11/09/2012 02:19 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Make LGBT Great: Leslie Calman

Improving the health of our community is one of many ways to make LGBT great. There is a growing body of research that suggests that lesbian and bisexual women are at increased risk for adverse health outcomes, including obesity, poor mental health, substance abuse, violence and barriers to optimal health care resulting from social and economic inequities.

Leslie J. Calman, Ph.D., has been the executive director of Mautner Project: The National Lesbian Health Organization since January 2008. Dr. Calman is a member of the executive committee of the board of directors of the National LGBT Health Coalition, the National Advisory Council for the Human Rights Campaign's Healthcare Equality Index, the Gay and Lesbian Health Association and the National LGBT Policy Roundtable. She is affiliated with the Fenway Institute's Center for Population Research in LGBT Health as a participating scientist. She has served as a commissioner on the District of Columbia's Commission on Persons with Disabilities. In 2010 she was invited to give testimony about lesbian health to the Institute of Medicine and was an invited participant at The Joint Commission's convening on LGBT cultural competency in hospitals. She is certified to teach Mautner Project's Removing the Barriers™ curriculum.

Mautner Project, founded in 1990, improves the health of lesbian and bisexual women and transgender individuals through several programs: direct services and patient navigation to LBT individuals with cancer and other serious illnesses, as well as to their partners and caregivers; education of health care providers about the needs and concerns of their LBT patients in order to increase their cultural competency, reduce stigmatizing behaviors and create quality services and environments; and education, outreach and program interventions designed for the LBT community about important health issues, including the need for preventive care, screenings and adoption of healthful habits, including smoking cessation, exercise and good nutrition. Finally, Mautner Project engages in research and advocacy to promote the health of LBT.

Dr. Calman is an experienced administrator, educator and advocate whose career has centered on building better lives for women and families in the U.S. and in the developing world. From 2005 to 2007 she was Vice President for External Relations at the International Center for Research on Women, and from 1998 to 2005 she was Executive Vice President at NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund. For the previous 17 years Dr. Calman was at Barnard College as a professor of political science and women's studies, and as director of the Barnard College Center for Research on Women.

What personal or professional accomplishments are you most proud of?

Calman: Being "out" everywhere early in my adulthood and career (that would
be from the mid-1970s onward) -- out to my straight friends, out at work, out at the doctors', out on my son's preschool applications. I think it opened up a lot of people's hearts and minds.

What do you think is the greatest challenge facing the LGBT community?

Calman: While the arc of history is definitely moving toward justice, there are countervailing forces of right-wing resistance and bigotry that we continue to have to vigorously repel.

What two or three things can individuals do to help make LGBT great?

Calman: Be out, calmly and matter-of-factly, everywhere you can. Keep and amplify the sense that we are part of a community, and fully embrace that community, with all its diverse needs, quirks, humor, fashion sense, transgressiveness, love.

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Because of her lifelong commitment to equality and justice, her tireless advocacy and leadership on improving the health of the LGBT community with a special focus on women's health, and her all-around fabulousness, Dr. Leslie Calman is making LGBT great.

For more information about Dr. Calman, please see a profile of her that was recently featured in Metro Weekly magazine.

This is part of a series of profiles of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight individuals who are working to improve the lives of LGBT residents and their thoughts on how to make LGBT great. To find out more about the Making LGBT Great project, please visit