2019 LGBT Health Forum

Getting the Word Out; Stonewall, the Power of Information, and LGBTQ Health

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Event Detail

This year, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion, the Forum will consider how the 1969 uprising set in motion events that positively impacted the health of LGBTQ people. Specifically, we will examine how writers and disseminators of ideas – authors, journalists, essayists, novelists, and scientists – allowed the movement to grow and realize gains for LGBTQ people in their health and rights.

The Stonewall rebellion of June 1969 catalyzed an enormously impactful movement that was critical in forming community among gay lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people who previously had no voice, not just in New York but across the country and around the world. That momentous event one steamy summer night in New York City created a critical mass of activism and solidarity that directly and indirectly had an impact on the mental and physical health of LGBTQ people. Immediately after Stonewall, a campaign was set in motion to remove homosexuality as a mental illness from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), having success in 1973. A decade or so later, the queer community responded where the President Ronald Reagan and United States government did not to the AIDS crisis beginning in the early 1980’s. Activism that began years prior to Stonewall gained traction and continues to this day to right the wrongs done to sexual and gender minorities everywhere.

Propelling those movements and giving them a figurative and a literal voice was a cadre of LGBTQ writers and advocates who put the tenets and priorities of those movements into words through news articles, critical essays, opinion pieces, literature - both fiction and non-fiction, and scientific studies and articles, making the case for diligence in the pursuit of the health of the community.

This discussion will include 6 panelists who, then and today, advanced public understanding about critical issues affecting the health and wellbeing of sexual and gender minority people. The panel will include journalists, essayists, novelists, activists, and scientists who “got the word out” and did the hard work that had a positive impact on LGBTQ people everywhere. 


Joshua Johnson



Joshua Johnson  is the host of “1A,” a daily conversation about the most important issues of our time. Produced in Washington by WAMU 88.5 and distributed nationally by NPR, “1A” takes a deep and unflinching look at America, bringing context and insight to stories unfolding across the country and the world. Johnson is a native of West Palm Beach, Florida. He began his public radio career at WLRN in Miami. He then served for over five years as morning newscaster for KQED in San Francisco. There, he created and hosted the provocative nationwide public radio series "Truth Be Told", which explored race in America. He also taught podcasting at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Johnson is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists  Association. 



Headshot of Clippinger



Victoria Cruz is a veteran of the Stonewall Riots, an LGBTQ rights activist, and a retired counselor for survivors of violence. Victoria has been honored for her contributions to LGBTQ communities and anti-violence advocacy, including receiving a prestigious National Crime Victims Award from Attorney General Eric Holder in 2012 - the first trans woman of color to be honored with this award. A contemporary of activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, she is featured in the 2017 documentary The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson. Through program development, direct services, training and education, Victoria dedicated her career to promoting social justice and equality for all, especially Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ), and HIV-affected survivors of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), and youth. Victoria co-created the only gender inclusive support group for LGBTQ survivors of IPV in New York State, and has served on panels at many conferences focusing on violence within and against LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities.







Michael Denneny started his publishing career at the University of Chicago Press,  then moved to New York City where he worked for the MacMillan Company (5  years), followed by St. Martin’s Press (17 years) where he played the leading role in introducing mainstream publishing to gay and lesbian books. He then worked for Crown/Random House (2 years)  and, again, St. Marti n’s Press (5 years) before becoming a free - lance editor and  consultant. In his career, Denneny published Susan Fromberg Schaeffer, R.  Buckminster Fuller, Ntozake Shange, G. Gordon Liddy, Randy Shilts, Judith Thurman,  Nicole Hollander, Edmund White, Ethan  Mordden, Larry Kramer, John Preston, Lars  Eighner, Laura Esquivel, and Paul Monette, among many others. He was awarded the Lambda Literary Award for editing in 1993, the Literary  Market Place Editor of the Year Award in 1994 and the Publishing Triangle Editor’s  Award in 2002. Denneny was one of the founding editors of  Christopher Street  Magazine  and  The New York Native , has written three books of his own ( Lovers,  The Story of Two Men ,  Decent Passions: Real Stories about Love and  On Christopher Street;  Li fe, Sex and  Death after Stonewall  (forthcoming).








Esther Newton is a trailblazing figure in gay and lesbian studies, a cultural anthropologist best known for her work on the ethnography of lesbian and gay communities in the U.S., beginning with her doctoral dissertation The drag queens; a study in urban anthropology (1968). Dr. Newton uses oral history and ethnographic methods to examine cultures and subcultures within queer communities in locations such as Cherry Grove, a resort area in Fire Island, New York, one of the oldest and most visible LGBTQ communities in the country. Her latest book, My Butch Career, “tells the compelling, disarming, and at times sexy story of her struggle to write,teach, and find love, all while coming to terms with her identity during a particularly intense time of homophobic persecution in the twentieth century.”






Kevin Naff is editor and co-owner of the Washington Blade, the oldest and most acclaimed LGBT news publication in the United States, founded in 1969. He serves as executive director of the Blade Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to funding enterprise journalism and scholarships for LGBTQ journalists. Naff is an award-winning journalist, honored for 10 consecutive years by the Society of Professional Journalists for his editorial writing. Prior to joining the Blade in 2002, he launched the Baltimore Sun’s website in 1996; and worked as an editor and business reporter for Reuters in New York. He has served on the board of directors for several organizations, including the D.C. Chapter of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Maryland Corporate Council and the Pennsylvania State University LGBT Alumni group. Naff earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Pennsylvania State University and a master’s certificate in public policy from the Legislative Studies Institute, a joint program of Columbia University and Georgetown. He lives in Baltimore and Rehoboth Beach, Del., with his husband of more than 20 years.






Charles Silverstein began his 40-year career as a psychologist presenting before the American Psychiatric Association arguing to eliminate homosexuality as a mental disorder, authoring numerous books and scientific papers on the topic. He is co-author (with Edmund White) of The Joy of Gay Sex and has dedicated his career to challenging the criteria of social morality as the basis for diagnosing sexual disorders. He is the recipient of many awards from the American Psychological Association and the American Psychological Foundation, including the Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement in the Practice of Psychology. He is the founding director of the Institute for Human Identity and Identity House in New York City, and founding editor of the Journal of Homosexuality.




Dr. Stephen Forssell, Panel Moderator is the founding director of the graduate program in LGBT Health Policy & Practice at GWU. He is a teaching assistant professor in the Professional Psychology Department and teaches courses in Sexuality and Health in the Psychological and Brain Sciences Department, and lectures at the GWU Medical Center School of Medicine and Health Sciences.  His research, teaching, and consulting career is centered on the health LGBT populations.  Dr. Forssell also co-directs the Institute for Health Promotion in Underserved Populations at GWU. His expertise and research are in sexual orientation development, same-sex romantic relationships, child development and parenting, HIV/AIDS risk behaviors, and high risk sexual behavior interventions.  Dr. Forssell is the 2015 recipient of the Distinguished Contribution to Education and Training Award from the American Psychological Association’s Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues.  He has been on the faculty at GWU since 2002.