By Marianne McCarthy
On September 23, Dr. Herukhuti (Hameed S. Williams, HOD ’06) joined 30 leaders from the bisexual community at the first-ever White House roundtable discussion on Bisexuality in Washington, DC. The historic meeting was also attended by high-ranking federal governmental officials and representatives from national LGBTQ organizations, who met to discuss HIV/AIDS and other health issues, hate crimes, workplace discrimination, and domestic violence impact on bisexual communities.
As a clinical sociologist/sexologist and editorial board member of the Journal of Bisexuality, Dr. Herukhuti was invited to present information on HIV and its impact on bisexuals. His topic focused on the ways in which the lack of bisexual-specific HIV programs in research, prevention education, treatment, and care may be contributing to disparities among black and Latino men and women.
“Current HIV treatment focuses on black and Latino men who have sex with men and women as though they were gay men, or as though they were white gay men,” said Dr. Herukhuti. “This may be the reason why we are missing the mark.”
Being a Scholar-Practitioner
Admittedly, Herukhuti didn’t accept the White House invitation with the agenda of pointing out these disparities. It was the research that led him there, and Herukhuti attributes that to being a scholar-practitioner—something that was nurtured and supported at Fielding Graduate University.
“Fielding helped me cultivate and develop a sense of practice—learning by doing and allowing an experience to inform one’s theory and allowing theory to inform one’s practice. With my co-presenters, I looked at existing research on disparities, allowed my conclusions to emerge from what I observed in the literature, and used my lived experience working and living in the field as a check. This provided a compelling message we could present to the policy makers in the room,” said Herukhuti.
Practicing Agency Helped Open Doors
Fielding also helped influence Dr. Herukhuti’s career by encouraging him to take ownership of his learning and practice agency. He sought resources in his own community and started attending the Grand Rounds at the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies at Columbia University. These weekly presentations provide updates about the most current research related to HIV, sexuality, substance abuse, and socio-medical sciences. After one of the sessions, a member of the center approached him and invited him to write a grant supplement to a National Institute of Mental Health research project. As a result, Herukhuti became a federally-funded graduate research assistant at the HIV Center where he received training and education in sex research, in particular, HIV social behavioral research. He also received funding to conduct his own small scale study.
“Fielding's learning model created the structure and opportunity for me to take ownership of my learning, like going to a Grand Round, and ultimately led to my having a complementary relationship with another institution that I would not have had at traditional universities with their rigid borders,” said Herukhuti.
Working to Change Public Policy on Bisexuality
A respected faculty member at Goddard College in Vermont since 2007, Dr. Herukhuti also serves as Chair of the Goddard College Faculty Council, the voice of the faculty on academics at the college. He is the founder of the Center for the Culture of Sexuality and Spirituality (aka Black Funk) which provides sex education, sexuality education, and relationship coaching.
Dr. Herukhuti is the author of Conjuring Black Funk: Notes on Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality, Volume 1. He is currently co-editing a bisexual anthology with Robyn Ochs, a Boston-based bisexual activist and educator. Due out next year, the anthology will include prose, poetry, creative non-fiction, visual work, and essays by cisgender and transgender bisexual men.
“We expect it to be a resource for bisexual men others to see the diversities, the complexities, the nuances, and the presences of bisexual men,” said Herukhuti. “And there aren’t a whole lot of those resources out there.”
In addition, Dr. Herukhuti said he will continue working with those who were present at the White House roundtable on bisexuality to help support the development of a more inclusive public policy relating to bisexuality.