Women We Love 2022: Caitlin Ryan

Caitlin Ryan

by Carol Lollis

“Every year there is more to do—not less—in the fight for equity and human rights,” Dr. Caitlin Ryan tells GO. Ryan is a well-respected pioneer in the field of LGBTQ+ health, mental health research, and social change. Her contributions as a clinical social worker, researcher and educator have shaped and advanced policy and practice related to LGBTQ+ and gender-diverse youth. As a teenager in the 1960s, Ryan was inspired by the civil rights and women’s rights movements. “I didn’t have role models as a young lesbian and had to learn to advocate for myself to deal with discrimination and stigma,” she says. Despite her shyness and discomfort with public speaking, she stepped up in the face of adversity and began her life’s work, challenging the systems that put LGBTQ+ adults and youth at risk. “I saw how health care was a deep source of discrimination and neglect,” she says. When she became an organizer in the emerging LGBTQ+ health movement in the ‘70s, Ryan began her illustrious career to advocate for and improve the physical and mental health of LGBTQ+ youth; now, after nearly five decades, Ryan’s research has helped build healthy futures for many. Her work has had an enduring positive effect on how families support their LGBTQ+ children, and the way services are provided across systems of care for the queer community. Dr. Ryan has provided education and training for over 250,000 families, providers, and religious leaders across the globe. –LC

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