Dr. Joyce Hunter is a legend. One of the founding members of HMI’s Board of Directors and a fierce advocate for LGBTQIA+ young people for more than 40 years, she has mentored and supported HMI’s leadership since the beginning. In her honor, we launched the Dr. Joyce Hunter Living Legacy Fund. Our goal is to raise $1 million to support young LGBTQIA+ women at HMI so they can thrive.
Dr. Joyce Hunter has stood out as an icon in our movement for over 40 years. Dr. Hunter was one of the founding members of HMI’s Board of Directors in 1979 and was the first person hired by our founders to provide services to youth when she was a new social worker.
As HMI’s first Director and Clinical Supervisor of Social Work Services, she co-developed a counseling program, drop-in center, and outreach project to street and homeless youth. She also co-founded the on-site high school program, the Harvey Milk High School. Her pioneering clinical work and program development work laid the foundation for subsequent generations of social workers and youth service providers to be able to start LGBTQIA+ youth programs across the country, and the ability to choose LGBTQIA+ focused work as a career option.
Dr. Emery Hetrick and Dr. Damien Martin ensured there would be a community response to the critical needs of queer youth; Dr. Joyce Hunter ensured that the community response would be grounded in a practice that is youth-centered, holistic, inclusive, empowering, and loving.
More than anyone, Dr. Hunter saw the strength, beauty and resilience of LGBTQIA+ youth, and developed a programmatic and clinical approach that recognizes the impact of oppression, the need for systemic change – and is about investing in LGBTQIA+ individuals as people. She modeled what it means to invest in the wisdom and hope of young people and their need for honest, authentic and brave adult advocates.
Dr. Hunter also has a similar narrative of some of our young women—starting out as a newborn at a home for unwed mothers on Staten Island, spending much of her childhood in an orphanage, her eighteenth year at a psychiatric hospital, her twenties as a young married mother. She experienced violence and prejudice but never backed down from what would become her life’s work: helping others individually and through systemic change.
Her list of accomplishments is incredible. Dr. Hunter has been an activist, co-coordinating the First National Lesbian and Gay March on Washington in 1979. And throughout the years has served as the Human Rights Commissioner of NYC, in leadership on many Boards, and is an invited member of the HGO/HIV committee at the United Nations where she contributes to policy papers and UN parallel events, presenting on HIV/AIDS and prevention issues.
Even into her 70s, Dr. Hunter continues to travel the world advocating for women’s rights and LGBTQIA+ issues; providing training, publishing articles, and yet always making time to check in with the many young people who benefited from her mentor-ship at HMI. There is a generation of LGBTQIA+ leaders that are here BECAUSE of Dr. Joyce Hunter.
When we thought of the best way to truly honor the impact that Dr. Hunter has had on queer young people we couldn’t think of anything more fitting than announcing the Dr. Joyce Hunter Living Legacy Fund. This fund at HMI will make sure that Dr. Hunter’s legacy lives on by ensuring young women at HMI continue to have access to safe education, health care, job readiness training, mental health, and a caring and compassionate network of adults to guide them along the way.
Edited from remarks by HMI Board Co-Chair Bonnie Rabin launching the Dr. Joyce Hunter Living Legacy Fund at the Women Speak Luncheon on March 5th, 2018