Meet Dorothy Awards Honoree Leif MitchellPublished Jan 18, 2010
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Leif Mitchell began his involvement with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) in 1996. Leif served on the GLSEN National Board of Directors from 2000-2004 and is the Co-Chair of GLSEN Connecticut. Leif's day job is Assistant Director of the Community Research Core at Yale’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS. Leif enjoys the rich diversity of life in New Haven, Conn., with his partner, Will, with whom he celebrated a civil union on Oct. 14, 2006. For this week's "Better Know a Dorothy Awards Honoree" segment, NHPC board member Thomas Donato had a quick Q&A chat with Leif about GLSEN and what to expect going forward.
Q. How did you get involved with GLSEN?
A. When I was a senior in college I really had no idea what I wanted to do. I was a Psychology and Political Science double major and I had taken some elective courses in HIV/AIDS and sexuality education. I decided after graduation I wanted to help reduce HIV risk among gay youth. One of my mentors sent me an e-mail about an internship in GLSTN’s national office in NYC (GLSEN was the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Teachers Network at that time). I applied and was chosen to be GLSTN’s first intern during the summer of 1996 and have been involved ever since.
Q. Why is GLSEN still so necessary today?
A. GLSEN’s work to make schools safe for all students regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression is earth shatteringly important because we are saving lives and opening the minds of voters and leaders for future generations to come.
Q. What is the accomplishment achieved by GLSEN Connecticut that you are most proud of?
A. I am most proud of publishing Tackling Gay Issues in School in 1997 before there were many resources available for making schools safe and affirming places for all students. (I’m pretty proud that we were able to revise it in 2007 and make it available via our web site for free as well!)
Q. What has been your greatest GLSEN related experience?
A. There are too many of them to list here! Providing trainings to teachers in Bridgeport and watching them experience the “ah ha” moments; Helping a student in New Haven start a GSA at their high school; Working with Kevin Jennings, GLSEN’s founder, and Eliza Byard, GLSEN’s Executive Director on the National Board and National Advisory Council.
Q. Do you Facebook?
A. Way too much!
Q. Do you Twitter?
A. Kind of.
Q. What are some of your favorite things to do around New Haven?
A. Go to dinner/drinks with my partner, Will Lawson, and our friends at 116 Crown or Nini’s Bistro.
Q. Who is your personal GLBT icon?
A. Kevin Jennings…or Madonna!
Q. Do you have a favorite GLBT movie?
A. A Beautiful Thing
Q. What can we look forward to from GLSEN Connecticut in 2010?
A. An initiative to grade all Connecticut schools on LGBT issues; A two day SAFE (Safe Schools Are For Everyone) Training made available throughout Connecticut; The next phase of the Think B4 You Speak Campaign; Building a team of student leaders from GSAs in New Haven County.
Q. Where do you see yourself in five years?
A. Really? You’re going to ask this question? Is this a job interview? In five years I’ll still be doing social justice work.