coordinated nationwide.
  • Get informed – learn about what’s going on, read here and here.
  • Stop by your campus or local city LGBT+ center to meet folks and offer solidarity; click here for the Campus Pride website.
  • Reach out to friends and loved ones, to provide and receive the social support that we know helps confer resilience in times of distress.
  • Show up for yourself – be sure to keep taking care of your own basic needs like sleep, a balanced diet, and exercise.
  1. Speak up
  • Write to your elected officials, U.S senators and representatives.
  • Share your feelings and thoughts and engage in dialogue through blogs, psychology-related listservs, and/or social media.
  • In the upcoming presidential elections, vote with your ballot.
  1. Step up

As more details of this event emerge in the coming days, let us remember that there are layers of complexity to this massacre. Also, let us remember the intersecting identities of those who were affected, as this shooting disproportionately affected people of color and our Latina/o LGBT+ family. Let us stand together with our allies in our mourning, fear, anger, and devastation, but also in our solidarity and hope for a more peaceful, accepting, and just society for all.

Florida

Wear Orange

Repost – #WearOrange: The One Simple Thing You Can Do to Address Gun Violence

From Psychology Benefits Society, a blog from the APA Public Interest Directorate • June 1. 2016

By Amalia Corby-Edwards, MS (Senior Legislative and Federal Affairs Officer, APA Public Interest Directorate)

June 2nd marks the second annual observance of National Gun Violence Awareness Day, also known as “Wear Orange Day”.

Wear OrangeThe financial cost of gun violence in the United States was an estimated $229 billion in 2012; this amount does not account for the psychological toll on those directly or indirectly affected by firearm violence–those who witness or fear firearm violence in their homes or communities or who are left behind when a loved one dies by suicide.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • In 2013, there were 33,636 firearm deaths in the U.S. and more than 84,000 non-fatal firearm injuries.
  • Firearms are involved in more than half of suicides and more than 2/3 of homicides in the United States.
  • There are more than 30,000 firearm fatalities each year in the United States and more than 80,000 non-fatal injuries requiring emergency medical care or hospitalization.

Read more and take the pledge to wear orange!

Living at the Intersection: Reflections on the Graduate Student Experience

Guest columnist: Maya Pignatore, Nova Southeastern University

What social identities do you currently identify as most central to you? I identify as bisexual woman, psychologist, wife, daughter, atheist, Italian-American, Geropsychologist, LGBT advocate, nerd…

If you could go back in time, what advice related to your intersecting identities would you give to your former self upon applying for and entering graduate school? Looking back, I don’t think that I connected enough with my own diversity factors when I began graduate school, and this is something I regret. I primarily thought about myself as a white woman from a middle class background. I was in an opposite-sex relationship, was not very out about my bisexual identity, and felt I was more an advocate to the LGBT community rather than an integrated member of that community. Because of this, I primarily approached my “helping” role from an outsiders’ perspective, rather than as a connected member of the groups I worked with.

Over the course of graduate school, I became more connected with my own diversity factors. I feel that being capable of and comfortable with self-defining and disclosing different aspects of identity has helped in more clearly defining my role as a clinician and my relationship to the clients I serve. I wish I had pushed myself to be more open and honest about my multiple identities earlier in my career and had invested more time in exploring the meaning of these different identities.

How have you found support and spaces to talk about your intersecting identities as they relate to graduate school and your quality of life? It has been important to me throughout my training to find safe spaces for myself to express to my different identities. Part of this has been a need to escape the pressure I felt from situations where everything from my knowledge base to my wardrobe was being evaluated for professionalism. I like to have spaces where I can fully indulge in one aspect of myself, without the constraints of another, and particularly without feeling scrutinized. The neutral stance of my therapist identity doesn’t always jive well with my political/feminist activist identity, and neither meshes too well with the more playful side that wants to play video games and get lost in fantasy.

I try to find a balance between settings where I can integrate some aspects of myself, while also maintaining others that are totally separate. I joined the psychology department’s Gay Straight Student Alliance to find a space to be “out” and also indulge my activist side. I seek out professional peers who are willing to spend time discussing tea and movie preferences, without any talk of evidence-based practice. But I also keep other things totally separate from professional life, such as my artwork, which I share anonymously on the Internet. Wearing all my hats at once would probably result in some cervical vertebrae issues, so I take care to give each the spotlight from time to time.

This column is part of a monthly series highlighting the experiences of students and professionals with diverse intersecting identities and is sponsored by the APAGS Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity and the Committee for the Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Diversity. Are you interested in sharing about your own navigation of intersecting identities in graduate school? We would be happy to hear from you! To learn more, please contact the chair of APAGS CSOGD (Julia Benjamin) or CARED (James Garcia).