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BEING A STRAIGHT ALLY TO THE LGBT COMMUNITY
"START THERE"

Peter Ji / University of Illinois at Chicago

Email: Pjiman1@hotmail.com, petji@uic.edu

 

PETER YUN JI EDUCATION
University of Missouri-Columbia
Ph.D. Counseling Psychology (APA Accredited)
Dissertation Title: The Role of Attachment Status and Session-Impact Events in the Formation of the Working Alliance Over Time with an Adolescent Client Population.
Passed Comprehensive Doctoral Qualifying Exams with Distinction / August 2001
University of Missouri-Columbia
M.A. Counseling Psychology
Thesis Title: Ethnic Identity and Acculturation Stress and Predicting Depression Scale Scores for a Korean Population.
December 1996
DePaul University, Chicago, IL
B.A. Magna Cum Laude.
Major: Psychology
June 1991

The title for this piece comes from a college professor’s graduation commencement speech. Many students did not know what to do after college and asked the professor about what should they do. In her speech, the professor replied, “Start there. You start with what you know and you look forward to learning more about what you hope to know.” This statement has become my mantra for describing my journey in becoming a straight ally to the LGBT community.

I first wanted to be a straight ally because I needed to do something more than accept my LGBT friends. They are special to me and I am proud that they are comfortable telling me that are gay or lesbian. When I went to social gatherings with other LGBT persons, they felt comfortable socializing with me. I valued my meaningful relationships with persons within the LGBT community. We would acknowledge and discuss LGBT issues and how they relate to our own identity, our friendships, our family relationships, and our relationship with society.

But I did not feel that I was “qualified” to be a straight ally. I did not have a family member who “came out” as openly gay or lesbian. I recall talking to my straight friends who had LGBT siblings or to parents with a LGBT son or daughter. From my perspective, they had more insight into LGBT issues because they knew that it was like when one of their family relatives “came out.” I did not have these experiences, so how could I relate?

If someone were to describe me, would they describe me as a straight ally to the LGBT community? Could I be identified as someone who is fully aware of LGBT issues? During my multicultural training in my psychology doctoral program at the University of Missouri, I viewed my professors as multiculturally competent. Would someone identify me as competent in LGBT issues and as a straight ally to the LGBT community?

Now, I suddenly realized that
I had shared experience of being
afraid of being who I want to be.
I felt empowered because I was angry
that I had to be timid about wanting
to be who I wanted to be.
Peter Yun Ji

I had to answer “no.” Honestly, I felt that just accepting LGBT individuals was not enough. Just having LGBT friends was not enough, Like any unjustly marginalized group, the LGBT community continuously deals with oppression and discrimination. Furthermore, the LGBT deals with people who use the Bible as “evidence” that being gay is fundamentally wrong. How would I respond if someone proclaimed me as fundamentally flawed based on religious text? In the end, I assessed myself as uncomfortable with being too passive and I experienced an inner urgency to do more.

PETER YUN YI RESEARCH & STATISTICAL EXPERIENCE
Institute for Health Research and Policy – University of Illinois at Chicago
Post-Doctoral Fellow
December 2003 - present

• Project management and related duties related to the Positive Action (PA) Program Evaluation Project – A comprehensive character education, school-based intervention program designed to enhance student achievement and reduce problem behaviors. The project involves elementary grade children of various racial backgrounds who are enrolled in inner-city Chicago area schools.
• PA Project management duties:
o Organized the hiring of a data management coordinator.
o Recruited 14 schools to participate in the study.
o Prepared databases for implementation and outcome data collection.
o Assisted with reviewing survey materials, preparing data collection survey procedures, survey data collection efforts, and processing collected survey data.
o Analyzed data and prepared reports for presentations to school districts that are using the Positive Action program.
o Recruited schools for a pilot study to evaluate student outcome measures, and organized and conducted the data collection effort.
o Submitted IRB protocols for a pilot study of student-outcome measures, a test-retest reliability study, and a teacher observation study.
o Participated in ongoing IRB workshops for continued certification.
o Coordinated the distribution and collection of parental consent forms for students to participate in the survey.
o Analyzed and prepared reports based on pilot data for the participating schools.
o Conducted literature reviews for various grants for a school-violence prevention program
o Currently writing and preparing publications related to work and data gathered from the PA project.
o Currently developing grant ideas for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender research projects.
o Participated in a workgroup to propose efficacy standards for evaluating prevention research for the Society of Prevention Research
Salary: $51,000/yr

Center for Community Research - DePaul University
Community Relations Manager
October 2001 – December 2003

Coordinated the community-based tobacco control intervention programs in 24 communities. The intervention consisted of licensing tobacco merchants and prohibiting minors’ possession of cigarettes in public spaces. The evaluation was a matched-pair randomized control trial with 12 control communities and 12 treatment communities. Established and managed relationships with key persons at 41 schools and 24 police departments in the Northern Illinois area. Organized the data collection efforts from schools and police departments. Coordinated project activities, including the collection of parental consent, survey administration, collection of tobacco-related police enforcement data, supervision of staff at community activities, prepared survey reports for schools and police departments, and maintained databases. Conducted research projects, assisted with conference presentations, and wrote publications regarding youth access to tobacco. Performed general office duties and staff supervision as needed.
Salary - $45,000/yr

Stats Institute
Dissertation/Research Consultant
May, 2001 - present

Assisted clients with statistical analysis, interpretation of results, report writing, research design conceptualization and assisting with data management. Using SPSS, conducted various statistical tests including structural equational modeling, ANOVA, ANCOVA, MANOVA, discriminant function analysis, factor analysis, and cluster analysis.

Fulton State Hospital
Psychology Research Coordinator
Summer, 1998 – August 2000

Coordinated assigned research projects. Independently managed and scheduled raters to perform assessments at various outpatient facilities. Coordinated data collection procedures, conceptualized research questions and design, and performed statistical analyses of data. Acquired skills in SPSS, Microsoft Excel, Word, and Access. Projects included: Investigation of Patient Factors that Lead to Successful Outpatient Transitions, Predicting Patient Success in Following Polydypsia Treatment Plans, Investigation of Structured and Unstructured Activity Time Periods and its Relationship to Occurrence of Aggressive Incidents in an Inpatient Forensic Setting, Assessing Risk Factors in Releasing Forensic Clients to the Community.

PEAK Project
Research Coordinator
University of Missouri
Fall, 99 - August 2000

PEAK project (Promoting Empowerment and Achievement via Knowledge) is a research based program model, designed to promote successful achievement in learning and life skills areas. Model is based on Tucker's Theory of African-American children, which posits a self-empowerment theory of achievement. Coordinated data collection efforts, construction of a database, and responsible for analyzing and producing statistical reports. Analyzed data gathered from Peak Project's initial assessment period. Co-authored, prepared, and presented report to a follow-up committee for the Peak Project funding organization.

Assessment Resource Center
Graduate Assistant, Quarter-time Assistantship
University of Missouri
Fall, 1996 - Winter, 1997

Duties included writing statistical programs in the SAS language for student or university-based organization projects. Wrote SAS programs for the following statistical analyses: MANOVA, Logistic Regression, and Descriptive Statistics.

So I have to “start there.” It was not enough for me to say I accepted LGBT individuals and that I was against oppression of the LGBT community. If I wanted to “do more”, what would it look like? What would be the model? Should I read plenty of literature on the LGBT community? Should I take every opportunity to strike down LGBT jokes? Do I fight legislation that prohibits LGBT individuals from having the same privileges and rights as heterosexuals? At this point, I felt I had a problem with credibility and identity. If I wanted to portray myself as a straight ally to the LGBT community, what evidence would I have to back my claim? Where would I start?

As I reflected and talked with others I trustee, I concluded that I could offer my emotional reaction and my beliefs about what was right. I do have noteworthy experiences with LGBT individuals. On one occasion, I was riding in a car with a gay couple, and one man talked about his family’s struggle to accept his gay identity. During that car ride, I remember being silent, wanting to say something to show my understanding, but feeling unable to do so. On another occasion, I remember feeling proud that, while casually talking with friends, a gay man complemented me by saying I could be his date for a school dance. At a wedding, I remember other persons making fun of a gay man, and I felt unable to quell their homophobic remarks. I remember other persons saying that being gay has to be biologically rooted because why would anyone intentionally choose to be gay? There were times I wished I could have done more rather than be silent.

I was afraid that others would question my motives. Why would I speak for LGBT persons if I were not gay? What investment would I possibly have in the LGBT community?

So I had to “start there”. I wanted an active voice. During my internship, I had an opportunity to produce an outreach event. My task was to construct a short program to promote psychology issues for interested college students. I will always remember this opportunity as the time when I “got started”. I decided that I would create an outreach event titled “Being a Straight Ally to the LGBT Community”. As soon as I started, I became nervous; I did a literature search and found nothing substantial on this topic. During my doctoral training, I became extensively involved with multicultural issues. I took several courses, participated in projects and workshops to learn about race issues, ethnic identity, and LGBT issues. During my search, it occurred to me that there were no models or literature that dealt with LGBT straight allies. So I felt even more at a loss because there were few, if any, models that could guide my wish to become a straight ally.

I had to start elsewhere. My internship had three wonderful staff members who proved to be a source of encouragement and validation. It was important for me to feel safe to say, “This is what I want to do. I want to be a credible, confident, ally to the LGBT community. I do not know where to start, I do not know what being an ally would mean, and I do not know how to lead this outreach event.” All three reacted with positive welcome, it was actually refreshing for them to hear that a straight individual wanted to come forward and “do more” for the LGBT community.

Furthermore, my issue of wanting to be “credible” was not an issue for them. My internship staff counselors were right ­ Exactly why did I want to be “credible”? Therefore, my first lesson was examining my need to be “credible”. Turns out, I wanted to be “credible” because I was afraid that others might ridicule me. For example, I was afraid that others would question my motives. Why would I speak for LGBT persons if I were not gay? What investment would I possibly have in the LGBT community? I then realized that this was my first experience of what it is like to live in fear for proclaiming who you truly are. I wanted to be a straight ally, and I was afraid of coming out as a straight ally. I thought that knowledge was the only way to justify my claim as a straight ally. Now, I suddenly realized that I had shared experience of being afraid of being who I want to be. I felt empowered because I was angry that I had to be timid about wanting to be who I wanted to be. I felt angry that there was a possibility that others might ridicule me for wanting to be a straight ally. Rather than retreating in fear, I could fight back this fear.

Click HERE to Peter Yun Ji's Resume

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