Tag Archives: LGBTQ

Living at the Intersection: Reflections on the Graduate Student Experience

Finding a Cultural Identity: An Intersectional Autobiography

Guest columnist: Christian Chan, George Washington University

Writing about my own personal lived experiences is a meaningful action to extract, understand, and interpret the complex experiences of culture across my journey as a graduate student. I entered a professional journey as a graduate student in a Master’s program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and, later, a doctoral program in Counseling with a keen interest for developing more culturally competent interventions. What I realized most is the limitations of my own worldview, as I see through my own lived experiences and navigate my interpretation of privilege and oppression.

While I knew that multiculturalism and social justice were emphases of my journey and what I hope to contribute as an emerging scholar, leader, and educator, this interest evolved more than I had ever visualized at the beginning. I began my goal of starting a doctoral program with interests in multicultural counseling and supervision; ethnic identity development and socialization; intergenerational conflict; and acculturative stress. While those constructs still capture my interests and my view of multiculturalism, it was my own personal growth that grasped a largely missing component in the counseling profession’s research and practice. For far too long, I noted throughout my graduate training that there were still missing gaps in research and practice despite the major advances and emphasis to meet the needs of diverse populations.

My passion for intersectionality grew because I could no longer just view our treatment of clients within the limitations of cultural identities as distinct silos. What is the experience of a disabled lesbian Asian American cisgender woman? The intersections of these identities continue to grow in this discussion, but they are absolutely necessary if we are to grow as helping professions and enhance our paradigm of research. My own personal lived experiences rung through the curriculum. As a second-generation bisexual Asian American male of Filipino, Chinese, and Malaysian heritage, I also realized the intersections of my other identities as an able-bodied Catholic cisgender male who grew up in a middle-class family as the child of two immigrants. I sought for more questions and answers that moved beyond how privilege, oppression, and mental health are impacted by one identity.

Through these intersections, a pivotal moment in my doctoral program taught me so much about the negotiations of my own privilege and oppression. My initial driving force to enact multiculturalism and social justice into training, curriculum, and research was my own oppressed identities as an ethnic and sexual minority. However, my colleague confronted me about my perspectives of career development and social class. I stated that individuals could utilize their experiences from each position to hopefully move to another position. My assumption, however, is that not every individual has this choice, as they encounter several barriers in career development. I certainly have choices in my life due to my own social class, which prompted a negotiation of my own privileges. As I reflect upon those moments, I recognize that I must negotiate my privileges as lifelong learning with each step of my professional journey.

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, jzbenjam@gmail.com) or CARED (James Garcia, jjg0136@gmail.com).

The Gift of They!

As a second-year practicum student in clinical psychology in San Francisco, California, I was honored to encounter people from diverse backgrounds. The location greatly enriched my experiences in multicultural counseling—but it only went so far. I very quickly became aware of the lack of onsite training and the failure of the English language in providing appropriate services to the transgender population in our clinic.

One particular incident with a client opened my eyes to the bias that not only exists in popular culture but also in the therapeutic world. During my last two months at the practicum, I received a referral for psychological assessment from a therapist who was working with a person who identified as genderqueer.

In our first session, the client told me that they prefer the neutral gender pronoun. The client told me that they don’t like to be referred to as “he” or ”she.” After our initial interview, I went to see my supervisor to ask her for guidance regarding creating a proper battery of assessments and writing a report with gender-neutral pronouns. My supervisor looked at me with surprise and told me she needed to consult with her mentor.

I was surprised that this lack of clear guidelines related to language had not come up before in her experience with clients. I consulted further by talking with an assessment professor who informed me that she, too, had never experienced a client who preferred gender neutral pronouns. This made me feel lost and in a very ambiguous, uncomfortable situation.

I deeply believe that clients are the masters of their experience. I realized that the field of psychology has largely ignored the needs of gender-variant and gender-nonconforming clients, and that, like homosexuality, the biases that exist in pop culture dominate our clinical work.

“The biases that exist in pop culture dominate our clinical work.”

With the help of my clinical supervisor and with my client’s generous offer to connect me with available resources on gender nonconformity, I was able to write my first psychological assessment, fully using the they, them, their pronouns as a singular neutral pronoun.

During my last session with the client, I gave the client their report. As part of my training in therapeutic assessment, I wrote the report using a format that non-clinicians and clinicians could understand. I saw tears on the face of the client as they read the report. They told me that it was the first time they had felt understood and respected regarding their gender identity by a clinician.

To this date, I remain very grateful for the client’s kind words, and for the wonderful insight I was given into the power of language, through the gift of they.

Editor’s Note: Khashayar Farhadi-Langroudi is a student at the American School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University – San Francisco Bay Area. Khashayar is also a member of the APAGS Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity.         

Become a mentor or a mentee this August. (Source: User John-Morgan on Flickr. Some rights reserved).

Addressing the Need for Mentoring Among LGBTQ Graduate Students

How are the mentoring needs of LGBTQ graduate students unique?

For LGBTQ graduate students, challenges such as program climate, coming out, establishing a support system, confronting microagressions and heterocentric attitudes in coursework, advocating for the inclusion of LGBTQ issues in ones program, and conducting LGBTQ-related research can uniquely influence the graduate school experience (“Proud and Prepared…”, 2015). Studies looking specifically at mentoring relationships and needs among LGBTQ graduate students highlight a plethora of societal, environmental, and contextual factors which influence LGBTQ graduate students’ academic and professional development, and emphasize the specific need for LGBTQ mentors (Matheney, 1998).

Become a mentor or a mentee this August. (Source: User John-Morgan on Flickr. Some rights reserved).

Become a mentor or a mentee this August. (Source: User John-Morgan on Flickr. Some rights reserved).

Social support, such as that found in a mentoring relationship, is one key factor shown to positively influence the career development of lesbian women and gay men (Morrow, Gore, & Campbell, 1996). Lin (2001) found that gay and lesbian protégés found more perceived support from gay or lesbian mentors than heterosexual mentors. Nearly all of the LGBTQ+ graduate student participants in a study by Lark and Croteau (1998) reported pursuing a LGB-affirming mentoring relationship but having difficulty finding one, which participants expressed as a serious disappointment. Participants cited wanting the expertise of mentors concerning LGB perspectives in clinic work, LGB research strategies, LGB professional advocacy, LGB career planning concerns such as identity management and disclosure on resumes or in interviews, providing models of successful out LGB professionals, and having someone with similar experiences with whom to disclose situations of discrimination (Lark & Croteau, 1998). Although these needs can, and certainly should, be addressed by faculty and practitioners of any sexual orientation or gender identity, the need for LGBTQ graduate students to have a mentor who also identifies as LGBTQ—and the tendency to seek mentors of similar sexual orientation or gender identity—shouldn’t be overlooked (Nauta, Saucier, & Woodard, 2001; Russell & Horne, 2009).

How does APAGS help address the needs of LGBTQ graduate students?

The APAGS LGBT Graduate Student Mentoring Program is designed to address the needs of LGBTQ graduate students in psychology by matching them with an LGBTQ-identified advanced graduate student or professor who shares similar interests, experiences, and goals. Mentors and mentees are provided monthly discussion prompts, a closed listserv to create a venue for dialogue, access to resources (such as webinars) relevant to LGBTQ graduate students, and opportunities to connect at APA Convention. As one mentor in the program reported:

“…I have felt very grateful to be part of the APAGS LGBT mentoring program. My PhD program has no open or out faculty members and I am one of two openly gay students. As a result, the sense of aloneness and isolation as an LGBTQ student and practitioner has periodically overshadowed my training and education process. Through this mentoring program, I was able to receive professional guidance and genuine relational support from a seasoned LGBTQ psychologist…who could also relate very personally to the social pressures and professional challenges of being a minority graduate student, as well as working as an openly gay psychologist.” –Brian

Interested in becoming a member of the 2015-2016 APAGS LGBT mentoring program—either as a mentee or mentor? Applications for the program are now available through the APAGS Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity website, and should be submitted electronically by August 15, 2015. Pairs will be formed on or around September 1, 2015.

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Mary T. Guerrant, M.S., a doctoral student at North Carolina State University and member of the APAGS Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity. It originally appeared in “Perspectives on Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Concerns,” a newsletter publication of APA Division 35 (Psychology of Women) Section IV (LBT Concerns). It is reposted here with generous permission.

Vanessa Martinez-Morales_ASU Counseling Psychology

Living at the Intersection: Reflections on the Graduate Student Experience

Welcome to APAGS‘s new blog column on intersecting identities! Each of us has a complex combination of personal identities, including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ability status, and other life statuses like parenthood. We hope through this series to give voice to those complexities. Each month a student author will share reflections on their experiences at the intersection of their many identities. Join us each month to hear new stories and insights from students across the country!

Two Chairs, One Life

Vanessa Martinez-Morales_ASU Counseling PsychologyGuest columnist: Vanessa Martinez-Morales, Arizona State University

I invite you to join me in my counseling room where I have invited myself to engage in a two-chair exercise for two of my identities; one is for the proud Mexican-Cuban first generation American and another is for the burgeoning bisexual woman. Both these women share a parallel process: my denial and acceptance throughout the years. I brought these women here today to discuss their most recent endeavor in graduate school. I sought to explore their challenges and experiences in navigating this new environment. The two are in unchartered territory; they are both strangers and family; self and others; in synchronicity and in isolation. Today they focus on one conversation and one understanding.

Mexican/Cuban: Starting graduate school I felt pressure to perform and to prove that I, and others like me, deserve these kinds of opportunities. I wondered if I was accepted for my abilities or for the marketability of a program that accepts “students of color.” I felt a weight on my shoulders to be the best “Latina psychologist” I could be. I struggled with the absence of one image of what that would look like. And I began to search for that image.

Bisexual:  I was fearful that others would find me out and cast me off as “unprofessional, confused, unstable, attention seeking, and dishonorable.” I had no worries that my presence gained me admittance into the program, but rather fear of exclusion. I thought I could easily separate myself from the graduate school experience and let you take over. After all, I believed you were who was best equipped for this sort of thing, at least out of the two of us.

Mexican/Cuban:  I felt you “shy away” and I wanted to include you but I didn’t know how. I could barely find a “Latina psychologist” to model myself after and I admit I didn’t want to complicate my search any further. So I let you have your own friends and enjoy yourself socially, and I stayed in class, attended the faculty parties with my male partner, and worked hard to establish our academic identity. I resented your freedom.

Bisexual: You thought I was free! How do you think it felt to bite my tongue anytime sexuality was discussed in class? To only share my questions with myself? To seek only this underground railroad of friendships where I could be assured safety? To feel your doubt and questioning anytime I showed even a glimpse of myself? At times I felt I needed to be free of you and your worry that we wouldn’t be seen as a “real Latina” if I joined the conversation.

Mexican/Cuban: I am sorry. My heart races when you speak but I want you to join me. We will create our own image; our reflection.

It has taken three years for the two of you to begin this conversation. I only ask for the courage to continue and the maturity to understand that reflection on our disintegration will lead to our integration.

This column 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, jzbenjam@gmail.com) or CARED (James Garcia, jjg0136@gmail.com).

Last year's IDAHOT celebrations at CQ University in Sydney Australia brings the message, "Being straight is no excuse for homophobia." (Source: Acon Online for Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT) is May 17th!

Stand with LGBTQI youth

On May 17, 1990, the World Health Organization declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder, and since 2005 the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT) has commemorated that day. It is a global occasion for individuals, groups, and organizations to take action on topics related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals and to advocate for more accepting public policies. Each year a global focus for IDAHOT is chosen and this year’s is LGBT youth.

How can you get involved to raise awareness and support for LGBT youth? Here are five quick ways:

1. Inform yourself. Check out the official website for IDAHOT, where you can learn about what different groups worldwide are doing to raise support and awareness for LGBT youth and you can also follow IDAHOT on Twitter (@May17IDAHOT) and Facebook.

2. Take social media by storm. Join the IDAHOT Thunderclap campaign. Thunderclap is a service that you give permission to post a preset message on your social media pages on May 17 in honor of IDAHOT. When multiple people post on Facebook and Twitter at the same time, it creates a bigger buzz.

3. Be an advocate for LGBT youth. You can do this on your campus and in your community. Work with LGBT groups on your campus and in your community to help generate interest in IDAHOT and raise awareness of the unique challenges and experiences faced by LGBT students. Although there are plenty of resources out there, here are a few to get you started…

4. Support fellow LGBT graduate students. Tell your peers what is out there and specifically for them. The APAGS Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity has long been advocating on behalf of this community. It currently offers a set of free training webisodes on special topics (e.g., coming out to your clients), a climate guide (PDF) and a survival/resource guide, an academic-year mentoring program, two grants (one for training and the other for dissertation research), the APAGSLGBT listserv, and much more.

5. Support other youth around the world. Consider donating to the IDAHOT movement and help fund one of several activities worldwide planned, including public marches and demonstrations, publications in national newspapers, festivals, education and public awareness raising, flash mobs, and the support of LGBT rights organizations internationally.

Last year's IDAHOT celebrations at CQ University in Sydney Australia brings the message, "Being straight is no excuse for homophobia." (Source: Acon Online for Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

Last year’s IDAHOT at CQ University in Sydney, Australia brings the message, “Being straight is no excuse for homophobia.” (Source: Acon Online for Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

APA wants every day to be an IDAHOT day. For more information about how we support LGBT communities and a list of resources for becoming engaged in action, check this page out.

Remember, every action counts in the fight for LGBT youth around the world!

Editor’s Note: Mary T. Guerrant, MS, is a doctoral student at North Carolina State University and a member of APAGS-CSOGD.