2016 Presenter Bios


Elizabeth Meola Aaron is the principal of Columbia High School in Maplewood-South Orange, a community in which she has lived for 19 years. As principal of CHS, she has been proud to facilitate conversations among faculty and students about social justice issues, and work with staff and students to open a gender-neutral bathroom in spring 2016. She is a product of New Jersey’s public schools and taught high school history before entering the world of administration in 2013.


Matt Amore is a graduate of Columbia University's Teachers College and currently a middle school special education teacher at Central Park East II in East Harlem. His pedagogy lends itself to tackling social justice issues and providing voices to those not often given a voice in history and society. He has taught transgender and gender non-conforming children, and has helped lead his school in creating a more inclusive environment for all students.


Jodi A. Argentino, Esq. is the Managing Partner of the Custody and Dissolution Team at Guston & Guston, LLP. (Glen Rock, NJ, Montclair, NJ, Nanuet, NY)  Jodi’s work focuses on LGBTQ families, families with special needs, and complex parentage and custody. Jodi is a member of various organizations including the Family Law Institute of the National LGBT Bar Association (and a recipient of the LGBT 2015 40 Under 40 Award) and is the 2016-2017 Chair-Elect of the NJSBA LGBT Rights Section. 


Isolda Atayde is the Co-President  of the "Asociación Internacional de Familias por la Diversidad Sexual (FDS)" general committee and has recently join the PFLAG National Board. She is currently the facilitator of Gender Spectrum's monthly call-in support group for Spanish speaking parents/caregivers. Through the FDS, her work with the Latino/Hispanic Community includes organizing Conferences in LatinAmerica aimed to professionals and parents of LGBT children.


Rabbi David Dunn Bauer, Director of Social Justice Programming at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, the world’s largest LGBTQ synagogue, is an alumnus of Yale University and the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem, receiving rabbinical ordination in 2003 at the ‎Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. In 2011, he became the first Jew to earn the "Certificate ‎in Sexuality and Religion" from the Pacific School of Religion. He joined the rabbinate after a 20-year career directing theatre and opera internationally.


Gaines Blasdel is a Medical Case Manager at Callen-Lorde, a Federally Qualified Health Center that provides sensitive, quality health care and related services targeted to New York City’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. He primarily works with transgender and/or HIV+ adolescents in the Health Outreach To Teens (HOTT) program, which offers comprehensive medical and mental health services at no cost to patients.


Rachel Bluebond-Langner, MD is an assistant professor in plastic surgery at the University of Maryland. She trained in the Johns Hopkins/University of Maryland plastic surgery program and then did a craniofacial microsurgery fellowship. She has traveled to Thailand and Canada for training in gender affirming surgery. She performs both feminizing and masculinizing top and bottom surgery, as well as facial feminization procedures.  She has published on surgical techniques relating to phalloplasty and breast reconstruction. 


Andrea Bowen has worked on several successful policy advocacy victories, including insurance coverage of transgender health care in Washington, DC and Jersey City, NJ, transgender birth certificate reform legislation in Washington, DC, and increased funding for New York City’s Summer Youth Employment Program. She was Executive Director of Garden State Equality, New Jersey’s LGBT civil rights education and advocacy organization. She is currently a Policy Analyst at United Neighborhood Houses, which supports settlement houses across NYC.


Lina Bradford is a trans identified New York City-based performer and DJ. Her career in entertainment began at an early age as a dancer, studying modern ballet, tap and jazz for 11 years. Lina began her DJ career 18 years ago by performing throughout the gritty East Village scene. She has since traveled through Europe, appearing in Sardinia, St Tropez, London and Paris, has been named DJ of the year and has received Lifetime Achievement awards at the Glammy and Sage Innovator.


Finn Brigham, MS is the Director of Project Management at the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center. He has a master's in Nonprofit Management from The New School.

Beth Zacher Burke, LCSW is a clinical social worker with over 14 years of experience serving young people. She is in private practice in NYC and has worked at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center (MSAHC) since 2009, where she created and facilitates MSAHC's first support group for transgender and gender non-expansive youth. Beth has helped MSAHC develop a comprehensive approach to working with transgender and gender-expansive youth, which incorporates both medical and mental health approaches. She has presented nationally about her work. She has a Master's degree in Social Work from Smith College.


The Center for Anti-Violence Education (CAE) develops and implements comprehensive violence prevention programs for individuals and organizations. Through a combination of education, physical empowerment, and leadership development, CAE provides underserved communities throughout the New York metropolitan area with skills to break cycles of violence. CAE’s programs focus on women, girls and LGBTQ communities, with a special sensitivity to the needs of survivors. Participants build the skills and strength to heal from, prevent, and counter violence. We do this work to actively create a peaceful, just, and equitable world.


Joanna Cifredo, is the Racial & Economic Justice Policy Analyst for the National Center for Transgender Equality. Joanna serves as policy expert on issues related to communities of color, immigrants and lower income transgender people. Additionally Joanna serves as Advisor to Washington D.C. Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ affairs. Joanna serves on the Board at Whitman Walker Health, D.C.’s largest health care provider serving the LGBTQ Community. Joanna volunteers with La Clinica del Pueblo’s Empoderate Youth Center, exclusively serving the trans and gay Latino immigrant community. 


Daryl Cochrane, MPA is the Director of the Commission’s Manhattan Community Service Center. Previously, Daryl worked in public policy, advocacy, and communications at Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the NY AIDS Coalition, and ALS Association, working on LGBT & HIV/AIDS issues, as well as on behalf of people living with Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  Prior to that, Daryl was a Community Representative for U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler, serving the Lower Manhattan community in the aftermath of September 11th.  He holds a BA from The American University and MPA from the Wagner School of Public Service at New York University.


Jenna Cook is a manager at Janssen Research and Development in Regulatory Medical Writing and has been with Johnson and Johnson for 11 years. She is a member of the Senior Leadership Team for Open and Out, the LGBT ERG for JNJ and currently is the Gender Transition Liaison. She is a member of the Transgender Advisory Committee for Out and Equal where she is currently working on National Gender Identity and Transition Guidelines. 


Dr. Patrick Connelly, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist living and working in central New Jersey. He is the director of a school based mental health program and works with a wide variety of children and families. In recent years, he has developed a growing interest in the unique experience of gender expansive families.

Patrick Connelly, Psy.D. and Lauren Picciano, Psy.D. are a husband and wife team and the proud parents of a transgender girl. Dr. Connelly directs a school based mental health program in central New Jersey and also maintains a private practice in Highland Park, NJ. He obtained his doctorate from Rutgers University.  Dr. Picciano maintains a private practice in Highland Park, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University. Her areas of specialty include trauma and LGBT needs, and she also provides trainings on transgender issues for school personnel and mental health professionals. She is proud to say she is one of the authors of the first transgender student policy for the Highland Park, NJ school district.

Dr. Damon Constantinides, PhD, LCSW is a passionate therapist who cares deeply about his work and community. He provides individual, relationship and group counseling through his therapy practice in Philadelphia, PA where he specializes in working with trans and gender-nonconforming teens and young adults. Trained as both a clinical social worker and a sexuality educator, Damon also provides supervision, consultation and training to other mental health care providers. Information about his practice and trainings can be found at www.TherapistDamon.com.


Annette Cottle is a Parent Advocate for CAMBA’s Project ALY Program. She is also a Client Advocate at CAMBA, and a spokesmodel for the media campaign, “HIV Stops with Me.” She graduated from the Sanford Brown Institute with Board Certifications in Medical Assisting and Phlebotomy. Ms. Cottle is a pillar of strength for her community. In her spare time, she volunteers her services assisting disabled individuals. She is a poet, and an avid reader.

Ezra Cukor, JD is a staff attorney at New York City Commission on Human Rights.  Previously, Ezra was a staff attorney in the LGBTQ Law Project at New York Legal Assistance Group where ze represented low-income LGBTQ people in employment, housing and name change matters.  Ezra is a member of the New York City Bar Association’s LGBT Rights Committee and the Transgender Law Symposium planning committee.  Ze has a BA from Wesleyan University and a JD from Harvard Law School.


Grace D., is a transgender teen, LGBTQ activist and advocate for marginalized youth. Grace serves on the Aspen Institute Youth Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development, is an Ambassador to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. Grace serves on the Gender Spectrum National Youth Council, and is a Peer Educator at SMYAL. @graceadvocates


Heather Dailey, MSW has lived in NYC for 12 years. She received her MSW from Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. Ms. Dailey uses creativity and artistic expression to engage runaway and homeless youth in their path to stable adulthood.

Benjamin Davis, ATR-BC, LCAT is an art therapist, advocate and educator who has been training mental healthcare professionals and educators about LGBTQ cultural competency issues since 2005. In addition to providing clinical psychotherapy, Benjamin currently serves as Deputy Director at the Ackerman Institute for the Family's Gender and Family Project. He is thrilled to participate for the third time in Gender Conference East!


Lori Davison is President of PFLAG Hartford. A veteran classroom teacher and former GSA advisor, Lori is now dedicated to educating and unifying parents, educators, students, and community members on transgender issues. Lori brings humor, experience, and motivation to workshops and educator trainings around the country. Outside of LGBTQ work, Lori enjoys hiking, skiing, kayaking, going “home” to San Francisco, and spending time with her husband, daughters, and friends.


Matthew Dawkins, at age 18, has been recognized in the media as the first documented transgender high school athlete in New Jersey.  Matt was featured on Comcast Sports, Steve Harvey and recently appeared on ESPN.   His speaking engagements have included the Nike LGBT Sports Coalition Summit, PFLAG, and both the Cherry Hill and Cumberland County School Districts.  Matt is inspired to pursue public speaking opportunities that promote awareness and positive change in the transgender community. 


Ashby Dodge, Clinical Director, LCSW oversees all of The Trevor Project’s Crisis Services, including the 24/7 Trevor Lifeline, TrevorChat and TrevorText; trainings and clinical supervision. Ashby assumes responsibility for a broad range of programs and projects, including professional communications, development of the crisis services department, and oversight of selected staff, clinicians and social work interns within Crisis Services.  Ashby also runs a small private practice in Manhattan, specializing in LGBTQ issues, substance abuse treatment and couples/individual counseling. 

Elaine Dutton, LCSW is the Trans Care Services Manager at Mazzoni Center and a psychotherapist in private practice. Elaine has an MSW from Smith College and has worked with children, adolescents, adults, couples and families. Their practice is client-centered, gender and queer competent, feminist, relational, social justice and family systems oriented. Prior to graduate school, they worked in the field of sexual violence prevention as a crisis intervention counselor, educator and community organizer.

Lauren Elfant, JD is the Policy Counsel at New York City Commission on Human Rights.  Prior to joining CCHR, Lauren was a staff attorney at the Urban Justice Center in the Community Development Project.  Prior to joining CDP, Lauren was a supervising attorney at the Bronx Defenders in the Family Defense Practice.  She obtained her J.D. from Temple University Beasley School of Law in 2007 where she was the Symposium Editor of the Temple Political and Civil Rights Law Review.

Amy Fabrikant, MA is a writer, literacy coach, and a national speaker for LGBTQIA youth. Fabrikant received her BA from Vassar College and MA from Columbia University, where she is an instructor and supervisor. She is a Literacy Specialist, Safe School Speaker and author of parenting and school based advocacy articles. Fabrikant recently published the groundbreaking book, When Kayla Was Kyle, introducing children to gender diversity with gentle language and playful illustrations.

Tony Ferraiolo, CPC is a Life Coach and Trans Youth Advocate based in New Haven, Connecticut. Tony started several groups to support transgender youth and their families. Over the last eight years, these groups have served over 225 youth and over 250 parents.

Celeste Fiore, Esq. is an attorney with The Fiore Law Firm, LLC in New Jersey. She currently serves as the Vice-Chair of the LGBT Rights Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association. She helps develop CLE programming and social events throughout New Jersey. She regularly presents programming on LGBT cultural competency to court officers and staff. She is a long-time LGBT educator, activist, and advocate, starting from her days at American University in Washington, DC where she led the LGBTQ undergraduate group. While at Rutgers School of Law (Camden), she also led Outlaws, the LGBTQ law student group.

Beverly Fischer, MD obtained her BA in Biology from Gettysburg College, her MD from Albany Medical College, her General Surgery Residency at George Washington University, and her Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Residency at the combined Johns Hopkins/University of Maryland program. She performs general plastic and cosmetic surgery, but has a special passion for transgender surgery.  Since her first female-to-male chest surgery in 1996, her practice has grown to around 200 cases annually, with national and international recognition.  Dr. Fischer enjoys teaching and has faculty appointments at Johns Hopkins and UMD. 

JR Ford lives in Washington DC with his wife, Vanessa and is the father to five year old transgender daughter, Ellie and 6 year-old cis-gender son, Ronnie. JR and his family are currently involved in organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Transgender Equality.  The Ford family is also involved in the Trans Youth Project out of the University of Washington, which tracks transgender kids over 20 years on how they progress through life while being supported by family and friends.

Vanessa Ford, MA has a BA in Psychology, an MA in Teaching and has taught for 14 years working closely with service providers. She is the mother of a young, biracial transgender daughter and a 7 year old cis-son. As part of an interracial couple, Vanessa's worked to learn the ways in which race and other identities impact the human experience. She promotes the importance of family support and openly shares her family story. She lives and works in Washington, DC with her family. 

Jared Fox, BA is the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Liaison at the NYC Department of Education. In this position he works to ensure the NYCDOE is safe and supportive for all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. His previous roles include: High school English teacher in New Orleans, tech strategist for the NYC Department of Education, and Board Chair for the New York City chapter of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Connect with him @eduGAYtional.


Morgan Berro Francis is an artist, activist and queer sexual health advocate based in Brooklyn, New York. Morgan makes sculptures and images to engage queer sexual expression as contemporary queerness evolves in a new age, when it is simultaneously oppressed, appropriated and fetishized.  Pursuing conscious community building, Morgan currently explores the theoretical foundations - political, social and economic - necessary for direct action to empower the Trans, GNC & Intersex family to think in terms of economic development and self-determination.


Rebecca Gloede, BS has been in education for six years. She has worked with students in second, third, and fourth grades in Glen Rock and Scotch Plains, New Jersey. Currently, she is a fifth grade teacher at Alexander Hamilton School in Glen Rock. Rebecca believes in the importance of creating a classroom climate where all students feel welcome and safe.

Bishop Sylveta Hamilton Gonzales, MDiv, graduated from the College of New Rochelle earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Religion and receiving the Medal of Honor for Academic Excellence.  She furthered her studies at Princeton Seminary, receiving a Masters degree in Divinity. Bishop Gonzales’ mission is to synthesize the spiritual, social and political. She presides over QKingdom Ministries, Inc and MACADEMY School of Science & Technology, a top-ranked school on GreatSchools.org in NY. Gonzales is an internationally known Educator and motivational public speaker.
Naomi Greenberg, MSW, LCSW began her interest in Transgender youth with her Master's Thesis “Coping and Resiliency in Transgender Youth (2004)”. She went on to provide direct clinical care to transgender youth, where she observed the increasing overlap of Transgender and Neurodiverse clients seeking treatment. Today, along with maintaining a private practice, Ms. Greenberg is the parent of a Neurodiverse and Transgender child who inspires her to continue to advocate for other children like her.


Naomi Greenberg, MSW, LCSW began her interest in Transgender youth with her Master's Thesis “Coping and Resiliency in Transgender Youth (2004)”. She went on to provide direct clinical care to transgender youth, where she observed the increasing overlap of Transgender and Neurodiverse clients seeking treatment. Today, along with maintaining a private practice, Ms. Greenberg is the parent of a Neurodiverse and Transgender child who inspires her to continue to advocate for other children like her.


Christopher Griffin is the Program Coordinator for College Preparation at the Hetrick-Martin Institute.  He holds a MA in Higher Education and Student Affairs from New York University and a BA in Psychology and a minor in Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies from University of Pennsylvania. Christopher identifies as a Black queer cis-gender man from a working class background and is particularly interested in investigating the systematic barriers that restrict queer and trans youth of color ability to achieve equity, access and success within the enterprise of higher education in the United States.


Enrique Perez Grovas has facilitated seminars in Lima, Peru and San Jose, Costa Rica specifically directed to Latin/Hispanic families facing gender issues. Enrique has facilitated the Dad's group for Gender Spectrum's seminar several years, as well as for Gender Conference East in the past. He is member of the Advisory Council of the Gender and Family Project and member of EY's National Tax Inclusiveness and Diversity Steering Committee.


Tari Hanneman, MPA is the Deputy Director of the Health and Aging Program at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, overseeing the annual LGBT Healthcare Equality Index and other projects related to LGBT health and aging. Tari has over 20 years of experience in the nonprofit and philanthropic sector, primarily focused on health and women’s issues. Tari has a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Southern California, where she also did her undergraduate work.

Alexander (Ali) B. Harris, MPH, CPH is the LGBTQ Health Project Coordinator at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.  As a health advocate, Harris conducted state and national policy analysis related to sexuality, sexual and reproductive health and has regularly consulted on appeals cases pertaining to transgender health care coverage. He organized a series of listening sessions to expose non-compliance with guidance issued by the NYS Department of Financial Services, requiring all private health insurers to cover comprehensive transgender health care services. Harris also advocated for the New York State of Health Marketplace to collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity.


Ilan Harris grew up in Massachusetts then attended Oberlin College in Ohio. He worked for a number of years as a fruit and vegetable farmer before moving to New York City to become a teacher five years ago. He currently lives with his partner in the Bronx where he teaches high school Social Studies. 


Linda A. Hawkins, PhD, MSEd, LPC is Co-Director of the Gender & Sexuality Development Clinic at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, which now supports nearly 400 families. Dr. Hawkins provides assessment resources and recommendations to families supporting their transgender or gender non-binary child or youth. She has over 20 years of experience working with LGBTQ children, youth and families. And 18 years of experience in addressing mental health care needs within health care settings.


Wylie C Hembree, MD is a Special Lecturer and retired Associate Professor of Medicine, Endocrine Division of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Dr. Hembree earned a BA degree in Philosophy from Vanderbilt University and his MD from Washington University School of Medicine.  He completed his post-graduate medical training at Harvard Medical Service of Boston City Hospital, the National Institutes of Health and Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center.  Dr. Hembree is a charter member of the American Society of Andrology.   Dr. Hembree is chair of an international Task Force of the Endocrine Society who published a Clinical Practice Guideline of the Endocrine Treatment of Transsexual Persons in 2009, revised in 2016. He is founding member of TransNet, a collaboration of research and clinical providers of transgender persons.

Pat Hurley, BS is a high school Health, Physical Education and Driver Education teacher. He received his B.S. from Montclair State University in 1988. Pat has been active in GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) since 1995, has attended 2 national conferences and is a GLSEN certified trainer. He is also a member of SHAPE-America, the national professional organization for health and physical educators and has served on the state organization’s board (NJAHPERD), in several capacities.

Laura A. Jacobs, LCSW-R is a Trans and Genderqueer psychotherapist, public speaker, activist, author, and heretic in NYC. She contributes to The Huffington Post, serves on the Board of Callen-Lorde and on the board of Trans Bodies, Trans Selves, has been featured on NPR, MSNBC, SiriusXM, NY Times, and has spoken at numerous organizations, conferences, and universities. As Lawrence Jacobs, she worked as a musician and in less glamorous positions such as corporate management. www.LauraAJacobs.com.


Xaelah Jarrett, BA currently works as a Program Manager at Peer Health Exchange.  Pursuing an interest in public health work, Xaelah is most interested in exploring theorizations of (intergenerational) trauma, social positionalities and the embodied effects resulting from navigating oppressive systems. Her work to date has focused on increased dialogue and inclusion around LGB, queer and trans identities for youth of color, particularly in educational settings, and interrogating interlocking systems of power that structure transmisogynoir. 

Gena Jefferson, LCSW, served the NYC Public Schools as a Teacher, District Liaison and Social Worker for 22 years. Ordained by the Interfaith Council of New York, Gena served as a youth minister and teacher at Sacred Center New York for 7 years. In 2010 Gena founded JAIA (Just As I Am) Youth Empowerment, a youth and young adult program teaching self-mastery and leadership through mindfulness techniques and universal life principles.  Gena offers clinical services, consulting, and workshops to adults, parents and youth serving organizations.

Randi Kaufman, PsyD, has been working with TGNC folks since 1998, providing evaluation, psychotherapy, support groups, training, and consultation.  She built the Transgender Health Program at Fenway Health in Boston, and served as the team psychologist with Dr. Norman Spack at Boston Children’s Hospital.  Currently Randi is the team psychologist for The Gender & Family Project in NYC.  Randi is a clinical supervisor for the Institute for Human Identity in NYC, a clinical consultant to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA, and has a private practice in Union Square.


Samuel Kendakur, LMHC, NCC joined the Gender and Family Project team in Spring of 2016.  He has worked in progressive mental health organizations for the last seven years, running the gamut from clinics to hospital settings.  His past training includes work in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy and Secular Buddhist Psychology and he is currently training in Family Therapy.  He works in private practice in New York City and brings a commitment to anti-oppressive holistic care to his work.  


Rebecca Kling is the Community Storytelling Advocate at the National Center for Transgender Equality, where she elevates the stories of transgender people and their allies. By working with a diverse range of spokespeople, she brings the wide range of transgender people’s lives and experiences into the policy advocacy and public education work of the transgender movement. Kling studied Performance Studies at Northwestern University and worked as a touring educator and performance artist prior to joining the NCTE team.

Lisa Koffler, MPH is the Assistant Director for HIV Prevention Services and has worked at CAMBA since 2007. Since getting her MPH from UC Berkeley in 1993, she has worked in health education at La Clínica de La Raza in Oakland, CA; the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; and as a curriculum development consultant for Columbia University. In addition to her work in public health, Ms. Koffler has taught English in the Dominican Republic, Argentina, and Spain.


Sean Lare, LCSW-C is a clinical social worker who is passionate about serving the transgender and gender diverse community by providing psychotherapy, leading advocacy work, and educating others on the varied experiences of this community. The focus of his practice in Columbia, MD is working with individuals of all ages who are transgender, gender diverse, and their families; and providing consultation and training to a variety of organizations, schools, and agencies. More information at www.seanlare.com.


Joanne Lee is the mother of two trans teens from Wisconsin. Her younger son, Skylar, who was heavily involved in the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) and supported #BlackLivesMatter protests, committed suicide in 2015 due to depression. Ms. Lee, a registered nurse, travels across the country to speak out in support of LGBT rights and Asian family acceptance, to continue the legacy of Skylar.  She is Korean.

Mimi Lemay, MA is a trans rights advocate who has navigated the world of public advocacy on behalf of her son, Jacob. She is the author of the viral essay, "A Letter to my Son Jacob on his 5th Birthday," and has shared her story on NBC Nightly News and the Today Show among other outlets. She and her family are also involved in legislative advocacy, attempting to secure rights for transgender citizens.

Jean Malpas, LMHC, LMFT
is the director of the Gender & Family Project at the Ackerman Institute for the Family, Director of International Training, and psychotherapist in private practice in New York City. He has presented on issues of gender, sexuality, couple and family therapy in the US, Israel, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Belgium, Turkey, Thailand and Canada. He has published several articles and chapters on his work with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender individuals, couples and families, including the Family Process article “Between Pink and Blue: A Multidimensional Approach to Gender Nonconforming Children and their Families.”


Melinda Mangin, PhD is an associate professor of educational leadership at Rutgers University. Her scholarship focuses on K-12 educational settings and the influence that school leaders have on the learning opportunities for teachers and students. Recently, her research has begun to focus on school leadership related to transgender children and the creation of gender inclusive schools.   Melinda’s scholarship is informed by her past experience as a High School Spanish teacher and as the mother to two transgender children. 


Grace Mauceri, BA
- When Grace’s young child came to her and said he was a boy, she knew only one thing:  she and her husband would figure it out.  She is now the proud mom of a 12 year old trans boy who successfully transitioned socially at the age of 10.  She has appeared on CBS News and a Proto Magazine podcast and been interviewed by The Bergen Record, National Geographic and had a piece appear in Pyschotherapy Networker’s gender issue sharing her experiences.  She holds a B.A. in English and Religion from Colgate University.

Philip McCormick, MSW, LSW is a high school Social Studies and Psychology teacher and adjunct college professor. He has been involved with a variety of projects exploring diversity and inclusion in education, including the National SEED Project, as well as serving as Co-Chair of the Northern New Jersey chapter of GLSEN. He has also led a variety of workshops exploring diversity, privilege, oppression, and intersectionalities.

Robin P. McHaelen, MSW is the Executive Director of True Colors, Inc. She is co-author of two books and several articles on LGBT youth. Robin is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2016 CCSU Women of Influence Award, the 2014 HRC Upstander Award, the 2011 UCONN Award for Excellence in Public Engagement; 2008 National Education Association’s Award for Creative Leadership in Human Rights and the 2008 Social Worker of the Year (NASW, CT Chapter).

Kalima Mckenzie-Simms, BA finds joy working as the Safe Schools Program Coordinator for PFLAG NYC. Her connection with PFLAG began in 2011 when she volunteered as a Safe Schools speaker, and was able to see the power of acceptance working in the classrooms of New York City Public Schools. As a student at Lehman College, Kalima enjoyed being involved in LGBT advocacy. Each experience laid the ground work for her desire to continue to educate people, especially youth, on acceptance and understanding. 

Jacob McWilliams, PhD is a postdoctoral researcher in the Learning Sciences program at the University of Colorado Boulder. Jacob’s research focuses on issues of gender and sexual diversity in education, and recent work involves developing queer pedagogies for supporting new media literacies practices in the elementary classroom and, most recently, exploring how gender and sexual diversity interact with academic expectations and cultural norms in STEM disciplines.

Shawn Thomas Meerkamper, Staff Attorney at Transgender Law Center, is a genderqueer, anti-racist, social justice attorney at Transgender Law Center in Oakland, California. Shawn is the author of Contesting Sex Classification, a 2013 law review article on non-binary identities and the law. Shawn received their JD from UCLA Law in 2013, with specializations in Critical Race Studies and public interest law. Shawn lives in Oakland with their partner Emily--an immigration attorney--and cats Little One and Aurelia.

Gabe Murchison, MPH is Senior Research Manager at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, where he conducts research and evaluation projects that support the Foundation's programs—particularly in the areas of LGBTQ health, the experiences of LGBTQ youth, and increasing youth-serving professionals' LGBTQ competence. Gabe holds an MPH in Social and Behavioral Sciences and a BA in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, both from Yale University.

Geneva Musgrave, BA is the Diversity and Inclusion Program Educator at Lambda Legal.  Lambda’s mission is to achieve full recognition of the civil rights of LGBT people and those living with HIV. She has over eleven years of experience in community health, HIV prevention and education. Geneva previously worked at CAMBA in Brooklyn where she developed Project ALY (Accept LGBT Youth), a program that promotes family acceptance.  She received her BA from The College of New Rochelle.


DeShanna Neal is a wife and mother of four, one of whom is transgender.   Her extended family struggled with her decision to accept her gender non-conforming child but eventually they came around. As a family of color, they've gone against tradition to successfully redefine gender for themselves.  With the help of a District Representative she was able to remove restrictions barring transgender people from treatment through Medicaid. She is a member of the non-profit organization, Meet My Child and advocates for gender non-conforming families of color. 


Rev. Dr. Elijah C. Nealy, PhD, M.Div., LCSW is assistant professor, University of Saint Joseph, CT. His clinical practice focuses on transgender and gender diverse youth and their families. Ordained with Metropolitan Community Church, Dr. Nealy regularly preaches and provides trainings for faith communities and clinical providers. An out trans man, he is the proud father of three amazing young people and author of Transgender Children and Youth: Cultivating Pride and Joy with Families in Transition [Norton, fall 2017].

Reginald Nettles, PhD, CGP, is a licensed psychologist (Md. and D.C.) and Certified Group Psychotherapist. He is on the faculty of the National Group Psychotherapy Institute and founding chair of the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Culture, both at The Washington School of Psychiatry. He is co-editor (Nettles, R., and Balter,R. (2012). Multiple minority identities: Applications for practice, research and training) and has presented on this topic several times, beginning in 1998.

John N. Ng is the father of two adult children, one of which is transgender.  He was educated and worked for the airline industry in Hong Kong of Chinese ancestry, until migrating to the U.S. in 1974 looking to better himself and find opportunity for the next generation.   He has been involved in the travel business for more than 30 years and operated and owned a wholesale tour company.  For the past 10 years, John also owned a business importing automotive refinishing products.  He has been married to his wife, Virginia, for 42 years and currently resides in northern New Jersey.

Virginia Lou Ng is a mother of a trans son.  Virginia has been involved in the Asian American community since moving to NJ. She is a Special Events Coordinator, Fundraiser and Community Advocate with more than 25 years of experience in not-for-profit and volunteer organizations, as well as the entrepreneurial and community health fields.  Virginia is Chinese.

Rev. Dr. Boon Lin Ngeo, PhD, a Chinese Malaysian, holds a doctorate in theology from Boston University. Staff pastor with MCC New York, and the first openly gay minister in Malaysia, he also teaches Gender Studies at Hunter College. Rev. Ngeo is a highly sought after speaker in LGBTI Chinese communities in Asia and was named one of the most inspiring LGBT religious leaders in the world by Huffington Post.

Margaret Nichols, PhD, licensed psychologist, AASECT Certified sex therapist, is the Founder and Director of the Institute for Personal Growth organization dedicated to providing mental health services to the LGBTQ community. She has been in practice for over 35 years and has been working with transgender people since 1983.

Kristina Olson, PhD is an associate professor of psychology and the director of the TransYouth Project based at the University of Washington. Her research focuses on understanding early gender development in gender diverse youth as well as the impact of early support on well-being in gender diverse children.

Matthew Oransky, PhD, is a licensed psychologist at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at Mount Sinai Medical School. He specializes in working with transgender youth, children and families who have been impacted by trauma and in the integration of medical and mental health care. Dr. Oransky received his doctorate in clinical psychology from Fordham University and completed his fellowship training at the Yale University School of Medicine.

Asaf Orr, Esq. is the Transgender Youth Project Staff Attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). Since joining NCLR in 2012, Asaf has become one of the nation's leading experts in legal issues affecting transgender youth and their families. He has represented and worked with transgender youth across the country on a wide range of issues from discrimination in schools and access to transition-related medical care to child custody disputes. Asaf was also a lead co-author of the publication Schools in Transition, a guide that seeks to assist parents and schools in supporting a transgender student through a gender transition in school.   

D'hana Perry, MA is the Transgender Case Manager at the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center. They have a Masters of Arts.


Marcus Phillips, LMSW, is a veteran of the U.S. Army, a former professional dancer, licensed massage therapist and Reiki practitioner. His work as a clinical social worker is expanded by his studies in holistic physical and emotional well-being including various meditation and mindfulness techniques. This year, Marcus created African Dance House at The Hetrick-Martin Institute, which fuses African dance and movement therapy for an accessible and fun exploration of self-care in a supportive environment.


Lauren Picciano, PsyD is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Highland Park, NJ, where she sees adolescents and adults. She has a specialty in trauma treatment that integrates relational approaches with Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and EMDR. Dr. Picciano has a growing specialty in working with transgender adolescents and their families, and also provides training in transgender issues for school personnel and mental health professionals. She is one of the authors of the first transgender student policy for the Highland Park School District.


Irene Pierides, MA has been in education for over 33 years. She has worked as a teacher, reading specialist, and literacy coach. Currently she is the principal at Alexander Hamilton School in Glen Rock, New Jersey. Irene believes that all students struggle in some way and it is the job of the school to provide education and a climate where all students feel safe and accepted.

Elyse Pine, MD is a board certified pediatric endocrinologist at Chase Brexton Health Care in Maryland. She earned a BA from Case Western Reserve University and an MD from Washington University in St. Louis. She completed her pediatrics residency training at Mount Sinai in NY and pediatric endocrinology fellowship at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Pine is the Trans Youth Lead Physician of the Chase Brexton's Gender JOY program and has published and lectured nationally on transgender care for youth. 


Aaron Potenza, MA is an activist, educator and historian. While attending graduate school he taught courses on the history of race and ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and gender identity at Yale University and Trinity College Hartford. As assistant director for the YWCA of Greater Rhode Island he pioneered programming for middle school girls facing social and economic barriers, and expanded access to health programming to lesbian and transgender identified women. Aaron received his B.A. in History and Women’s Studies from the University of Rhode Island, his M.A. and his MPhil in American Studies from Yale University. 

Luis Ramirez, LCSW is the Clinical Coordinator at the Attic Youth Center, where he provides counseling to LGBT youth and their families and supervises the clinical team. He graduated from Columbia University School of Social Work where he worked as an intern at The New York City LGBT Community Center and the Social Work and Diversity Program at The Ackerman Institute for the Family. Luis is currently enrolled at the Institute for Relational Psychoanalysis of Philadelphia.

Vanessa Ramos, JD is the Director of Training and Development of NYC Commission on Human Rights.  Prior to joining the Commission, she was the Sr. Director for Policy at the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, focusing on bilingual education, quality child care and immigrant rights. Ms. Ramos was an observer in elections in Ecuador and El Salvador. In 2015, she was the recipient of a Proclamation issued by The New York City Council for services to Latino communities. Ms. Ramos studied at the University of Puerto Rico, obtaining a BA in Political Science and a juris doctor.


Cathy Renna, BS is Managing Partner at Target Cue, an LGBTQ and HIV focused public interest communications firm. Prior to that, she was a founder of Renna Communications. As a consultant for over a decade, she has partnered with scores of diverse organizations and projects. In addition, Renna worked with GLAAD for 14 years and is nationally recognized as a media and communications expert and leader within the LGBT community.  


Mackenzie Reynolds has over 10 years experience in direct services and community building, primarily with queer, trans and gender-variant, and HIV-affected communities and is a contributor to Trans Bodies, Trans Selves.  Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she moved to New York City in 2003 to for an MA in Philosophy of Religion at Union Theological Seminary. Currently, she is a rabbinic student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Mackenzie serves as the rabbinic leader at Mishkan Ha'Am, a Reconstructionist community in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, and as the Rabbinic Intern at Jews for Racial and Economic Justice in NYC. 


Lillian Rivera, with two decades worth of experience in youth development,  is currently the Director of Advocacy and Capacity Building at the Hetrick-Martin Institute. She is recognized as a leader in HIV/Health and Wellness for LGBT youth nationally. Ms. Rivera has appeared on numerous media outlets including Cristina, CNN en Español and NBC Latino, offering her expertise on best practice in working with LGBTQ youth.  She is especially proud of being a mom to her amazing daughters. 


Taliyah Robinson is an advocate, big sister, and fashion junkie who is the current Educational Specialist for Transgender Youth at the Hetrick-Martin Institute. She is the curriculum designer for her internship and Trans*& GNC identified empowerment group Communi-T* for HMI.  Taliyah serves on the Mount Sinai Health System- Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery’s Community Advisory Board. Taliyah’s area of focus are educational programming for Trans* identified individuals of color and addressing health disparities within this community.


Migdalia Santiago, LMSW, CASAC, is the Mental Health Services Coordinator for the LGBT Community Center, NYC, where she has worked since 2006. She is co-founder of the PFLAG Families of Color and Allies chapter in NYC. The mother of an LGBTQ young person, Migdalia brings a powerful personal story, significant professional experience, and many years of supporting other parents of Queer youth.

Chris Scott is the proud parent of a 13 year old trans-daughter and 10 year old cis-boy.   He plays an active role in helping school administrator understand how to create gender inclusive environments by speaking on the behalf of the parent experience.  Chris currently serves on the Ackerman Gender Family Project advisory board. 


Graciela Slesaransky-Poe, PhD is a Professor at Arcadia University. She recently stepped down from her position as Founding Dean of the School of Education to be able to focus on her teaching, scholarship, and service on inclusive practices. Graciela is an emerging nationally renowned expert on supporting gender and transgender students. She has published on this topic and has received numerous awards and recognitions including the 2013-2014 Frank and Evelyn Steinbrucker ’42 Endowed Chair, the 2011 Patricia J. Creegan Award for Excellence in Inclusive Education, and the 2014 Ally Award.

Adrienne Smith, MFT is a leading LGBT Therapist in the mental health field. She received her Marriage and Family Therapy degree with a specialization in Sex Therapy from Thomas Jefferson University. Her passion comes from a background of sex education where the community’s representation was very limited and thus she strives to continuously advocate to ensure the community is represented in all avenues. She is a therapist, public speaker and educator at several universities in Philadelphia.

Lyndsay Smith, BS completed her Bachelor of Music Degree in Music Therapy from Elizabethtown College in 2005 and her Post-Baccalaureate Certification in Music Education from Towson University in 2012. She is a certified K-12 teacher, and taught middle school in Maryland prior to coming to the LGBT Network in 2014. In her position as Q Center Program Coordinator, Lyndsay provides Community Education to a variety of schools throughout Queens to make schools safer for LGBT youth.

Tim Snyder is a cis-gendered, heteronormative, LGBTQ-supportive parent and an active participant at conferences and family groups that support LGBT families and their ongoing journey.   Tim works for an IT Start-up and is married to Melinda, a professor of education at Rutgers University and one of the organizers of Gender East Conference.  Tim has three children: Tavish, a 13 year old identifying as gender queer, Dragon a 6 year old FTM son and Tenzin a cis boy.


Julia Stern is an expert in gender inclusivity, comprehensive sexuality and intersectional trans/GNC trainings. They obtained their MA in Gender Studies at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, concentrating on the impact of gender-expansive language in academia. Julia co-wrote a program familiarizing Spanish-speaking parents with sexual orientation and gender identity and coordinates sexual wellness programming at the Hetrick-Martin Institute. They strive toward a world that celebrates our differences in all of their non-binary complexity.


Eli Szenes-Strauss was born and raised in New York City and graduated from Oberlin College with a BA in History in 2006. He taught for five years after graduation before moving into political campaigns and local elected political offices. Eli is currently Deputy Chief of Staff for State Senator Brad Hoylman (D/WFP), the only openly LGBT member of the New York State Senate.


Harper Jean Tobin, JD is the Director of Policy and coordinates all aspects of advocacy on federal administrative policies and regulations for NCTE.  She works to provide information for the public about laws and policies that affect transgender people. She also serves on the board of HIPS, an organization that promotes rights, health and safety for those involved in sex work, sex trade, or drug use in the DC area.  Harper Jean's writing on transgender equality and other issues has appeared in numerous publications. A Kentucky native, she received degrees in law and social work from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and is an alumna of Oberlin College.


Lorenzo Van Ness, BA is an Associate Human Rights Specialist in the Queens Community Service Center at the NYC Commission on Human Rights.  Previously, Lorenzo worked to provide consultation, advocacy and representation to low-income LGBTQ New Yorkers.  Lorenzo has been a passionate community organizer in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People of Color Community for over 7 years working with the Audre Lorde Project and the Justice Committee.

James Vining, LMSW was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. He received his BFA from The School of the Art Institute in Chicago and his MSW from the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. He currently works as a psychotherapist at an outpatient mental clinic. He specializes in affirmative LGBTQI practice for teenagers and young adults.

Dr. Monique D. Walker, LGMFT is a psychotherapist in Washington, DC with a passion for working with queer and trans youth and their families. Previously, Monique served as clinical director and psychotherapist at two agencies in Philadelphia that largely serve LGBTQ+ individuals, couples and families. Her research interests include parental acceptance/rejection, coupling and family relationships, and intersectionality and identity development. Monique has published several journal articles and book chapters, and has presented her work locally, nationally, and internationally.

Kim Westheimer, MA is the Director of Strategic Initiatives for Gender Spectrum. Her career in education, nonprofits and state government has focused broadly on the power of students, parents, and educators working together to create inclusive spaces for all students. Prior to being at Gender Spectrum, she directed the launching of Welcoming Schools at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. She is the coauthor - with Jeff Perrotti - of When the Drama Club is Not Enough, which details lessons learned from the beginnings of the Safe Schools Program for LGBT students at the Massachusetts Department of Education.

Jennifer Whitlock, MA, LPC is a psychological counselor, gender specialist and transgender rights advocate based in Newton, NJ. She draws on her experience as a comedy actor to enliven groups and presentations. She led workshops on gender variance at such venues as Columbia University, the NJ Counseling Association, the psychodrama association (ASGPP) and diversity conferences at William Paterson University and Ramapo College. She provides in-services on gender for school staff, doctors, therapists, churches.

Rev. Dr. Paula Stone Williams was the CEO of one of America's largest church planting organizations, a megachurch preaching pastor, a magazine editor, and a seminary instructor. After 35 years in New York, Paula moved to Lyons, Colorado, where she currently serves as a pastoral counselor and church consultant with OPEN, Convergence, and the Center for Progressive Renewal. Paula has three grown children and five granddaughters.

Carolyn Wolf-Gould, MD is a family physician in Oneonta, a small town in Upstate, NY. She attended Hamilton College and Yale University School of Medicine. She completed her family practice training at the University of Rochester. She has been a family practitioner in Oneonta, NY for twenty years. She practices both inpatient medicine and outpatient primary care through Fox Hospital/Bassett Health Care Network and is committed to providing adult and pediatric gender medicine as a routine part of primary care. She is the collaborating physician for Arlene Istar Lev, LCSW and Choices Counseling and Consulting.

Clara Yoon is the proud Korean mother of a transgender, bisexual son, living in New York City. She is the founder of API Project in PFLAG NYC that provides support for LGBTQ individuals and families of Asian heritage and addresses culture-specific needs of the API community. She serves on the board of PFLAG NYC chapter. Clara is passionate about supporting and advocating for LGBTQ youths specifically to prevent bullying, suicide and homelessness. She also believes in the importance of improving LGBTQ equality in homelands and faith groups to create better acceptance within the API communities.

Kaylee Zheng is the daughter of Chinese immigrants and a practicing mechanical engineer in the aerospace industry. An active member in the model railroading and LGBT communities, Kaylee has given presentations at various conferences, participated in panels at different institutions, and has appeared in magazines of both communities. She is also featured in a documentary on model railroaders. In her spare time, Kaylee also enjoys playing the guitar, photography, hiking, shopping, and receiving warm hugs.

Matthew Dawkins, at age 18, has been recognized in the media as the first documented transgender high school athlete in New Jersey.  Matt was featured on Comcast Sports, Steve Harvey and recently appeared on ESPN.   His speaking engagements have included the Nike LGBT Sports Coalition Summit, PFLAG, and both the Cherry Hill and Cumberland County School Districts.  Matt is inspired to pursue public speaking opportunities that promote awareness and positive change in the transgender community.