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Get to Know 2013 Dorothy Honoree Irwin Krieger!Published Jan 29, 2013
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What first drew you to social work?
I graduated from college with a degree in psychology. My first job was at Yale Psychiatric Institute. I then went on to work in a community-based outpatient mental health clinic in Meriden. As an out gay man in the 1970s I was all too aware of the effect that interactions with the larger society had on my emotional well-being. I decided to pursue a degree in social work because of the profession's attention to societal and interpersonal factors in mental health care.
What is the most pressing issue facing the LGBT community in New Haven today?
I think the LGBT community has made tremendous advances in securing rights and gaining acceptance for gay men and lesbians. This has taken a lot of lobbying, advocacy and the courage to be open about who we are. Throughout this process, we have relied on support from family and friends, as well as straight, bi and transgender allies. At this time we need to focus our attention on securing the rights and safety of our transgender community members, building on the legislative steps that have already been taken in CT. For those of us who are not transgender, to become true allies we must listen to our transgender peers without doubting or judging what they tell us about who they are, how they feel, and what they need. One urgent, life-saving need is the inclusion of transgender health care coverage in all insurance plans.
Your book, "Helping Your Transgender Teen: A Guide for Parents" was published in 2011; what is the biggest lesson you have learned from your work with Transgender teens?
Transgender teens and their parents struggle with the apparent conflict between authenticity and safety. Teens are striving to be their true selves, whatever the risks. Parents are focused on keeping their children safe. They often see transgender expression as dangerous and perhaps unnecessary for their teen. I have learned that by helping parents and teens understand each other's feelings and fears we can find a way to move ahead together safely and authentically.
What is a secret to the success of your 27-year relationship with your partner John?
One secret to our success is that we express appreciation for even the small everyday things we do for each other. Another is that while we don't often find ourselves in conflict, we have learned how to get through the times when we are feeling hurt or angry with each other. With compassion for each other and a strong sense of commitment, we are able to address these feelings when they occur and then move on.
What do you love most about your job?
I get a great deal of satisfaction from knowing I am making a difference in people's lives.
Who or what inspires you daily?
I am inspired every day by my two terrific kids and the wonder of being a parent.
What do you do in your spare time?
I enjoy playing the piano, singing with family and friends, and recently I've been learning to play the ukulele.
Who would play you in the movie of your life?
Ewan McGregor. He was great in Moulin Rouge, and I'm hoping my character will get a chance to sing in the film!
Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us!
A few years ago I performed as a dancer in the premiere of Wally Cardona's "Really Real" at the Iseman Theater in New Haven, under the auspices of the International Festival of Arts and Ideas. The experience of rehearsing and performing with the group was absolutely wonderful!
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Over the next 5 years I hope to increase my opportunities for public speaking. In the past few years I have enjoyed speaking to mental health and medical professionals about my work with transgender teens and their parents. As health care providers become better informed about transgender identities, medical and mental health services for transgender people will improve greatly.
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Beautiful, sensitive , compassionte and loving------ just like you. I am so proud. LOVE, hugs and kisses.