An environment of welcoming: Pursuing excellence through service

13 June 2022

From Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gregory Hall, Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii - Diversity and inclusion have been major focal points for the Navy in recent years, as they try to leverage the skills of its workforce and create a welcoming atmosphere for Sailors from diverse backgrounds.
In 2020, Vice Adm. John Nowell, then chief of naval personnel, said, “The importance of both inclusion and diversity cannot be overstated. As a Navy, it is imperative we draw on the diverse resources, skills, capabilities, and talents of our people, and that we not think, and act, and look the same. Equally, we must be inclusive – creating a culture where everyone feels they can provide their opinions and are valued for who they are.”

Understanding people and their emotions has been the motivation of a particular Navy clinical psychologist, the first Navy lieutenant elected to Fellow status of the American Psychological Association (APA).

“As a first-generation college student, I knew I wanted to study something that interested me, and I had always been fascinated by two things: peoples’ relationships with one another, and their relationships with their own emotions,” said Lt. Nicholas Grant, a psychologist assigned to Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific. “It is very common for people to minimize their emotions, especially those that they judge to be “bad,” but I think emotion provides us with rich information about ourselves, our life experiences, and how we relate and connect with others.”

Grant said that as his education progressed, he continued to see how psychology impacted day-to-day life and motivated him to continue to learn how to use psychology to better serve others.

“In my Ph.D. (doctor of philosophy), I completed my research training at the Center for LGBTQ Evidenced based Applied Research (CLEAR), which is where I first began to learn how research can be used to help inform policy, and thus developed my interest in public policy,” said Grant. “By pushing myself to try new things, my interests expanded and I pursued new opportunities to gain competency across multiple fields like clinical, research, and policy.”

Following the completion of his doctorate, Grant served as a Congressional Fellow in the Office of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, assisting on the senator’s military, healthcare and LGBTQ legislative portfolios. He also began working on the APA’s Division 44 Public Policy Committee.

Grant said that working for Gillibrand is where he first learned that the U.S. Navy has a strong reputation for being the most inclusive and advanced in their policy development when it comes to supporting LGBTQ service members. His work garnered the attention of a fellow on the committee who would eventually become a mentor to Grant.

“I became aware of Dr. Grant’s work on APA’s Division 44 Public Policy Committee,” said Dr. Glenda Russell, licensed psychologist. “I was impressed by his knowledge of policy issues affecting LGBTQ people as well as by his commitment to working toward social justice for this group and, indeed, for all marginalized groups.”

“Later, I was asked to join a committee that Dr. Grant chaired,” said Russell. “It was a working committee focused on the revision of an APA resolution pertaining to discrimination against LGBTQ people. Once again, Dr. Grant carried out the project with competence and grace.”

After joining the Navy as a psychologist, Grant continued his work of advocating for marginalized groups, especially LGBTQ people.

“Since my time in the Navy, I have seen a major transition in the manner in which the Navy supports transgender service members in particular,” said Grant. “While serving as the Naval Medical Forces Pacific Transgender Care Team co-chair from 2020-2021, I got firsthand experiences of working within Navy medicine to support our service member’s access gender affirming care under both the current policy and previous ban on transgender service.”

His work in the Navy is not a surprise for Russell, who describes him as a warm, open person who gets things done. She said he demonstrated a fundamental commitment to positioning himself to influence policy for marginalized groups, especially for LGBTQ people.

Grant continues his work of helping Sailors on a daily basis. His positive attitude and ready smile is endearing to anyone that interacts with him. His hope is to show everyone that there is a place for them in the Navy.

“There are many assumptions about LGBTQ service members not being welcome in the military, but I can speak from my own experience and say that is not true,” said Grant. “I am both proud and excited by the Navy’s Culture of Excellence approach and specifically its efforts to ensure inclusion and connectedness for every member of the Navy family. I hope that one day in the near future all Americans will know that the Navy is a safe and supportive system for LGBTQ service members who wish to serve their country.”

Grant achieved Fellow status in the APA’s Division 44 which focuses on the diversity of human sexual orientations by supporting research, promoting relevant education, and affecting professional and public policy. Since that time, he has been elected to Fellow status in Division 19, which encourages research and the application of psychological research to military problems.

(Editor's note: This article was written as a part of LGBTQ Pride Month)

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