Tag Archives: Identity

Living at the Intersection: Reflections on the Graduate Student Experience

Guest columnist: James Hornback, Alliant University, California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP), Class of 2017

What social identities do you currently identify as most central to you?

James… being African American, Gay, and Older are only three parts of the factors that make me who I am, so I prefer my social identity to be summed up as simply James.

Describe one challenge you’ve experienced in graduate school related to intersecting identities. How did you navigate it and what did you learn from the experience?

The most challenging aspect of my experience in graduate school has not been my ethnicity or sexual orientation, but my age. I will soon be fifty-four years old, which has placed me in an entirely different segment, not only in my cohort, but also in my campus’ student population.  I make my age an open acknowledged difference between myself and my fellow students, pointing out that I have life experiences that shape my perceptions, both in class and out, that color my interactions. It’s actually become, for the most part, a non-issue and a learning experience for everyone involved; including the professors who may be younger, older or relatively of my age. It keeps things interesting!

How have you found support and spaces to talk about your intersecting identities as they relate to graduate school and your quality of life?

I put myself out there. I am out about my sexual orientation and I cannot hide my ethnicity, and I’m outspoken. I stand up for myself and about issues within the department that hinder our ability to achieve our goals, and push for active participation in multicultural and social justice based causes.

 

Editor’s Note: This column is part of a series highlighting the experiences of students and professionals with diverse intersecting identities and was created 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 Heather Dade.

Check out previous posts in this series:

 

Living at the Intersection: Reflections on the Graduate Student Experience

Reflections of an Orthodox Jew: Entering the Real World

Guest columnist: Chaya Lieba Berger, BA, Long Island University Post

My name is Chaya Lieba Berger, and I am currently completing my first year at Long Island University Post’s Psy.D. program. I am also an Orthodox Jew.

From the moment I began graduate school, I was confronted by my religious identity. Having never before been in a school that was not specifically for Orthodox Jewish women, everything was a transition. Even my name was a challenge, as it is difficult for people who do not speak Hebrew to pronounce. I have noticed that when I introduce myself, people seem to not even hear the unfamiliar sounds, nodding politely before they erase the introduction from their minds. I have always been called by this name, and so adjusting has been an experience, and I am appreciative of my professors and classmates for the patience they have exhibited in learning it. I have also never before been in a co-ed school setting. It has been a challenge to feel comfortable discussing certain issues in a co-ed classroom, working on projects and presentations with male colleagues, and being open to becoming friends with the men in my program.

Recently, I was speaking with my mother about a non-Jewish organization I had been volunteering for and she laughed as I attempted to describe them with: “Oh, they’re normal. I mean they’re regular people. I mean they’re not religious.” When did become the other? When did the people I have spent most of my life surrounded by become different, irregular, and not normal? I am so grateful to be in a program that respects and accepts me as an observant Jew. At the same time, I have become, essentially for the first time in my experience, a minority. And being a minority can be a very “other-ing” experience. At times, the Hebrew and Yiddish expressions that are merely a part of my vocabulary remain stuck on my tongue as I search around for the appropriate English translation. At times, my experience of certain issues is swallowed by the experience of the majority. My world, a world with its very own dress code, its own music, and dating rules far different from my colleagues, has now become the “other” world.

I can say with certainty that this process, thus far, has been a learning experience. It has also, however, been a challenge, balancing my multiple identities as a student, an Orthodox Jew, a single woman, a psychological researcher, and soon, a clinician. I have come to realize that as much as one may try to separate one’s identities, it is simply unavoidable:

Wherever you go, every identity enters the room with you.

In my growth as a psychologist, I attempt to bring every part of myself with me. As I enter the real world, I am integrating an understanding of myself as the other, and I bring my other world with me.

Editor’s Note: This column is part of a series highlighting the experiences of students and professionals with diverse intersecting identities and was created 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 Heather Dade.

Check out previous posts in this series:

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).

 

 

 

Charity Lane

Living at the Intersection: Reflections on the Graduate Student Experience

Charity LaneGuest columnist: Charity R. Lane, Regent University, Class of 2016

My identity as a Christian woman not only holds deep meaning for my life but also directs its course, which has been the reason for this adventure called “graduate school.” The challenge I’ve faced consistently is the decision of priority – what is most important to me? As I navigate my journey it’s extremely easy to get caught up in the current of what those around me do. After all, “going with the flow” does not take too much effort or even conscious decision. However, I realized quickly that the demands of grad school could sweep me up in a way that would rush me by the people and needs of the world around me.

Yet, at the same time, those people and needs can be so overwhelming that I lose the ability to faithfully keep in the “stream” of this journey. It’s at the point of this tension that I’m reminded of the question so persistently knocking in my subconscious – “who are you trying to please?” Not just knowing my identity, but resting in it, allows my life to naturally be aligned with who I know myself to be. From this central anchor for my life, I’m able to face the challenges of priority without shame or guilt and without losing focus – even when those priorities look different from those around me. For example, in the midst of my graduate journey, I made the decision to take an extra year in completing my program in order to focus on areas of my life that held particular meaning for myself as a Christian and a woman. I’ve begun to realize that my life as a Christian woman who is also a psychologist will be different from others. Identifying as a Christian pulls me from the current and sets me down in the present while identifying as a woman keeps me focused on the relationships in my life that are of utmost importance. It is from this secure resting place of knowing my identity that I find the most joy and fulfillment.

A significant learning moment for me came when I was just beginning to think about pursuing my doctorate. My dad, a primary point of support as I’ve navigated intersecting identities, encouraged me to never allow my studies to take away from the genuine desire I have to connect with the hearts of those around me. It was quickly apparent to me that I could grow such an academic perspective on the world that I would lose the purity of relationship with a human on a heart level. Henry David Thoreau stated, “It is an interesting question how far men would retain their relative rank if they were divested of their clothes,” which humorously reminds me that “under the degree” I’m still an embodied soul that desires connection. That is why a secure foundation in my identity as a Christian and a woman will allow me to be consistent wherever I am – inside or outside of academia.

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).

Living at the Intersection: Reflections on the Graduate Student Experience

Guest columnist: Craig

Describe an instance where you were “forced” to choose or represent one identity over another. How did you negotiate this instance? What did you learn from this experience?

As a life-long stutterer, I am often faced with a dilemma every time I speak with someone in both my personal and professional life: Do I align with my identity as a stutterer by speaking with repetitions, prolongations, and blocks, or do I maintain my fluency by speaking in a coherent, smooth, and consistent manner? This quandary is cognitively and emotionally present in all contexts that involve spoken language. Magnifying the difficult decision is the stutterers’ often keen ability to “hide” his dysfluency. Unlike other apparent identities, stuttering is more covert, often hidden under the guise of fluent speech. Thus, during conversations with others, I often ponder three questions: Do I disclose my stutter? Will the other person figure out I stutter? How long can I maintain fluent speech?

Much to my dissatisfaction, I will often conceal my stutter, in order to align with the identity of being a nonstutterer. This “false” identity is accompanied by a lack of disclosure, embarrassment and shame, following a concerted effort to talk in a manner that involves absolutely no repetitions, blocks, or prolongations. I recall one instance in which I chose to hide my stutter from a 14-year old male client. The client asked, “Mr. Craig, do you stutter?” I replied, “Um, no, I don’t. Sometimes I get caught on my words.”

I chose this response to avoid any discussion that may have revealed my true identity as someone who stutters. I quickly changed the subject without hesitation. In essence, the opportunity to be vulnerable with my client by revealing my own imperfections (stuttering) was quickly shut down to avoid my embarrassment and shame.

I learned an important and valuable lesson from this encounter. Being vulnerable with another person implies uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. However, it also provides an opportunity to forge deep bonds of affection toward another. I lost this opportunity with my 14-year old client. As I reflect on this experience, I realize that it is only through my imperfections and fallibility that I can be an effective therapist. This means that I may stutter when I talk with clients. It may take me a few more seconds to utter a sentence. I, like my clients, am not perfect. I mistakenly believed in that moment of response that my ability to maintain fluent speech was connected with my competency as a therapist. I now realize that this was a great misperception—to be an effective therapist means being comfortable with my own vulnerability. This means befriending my stutter with an open heart and genuine curiosity when it emerges in session. By doing so, I subtly invite my clients to also be vulnerable with their pain and suffering. After all, at the end of each session, both therapist and client are human, all too human.

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 APAGS CARED: James Garcia.