Robin Halprin-Hawkins, a clinical psychologist with the D.C. Department of Mental Health, was in interesting places at key times when it comes to LGBT history.
In 1969 at age 16, she was within a half block of the Stonewall Riots but because she was underage, she didn’t go any closer once she and friends realized police were on the scene. Her years living in New York’s West Village and on Fire Island in the late ‘60s gave her a front row seat to that turbulent time.
And she saw her first patient with “GRID” (an early term for HIV before it was identified) at Crownsville Hospital Center in 1982, an incident that sparked her continual commitment to HIV and AIDS work since then. She was a volunteer therapist with the People Living With HIV/AIDS program at Whitman-Walker Clinic from 1986 to 2008 and she and spouse Pat Hawkins have presented research on HIV/AIDS caregiver burnout at the American Psychological Association Convention. She’s now a volunteer with the D.C. Community AIDS Network.
The 60-year-old New Brunswick, N.J., native, is passionate about her work, LGBT rights and the pets she’s cared for and lost.
Halprin-Hawkins lived in New York for her first two years of college, then transferred to Massachusetts to finish. She earned her master’s and Ph.D. in clinical psychology at American University in D.C. She and Hawkins live in Waldorf, Md., and own getaway spots along the Potomac River in Marshall Hall, Md., and also a cottage in West Virginia.
She’s a voracious reader and enjoys photography, travel, learning foreign languages and her cats in her free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
Forty-eight years, since I was 12. No one was hard to tell, but not everyone reacted well. I told my very liberal Democrat father, who worked in communications, produced plays and concerts in the county parks and knew and introduced me to lots of gay people, when I was 16. He put me in therapy to make it go away. It didn’t work.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon. Sappho. All the LGBT people I knew in New York City in the late ‘60s, who were living lives of integrity. Rachel Maddow.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Annie’s, hands down.
Describe your dream wedding.
We actually had two — in Ontario in 2003, I was fit to bust. I ran around telling everybody we were “just married,” including cab drivers and hotel clerks. When Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage in 2004, we did it again, to make it legal in the U.S. on the bowsprit of a whale boat in Provincetown Harbor.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Universal health care including complete parity for behavioral health. Feral cat rescue and TNR (trap-neuter-release).
What historical outcome would you change?
Other than the leap of HIV/AIDS from apes to humans, with its tragic physical and emotional consequences for countless millions of people, particularly our gay brothers? The 2000 presidential election that Bush 2 stole from Gore.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Women’s music — Willie Tyson, Meg Christian, Chris Williamson and my good friend and former partner Adrienne Torf — which was birthed in D.C. just before I came here for graduate school.
On what do you insist?
I’m from New York — are you kidding? Everything! In terms of everyday, little stuff like being called “Dr.” I also always insist on “sexual orientation” rather than “preference.” To me, it’s like eye color, handedness or race: it’s a characteristic I was born with, not a “lifestyle” I choose or not.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
A vehement argument with my neurosurgeon classmate from Rutgers Preparatory School about the Affordable Care Act. A viral video of a swimming cat. My favorite recent FB post was my happy birthday wishes to Pat, the “bestest of spouses.”
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Vincero!” (I will prevail.) I am a breast cancer survivor. As an LGBT individual, I am a member of a discriminated-against minority. I am a person affected by HIV/AIDS. I am a soldier in these fights, and we will win!
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Absolutely nothing. I love my life.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I can’t believe that this is all there is. Eternal love is the only thing that makes any sense.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Fight hard and relentlessly for federal recognition of marriage equality with all the responsibilities and rights, such as survivor Social Security and pension benefits.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
My spouse and my cats. Human rights.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That someone has to be “the man” in a lesbian relationship. If I wanted a man, I’d have one.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Desert Hearts” and “Longtime Companion.”
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Dressing up to travel. Anything more than “smart casual” is ridiculous on trains and planes. Comfort is what’s important.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I got mine — my spouse, Dr. Pat Hawkins. Though I would also like to be fellowed by the American Psychological Association’s LGBT Division 44.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That no matter how hard you try, there may be some things you will never be or have, but if you don’t bust your ass, you have no shot at any of them.
While in graduate school at The American University, I fell into “forever love” (Pat and I have been together more than 30 years now, married for nine), and she would never leave Washington, because of her fervent commitment to make things happen in health care, especially in HIV/AIDS.