It’s All in a Name

Or in this case, a title.

The highest achievement an architect can receive from the American Institute of Architects – not counting the Gold Medal awarded to a single individual – is to be named to the College of Fellows. Roughly three percent of members hold this distinction and are able to call themselves Fellows. And while most awards are based on a single project, to become a Fellow means looking at an individual’s overall contribution to architecture.

I will not be one of those people.

Based on what I’ve heard from some colleagues who have attempted this feat, the process for becoming a Fellow is long, tedious, and expensive. While like any Oscar nominee, being nominated is enough of an honor, assembling the required material for submission would be daunting enough to question whether the effort is worth it.

But while I may never be a Fellow – and be able to change the AIA in my signature to FAIA (ooohhhh, she’s fancy!) – conversations over the last few months have rendered a somewhat different title:

Homo Emeritus

Not that the conversation started there.

A few months back, a co-chair for the AIA Dallas LBTQIA+ Alliance reached out to me for some assistance because, as she phrased it, I know a quite a lot about the Dallas queer community. Not sure how accurate that statement is. However, I was able to reach out to the people in the Dallas community, as well as Austin, Chicago, and DC, to see who might be able to assist her.

Ultimately I walked away from the experience feeling very much like the Senior Gay. (I wonder if AARP offers special discounts for that?) Which made it hard not to think “Let’s call Larry. He’s old.” Yet at the same time being flattered that they were reaching out to me. Always nice to be asked.

Fast forward a few months, and in a conversation with A.L. Hu for Pride X Design, we stumbled upon the term Elder Gay. Perhaps a better connotation than Senior? Maybe a bit more stately, a bit more gravitas? Except no one minds their elders, and I often think of Mormons when I think of Elder.

However, a conversation with Yiselle Santos Rivera in the DC office of HKS closed the deal. While laughing over this new designation of Elder Gay, she randomly tossed out Homo Emeritus. It works for college professors. Why not the queer community?

Except what really qualifies someone to be Home Emeritus? (Or HE, sort of like the British OBE.) To even be considered an AIA Fellow, one must be an architect for a minimum of 10 years and submit work samples and reference letters. I’ve certainly been queer longer than that, so from a time perspective I should be covered for an HE designation. I’m not sure what the work samples and reference letters would look like. Although that could get interesting quite fast.

And as my colleague noted with the Fellow submission, the process can be long and tedious. Who in the queer community hasn’t had that experience? Whether that includes the journey to coming out or the occasional date. Then there’s the expensive part. Those drinks don’t always pay for themselves!

So now it’s just a question of working that into my email signature. Do I spell it out? Or simply add an HE after my name? Difficult to say. Either way, I am going to reach out to AARP and see about those discounts.