Women at the Helm

photo by Carol Lollis
Director, Family Acceptance Project

As a teenager in the ‘60s, Caitlin Ryan, director of the Family Acceptance Project (FAP), volun- teered with community and church groups. She continued her social justice career as a clinical social worker, which lead her to AIDS work. She eventually served as director of two major U.S. AIDS organizations, AID Atlanta and the Washington, D.C.’s Whitman-Walker Clinic. Ryan’s experiences in the trenches during the harrowing early years of the AIDS epidemic left a lasting impres- sion on her. “My work involved sup- porting the parents of young gay men who rushed from small towns to intensive care units in the big city where they learned for the first time that their son was gay and was dying of AIDS,” she says, describing the public panic that so many people with AIDS and AIDS workers had to deal with in those years. Ryan’s work still focuses on AIDS’ impact on fam- ilies: the FAP is developing the first family approach to decrease risk for HIV, suicide and substance abuse among LGBT youth and to promote family acceptance.