June is LGBTQ Pride Month, commemorating the 1969 Stonewall Inn uprising in New York City to resist persecution of LGBTQ individuals. While PRIDE stands for Promote Respect, Inclusion, and Dignity for Everyone, PRIDE is also an acronym for the Personal Rights in Defense and Education organization.
Like the PRIDE organization, the Fordham Graduate School of Education (GSE) is proud of its long-standing commitment to diversity in education. As a nationally recognized Jesuit institution, our emphasis is caring for the whole person (“cura personalis”) and affirming students’ sexual and gender identities. We recognize the importance of preparing our future educators, counselors and psychologists to work with LGBTQ students to help them embrace their own identities, find their voices, and give them visibility.
“Pride Month provides an opportunity for us to raise awareness, discuss biases and have conversations about issues central to LGBTQ individuals as sexual and gender minorities; it opens doors for ourselves and others,” said Eric C. Chen, Ph.D., Fordham GSE Professor of Counseling and Counseling Psychology in the Division of Psychological and Educational Services. “Stigmas exist on multiple levels and in various contexts, intimately related to cultural and social norms. Policy, legislative, and attitudinal changes can help overcome these stigmas. Decades ago in Taiwan where I grew up, for instance, left-handed individuals as a minority group were once stigmatized and forced to change the way they wrote. Through research, we no longer pathologize left-handedness. Likewise, we are now seeing the de-stigmatizing process unfold, albeit slowly, for LGBTQ individuals in Taiwan, the U.S. and around the world.”
Chen and his research team have incorporated insights from the literature on concealable stigmatized identity to understand the experiences of LGBTQ individuals who often become targets of discrimination, prejudice, and violence. His research has offered implications for the development of evidence-based stigma reduction interventions to bolster resilience and foster connections.
Chen noted, “Our research offers developmentally appropriate and contextually and culturally relevant training and clinical implications for future educators, counselors and psychologists,” he explains. “Advancing education for clinical and educational settings will give educators, school counselors and psychologists the tools to become LGBTQ students’ allies.”
“When educators are visibly supportive of LGBTQ students, it fosters an environment of inclusion that can benefit everyone,” states Doug Boyd, M.S.Ed., MHC-LP, a Ph.D. student in the counseling psychology program and Chen’s research assistant at Fordham GSE. “Awareness may lead to attitudinal shifts for those who are less exposed to members of the LGBTQ community. When individuals intentionally choose to expose themselves to the different voices of the community, their inclusion and acceptance of LGBTQ individuals may increase.”
“While we as humans are more alike than we are different, it is also important to recognize that socio-cultural differences often accompany social privilege, disadvantage and discord in relationships. Each point of connection in interpersonal relationships serves as a pathway for mutual understanding, as a gateway to our universality in diversity,” adds Chen. “Through the lens of intersectionality, we can more clearly see the interconnected nature of our identities that binds us.”
School counselors, psychologists and educators work to eliminate barriers impeding LGBTQ student development and achievement and are committed to the academic, career and social/emotional development of all students. Fordham GSE students and graduates are ready to become transformational leaders in education who inspire positive change in their communities. With dedication to the Jesuit ideal of educating the whole person, with continued commitment to coursework that emphasizes equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging, as well as social and emotional development, our students and graduates are poised and prepared to be positive agents of change.
About Eric C. Chen, Ph.D.
In 2020, Chen received the distinguished Presidential Award from the American Psychological Association (APA) Division 49: the Society of Group Psychology and Group Psychotherapy for his outstanding contributions and exceptional service to the field. An APA Fellow, he serves on the Board of Directors of APA Division 49; Chen previously served as an Associate Editor of the society’s journal and currently chairs the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) Committee. He is a national leader in the field of cultural diversity in counseling groups, as reflected in his professional presentations and publications. Professor Chen joined Fordham in 1995 and coordinates the master’s program in mental health counseling. He also serves as Director of the Clinical Mental Health Services in the Bronx Community program, funded through a grant of $300,000 from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation.