Our Name Change!
As you may be aware, our organization has had a long history of addressing the evolving language of the communities we serve by changing our name. Starting as the Caucus of Gay Counselors, over time we recognized the people we serve as our main focus, and became inclusive of other affectional identities (Lesbian and Bisexual), as well as Transgender people as we changed our name four additional times.
We became the Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Issues in Counseling over 12 years ago; as we all well know, the field of counseling Queer and Trans people, as well as the language describing the communities, has dramatically shifted during this time. We have also moved from fighting for our existence and affirmation to a recognition that as intersectional people, we must work together for our mutual liberation and celebration of our identities. Our new mission and vision for our organization have also guided us in re-evaluating our name to be more inclusive and line with our values.
In response to the changing field and terminology, formal and informal member input, strategic plan committee feedback, and board discussions which have occurred over the last 2 years, and after ACA approval in April 2020, we are very excited to become the official name with our official tagline:
Society for Sexual, Affectional, Intersex, and Gender Expansive Identities (SAIGE)
We are Counselors and Related Professionals Serving
Sexual, Affectional, Intersex, and Gender Expansive Communities
We wanted to take a moment to address a few questions that you may have about our new name.
Why did we not include individual identities?
Our mission is to be inclusive of all identities, but even our newly adopted acronym LGBTGEQIAP+ recognizes that it will continue to grow and evolve as the language and identities of those we serve evolves. We wanted to both have a name that would be relevant for as long as possible, as well as lead the way in embracing an umbrella term for the people we serve (SAIGE – referring to those with Sexual, Affectional, Intersex, and Gender Expansiveness).
As someone whose major identity was also removed from the name (as were the vast majority of those who were on the Board), we discussed this a lot. Many of us expressed deep grief over losing this in lieu of the use of umbrella terms. Gay men, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgender People had to fight continually at great cost for basic acknowledgement, not even acceptance. Although we have made great strides towards equality, as you know, we are a far cry from it and the forefront of this battle is still occurring for our trans siblings. For all of us with these identities, we absolutely know what it is like to be excluded, made invisible, devalued, and ignored – and it hurts more when it comes from one of our own within the Queer and Trans communities.
The use of the umbrella terms was not to erase our 4 identities in any way, it was to include those amongst us who face even more extensive erasure as they are fewer in numbers than those who are LGBT; we heard from so many people that identify as queer, asexual, aromantic, pansexual/polysexual, trans* and trans (those having issue with the term transgender, but identifying as trans), two-spirit, intersex, agender, bigender, genderqueer, as well as our siblings who identify with poly relationships or kink.
Our identities are truly vast; and as someone who is Native and 2-S (two-spirited), I absolutely believe that this is the nature of who we all are – we cannot be contained by any singular label or term. Our identities are infinite. We are blessings to the world and bring awareness to all who reside within it that we do not need to be held within our “boxes” that society has set aside for us. There is absolutely no way that we can create a name that could capture all of our identities, not just because we are vast in diversity, but also because of the nature of who we are – always evolving, expanding, and becoming more ourselves.
With that reality, we needed to focus on what was most inclusive for all of us, and what parameters of our identities connect us as a group. This is not easy, and we have had many heated discussions, disagreements, and lots of "feels" that we carry with us to this day. It came down to what is the nature of our expansiveness – what differences do we carry from “conventional” heterosexual and cisgender people. Our communities carry diversity within sexual, affectional, sex (intersex umbrella), and gender.
Sometimes we identify as divergent in just one, sometimes multiple categories. But the truth is that together we face the impact of misogyny, homoprejudice, cissexism, and colonization – how we choose to react to these ‘isms is within our own control and identities; my hope is that we can recognize our intersectionality, shared interests, and fight together for a better world. And that is what the name is intended to capture – we vary along these dimensions, but we are all united.
Why does the acronym not match the name? Why SAIGE?
The acronym SAIGE was selected to focus on the important piece of our work as an organization: to focus the attention on the people we serve, rather than us as counselors and related professionals. In our discussions, the acronym also had two associations for those of us on the Board.
First, it has the connotation of a sage as a noun, which is a person who has profound inner wisdom. We wanted to be clear that we do not see ourselves as counselors as the sages – competence and specialization with these populations is a continual journey. We therefore see the term sage as associated with part of our liberation work – we seek to provide space for the people we serve to empower themselves and find their inner wisdom as Queer and Trans people.
Second, for our President, as a person with Native American heritage, the name has special significance. To sage as a verb, means to use a sacred healing herb in a ceremony to bless, cleanse, and restore balance. It brings attention to the indigenous wisdom of people of color, as well as to the two-spirit beliefs (an indigenous identity that includes both Queer and Trans Spectrum identities and native ancestry and spirituality). These beliefs, which are now being supported by modern science, indicate that all queer and trans people are inherently gifted with social and emotional skills and resilience, and they are to be celebrated, as their value to the community is vast. To learn more about 2-S identities and their philosophy, you can read here: https://www.ihs.gov/lgbt/health/twospirit/
What do the identity terms mean?
The SAIGE terms indicate underserved populations whose identities include variation in sexual (sexual bonding, attraction, and behavior) and affectional (bonding on all multiple levels, including romantic, emotional, spiritual, psychological). It also includes those who are under the intersex identity umbrella (differences of sex development) and whose gender expands past the simple binary of male and female, including transgender, gender non-binary, and others whose gender is creative. These terms are meant to serve as umbrella terms to capture and be inclusive of all identities across the Queer and Trans spectrum.
We recognize that our new name is not perfect, but we are happy to have a more inclusive name that is in line with our mission and goals. If you have any questions about the name change, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As we move forward in our continued struggle and collective community, we are one. We are connected, united, and indivisible. We will resist and persist…together.
Greetings and Vision for 2020
"I've been embraced by a new community. That's what happens when you’re finally honest about who you are; you find others like you."--Chaz Bono
A few days ago, I was asked about the places in my life – throughout my history – where I have felt safe and welcomed. As a person who has multiple intersecting marginalized identities, there are not many. I feel this in the family I have created within my own home – with my spouse and my children. I have also felt this way in ALGBTIC.
As President-Elect for this last year, I have met so many queer and trans counselors and allies, and people who are committed to our communities. They work every day against the biases, misogyny, homoprejudice and cissexism that impacts our culture, our selves, and our clients every day. I have met students, counselor educators, school counselors, clinicians, counselors, and other therapists that are like minded in our mission to not only make our world a safer place, but to celebrate our authentic selves. I have worked with Board Members and Committee members who were welcoming, eager to be inclusive, and ready to face changes that we need as an organization to better meet the needs of our members and our clients.
I am very aware that not all people currently feel a sense of representation, safety, and celebration in our organization. As in our communities at large, racism, transphobia, and a binary worldview can often mean that queer spaces are not always safe for ALL queer and trans people. My vision for our organization is to ensure that we represent, include, and celebrate all of our diverse and intersecting identities.
I believe that uniting our communities, not only aligns us in purpose, it brings us back to our roots of who we truly are – as queer and trans people, we are healers and gifts. When I began to be more connected with my Native ancestry, I learned about two-spirit communities. Native communities, prior to colonization, recognized variant gender and affectional orientation as a blessing to the tribe and would celebrate when they discovered a two-spirit person among them. In indigenous society, we were respected leaders, spiritual advisors, and caretakers of children, elderly, and the infirm. And the world around us needs healing, and needs us, so very much right now.
In this next year, our theme for ALGBTIC will be “Indivisible.” This word to me, in terms of our organization, means that when we become united in purpose, when all of our voices are heard and valued, when we connect with our wisdom keepers, and we revisit our mission and vision for our organization, we will be truly united in purpose.
To accomplish this, we will be completing a strategic plan. A strategic plan will allow us to create the strongest organization possible for all of the community in which we serve. It will allow us to redefine and clarify who we would like to be as an organization, as LGBTQIAPG+ counselors, as allies, as advocates, and as leaders.
In order to do so, I have convened a committee that includes voices that may have not always been heard in our organization: particularly Queer and Trans People of Color, Non-binary Affectional and Gender identities, and Asexual persons. I also want to us to connect to our wisdom keepers, so I have set up an Advisory Board of Past Presidents (our Elders) and have asked our Queer and Trans People of Color Committee to serve as an advisory board for us as well.
I will be reaching out regularly to members to hear your voices, perspectives and wisdom, as we begin to shape ALGBTIC into the organization that represents and celebrates all of us. We have many other exciting changes and new member services on the horizon. I look forward to hearing from you and learn about how we can better meet the needs of our members as an organization.
Thank you all for this opportunity to serve our communities and this organization.
Dr. Misty M. Ginicola
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