Laura Durso gets strange looks when she tells people she enjoys the cold and wanted to get back to the East Coast.
Having lived and worked in some pretty warm locales — she got her Ph.D. in Honolulu and most recently spent two years in Los Angeles working at the Williams Institute at UCLA — she says she had been eager to get back to this part of the country.
“It was an easy transition back,” the 32-year-old Lynbrook, N.Y., native says. Since July she’s been getting acclimated to her position as director of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress.
She says it’s important for a “multi-issue” think tank such as the Center to be involved in advocacy work and research.
“We have the ability to really ground the advocacy work in quality research, either our own or from elsewhere,” she says. “We can help amplify the voices of the other researchers and advocates and give them a forum to come and present. … We have a unique role as a convener of other people’s work so the advocacy is really grounded in empirical research.”
Durso is single and lives on Capitol Hill. She enjoys singing, indoor volleyball and collecting vintage housewares in her free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I have been out over 10 years now and sharing that news with my mother was definitely the hardest. At that time, I had been dating my first girlfriend and was really happy. The pain of not sharing that happiness with my mom was ultimately worse than the anxiety I felt about telling her, and it wasn’t too long after the initial struggle that she bought me hers-and-hers towels, so the story ends well.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
I’m trained as a research psychologist so my nerdy response is Dr. Ilan Meyer, the father of minority stress theory. He challenged the field to think about the unique ways in which LGBT people experience discrimination and over a decade’s worth of research has shown the link between minority stress and the health and wellbeing of our community. Despite now considering him both a colleague and friend, I still get star-struck.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
I don’t think I’ve lived here long enough to pick a favorite — sorry for the lack of free advertising, unnamed Washington hotspot.
Describe your dream wedding.
My sister recently got engaged and I’m pretty sure that I’m going to end up wanting to copy everything that she picks out.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Part of my job is to persuade people that everything is an LGBT issue, but I think the more we work to eliminate gender-based oppression, the greater impact we’ll have on advancing LGBT equality.
What historical outcome would you change?
Could we keep the end of World War II but get rid of the nuclear bombs? I understand that developing nuclear power was an incredible scientific achievement, but I think we ceded some serious moral ground and touched off an arms race that has only made us fear each other more.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
I have a very vivid memory of waiting by my stereo for hours just so I could tape the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe” off the radio.
On what do you insist?
In the spirit of the holidays, that white Christmas tree lights are vastly superior to multi-colored Christmas tree lights.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
Information about an Out2Enroll event in Philadelphia. #GetCovered.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“There and Back Again”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Make everyone avowedly bisexual — increase the odds of everyone finding people they love.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
Not much. Nature is pretty powerful enough as it is.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Celebrate our successes but don’t give up the fight — we’re not nearly done yet.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
My brother’s safe return from his second deployment in Afghanistan.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
I think all the stereotypes about bisexual people are pretty terrible. And don’t get me started on lesbian bed death or U-hauls.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
I have a huge soft spot for “Imagine Me and You.” Find me a queer person who hasn’t fallen for someone who is straight; at least in this movie, the girl gets the girl. Oh, and “But I’m a Cheerleader.” Obviously.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Men holding doors open for women. Especially when they insist they can’t possibly let you hold it open for them.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
Ever since I was little I’ve wanted to be the voice of an animated character in a Disney movie.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That there are much better beers in the world than the stuff we drank in college.
Why else? Dream job.