GEMS 2019 Speakers

GEMS 2019 Speakers

Skyler Jay

Skyler is a vivacious transgender activist from the South East. He has worked within, and outside of the LGBTQIA+ community for a decade+ to increase visibility, growth, and opportunity for the Transgender community. Skyler’s broad skill set lends him to be a source of leadership guidance, community education & resources, and building affirming environments Available for keynotes, workshops, trainings, consulting, and event coordination. He has worked with groups of all ages within and outside of the LGBTQIA+ community. In his talks Skyler exercises what he refers to as “radical patience with an open book mentality”. He promotes and encourages a learning environment with important dialogue on the Trans* experience with his audience.  Focusing on the trials and triumphs he has encountered as a visible Trans person while maintaining an uplifting presence, and interactivity with the audience. A percentage of Skyler’s bookings are donated to a Transgender surgery scholarship. Contact for rates and availability.


Beck Gee-Cohen

Beck resides in Los Angeles, CA. He has over 13 years of personal recovery and continues to address concerns of equality and acceptance of LGBTQ+ in recovery, educational, and mental health communities. Beck’s master’s degree is in Addiction Studies from Hazelden Graduate School. Beck has facilitated workshops and addressed audiences internationally at various conferences regarding advocacy, trauma, recovery, and adolescents specifically involving LGBTQ+ communities. Today he continues to train clinicians and facility staff on LGBTQ+ issues, helps facilities establish LGBTQ+ inclusive policies, and provides program development for facilities that want to expand their services to LGBTQ+ populations. He helps institutions through his company, BGC Consulting. He also works with LGBTQ identified young people and their families to help navigate educational institutions and treatment settings as an associate consultant at The Romeyn Collective.


Niki Khanna

Niki Khanna MA, AMFT is a therapist and educator in the Bay Area, CA. Her focus is working within the Queer, Trans and Intersex communities. She is also a certified Sexual Health Educator and has spent over 20 years working in Sex Education, Sexual Assault and Rape Prevention Education as well as Intimate Partner Violence Prevention Education. She identifies as a Femme, Intersex, and POC. She is passionate about finding ways to use the skills she has developed to contribute to the Intersex community. She provides workshops and mental health support to both the AIS-DSD Support Group and InterAct, two of the largest Intersex support and advocacy organizations in the country. Her current projects are developing practical training modules for mental health providers working with Intersex clients and their families and writing/editing a chapter focused on Intersex for a forthcoming textbook on trauma within the LGBTIAQ+ communities.


S. Bear Bergman

S. Bear Bergman is a multiple-award winning writer, storyteller, educator, activist and
the founder and publisher of children’s book publisher Flamingo Rampant, which makes feminist, culturally-diverse children’s picture books about LGBT2Q+ kids and families. A frequent lecturer at colleges and universities regarding issues relating to gender, sexuality, and culture, Bear enjoys digging deep into complicated ideas and broadening his audience’s frame of understanding. He also works extensively helping to create queer and trans cultural competency at universities, corporations, health care providers, and governmental organizations, where coaxes people with very fancy titles into doing what’s best for LGBT2Q+ people.


Aydin Olson-Kennedy

Aydin Olson-Kennedy is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and the Executive Director of
the Los Angeles Gender Center. He began his Social Work career working with youth in foster care and group homes, the juvenile justice system, and those experiencing homelessness or precariously housed. Aydin’s advocacy work has also included assisting youth and adult victims and survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. Over the past seven years, his career as a mental health professional has primarily focused on providing services for gender non-conforming and transgender youth, adults and their families.  As a transgender man and mental health provider, Aydin brings a dual perspective into his work. He speaks internationally to medical and mental health providers, educators, social workers and families on the importance of accessible, informed-consent model of care. His focus is on identifying and acknowledging domains of privilege and broadening clinicians and families understanding of gender dysphoria and its impact on the psychosocial well-being of gender-nonconforming and transgender individuals.


Johanna Olson-Kennedy

Johanna Olson-Kennedy is a Board certified Adolescent Medicine physician, specializing in the care of gender non-conforming children and transgender youth. She is an Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at USC, and the Medical Director of the Center for Transyouth Health and Development  at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. She is a Dr. Olson-Kennedy has been providing medical intervention for transgender youth and young adults including puberty suppression and cross sex hormones for the past decade. She also spearheads a rigorous research agenda that aims to improve the lives of transgender youth throughout the country. She has appeared frequently on national TV to advocate and educate about the needs and importance of providing timely, compassionate and appropriate care for gender non-conforming and transgender young people.


Raymond J. Kotwicki, M.D., M.P.H.

Dr. Ray Kotwicki is the Charles B. West Chief Medical Officer at Skyland Trail, a nationally acclaimed private, nonprofit residential and day treatment organization for adults with mental illnesses in Atlanta, Georgia. In this role, Kotwicki oversees all the clinical, educational, quality, and research activities within the organization. Kotwicki trained as a Department of Energy Fellow and was a Medical Scholar at the University of Wisconsin Medical School. He had post-graduate training at Harvard Medical School, the Boston University School of Medicine, and Emory University, where he earned a Master in Public Health degree in Health Policy and Management. He remains on the adjunctive faculty at both the Emory University School of Medicine as well as the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Kotwicki has presented more than 200 invited lectures, symposia, and seminars to thousands of attendees. He regularly appears on television, radio and in newspaper articles discussing issues related to mental health and integrated medical care. Kotwicki is a Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and is President of the Georgia Psychiatric Physicians’ Association. Kotwicki was a member of the Leadership Atlanta Class of 2011 and served as President of the Board of Directors of Positive Impact, the Southeast’s premiere HIV mental health program for three years. He currently is a member of the Board of Trustees of The Lovett School.Throughout his career, Kotwicki has received numerous distinctions, including Emory University’s most prestigious Dean’s “Golden Apple” Teaching Award, Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society, Mental Health America and Eli Lilly’s “Heroes in Fight” Clinical Team Award, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ Exemplary Psychiatrist Award. Kotwicki received the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University’s “Distinguished Achievement Alumnus Award” in 2017.


Daniel Fishburn LCSW, LCAS, MAC

Daniel is Executive Director of SUWS of the Carolinas, a program committed to providing a safe and affirming experience for gender variant youth. His lifelong professional commitment has included advocacy for marginalized communities. This has included LGBTQ+ youth, beginning with volunteer work with SMYAL in Washington, DC in the late 1980s, continuing with support of Asheville’s YouthOutright. A member of the GEMS Organizing Committee, he is committed to staying current with research and perspectives on the gender variant experience. Daniel Fishburn has been helping young people “find their way” in a variety of settings for 30 years, including close to 20 years as a licensed clinician. He received his BA in Psychology at The Catholic University of American in Washington DC., and his MSW from the University of Houston Graduate School of Social Work. From the war zones of El Salvador to the streets of Dallas and Houston, Daniel has served families through numerous organizations such as Child Protective Services, public health agencies, community mental health, adolescent and adult substance abuse treatment, young adult transitional programs, and most recently at a therapeutic boarding school. From the frontline staff to leadership, Daniel is highly experienced in working at the organizational level to create powerful, positive change.


Brandon Moffitt, MA, LPC

Brandon is the executive director and co-founder of Black Mountain Academy, a small therapeutic boarding school with an emphasis upon immersive, authentic community engagement that helps foster the skills our students need to launch successfully into young adulthood. Our primary focus is upon adolescent boys on the autism spectrum who need a range of supports both in and out of the classroom. Brandon has over 15 years of experience as a therapist with adolescents and their families in various residential settings and wilderness therapy. In each of these settings, it has been increasingly important to consider gender and gender variance among neuroatypical populations while providing a safe, supportive context to examine the nuances of identity development and authentic personhood. Brandon is committed to continued efforts to explore best practices and evaluate how to best serve LGBTQIA+ youth who are on the autism spectrum.


Ashley Brown, MSW, LCSW, LCAS

Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee with a background in visual art, education, and sexual violence prevention, Ashley joined the Trails team in 2011. She has worked in the wilderness therapeutic field since 2006 and believes in the power of wilderness to challenge, nurture, and hold a mirror up to young people and help them in finding reconnection with their families and selves.. She grew up playing in woods and building forts behind her house. Nowadays, she enjoys watching documentaries with her husband, drinking hot chocolate, running with her therapy dog and continuing to play in the woods.


Donna Weinberger, CEO, Co-Founder

Donna is dedicated to remaining at the forefront of healthcare for LGBTQIA+ individuals by challenging age-old traditional systems. Donna encourages her staff by providing continuing education to commit a standard of care for the LGBTQIA+ community with addiction & mental health issues that have not been seen before. Through case studies of experiences, Donna and her staff educate hospitals & treatment facilities throughout the country. Donna received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Florida Atlantic University and went on to independently become proficient in web programming and marketing. Donna spent 10 years working in print and web media for the behavioral healthcare industry, developing a strong alliance and passion to aid the recovery community, specifically serving a gender spectrum providing a safe space for transgender folks & others within the LGBTQIA community. This initial profession in behavioral healthcare has connected Donna to many local and national treatment centers and formed the catalyst for Donna to open a center that could focus on helping members of the LGBTQIA community in recovery. As a part of the LGBTQIA community, Donna is concerned about the well-being of her peers and ensuring that anyone who wants to recover from addiction has a safe space to grow.


Alicja Majer, MSW, CRRA

Alicja has been the Director of Operations, therapist and outreach educator at Inspire Recovery with a demonstrated history of working in the addiction and mental health care industry within the LGBTQIA+ population. Alicja’s focuses on LGBTQIA+ advocacy, addiction recovery, LGBTQIA+ rights and education as well serving as a board member on Transpire HELP (not-for-profit dedicated to raising fund for the LGBTQIA+ community in recovery, Alicja originated from a background of studies in art and design which created an individual passion for authenticity in recovery and helping each individual take a mindful and creative approach to life. Alicja received her bachelors degree in social work from Florida Atlantic University and masters degree in clinical social work from Barry University. Alicja is in pursuit of becoming a licensed clinical social worker and researcher, focusing not only on the individual but the much needed macro community work within the LGBTQIA+ population.


Jaki Neering, Primary Therapist

Jaki has a loving & progressive approach working with the LGBTQIA+ community. Jaki graduated from Barry University in 2016 with a Master of Social Work degree. She is currently a Registered Clinical Social Work Intern and will soon be a licensed therapist. Jaki believes in the power of trauma-informed interventions, which recognizes human vulnerability but focuses on finding strengths, resources, and capacity for healing and recovery by promoting factors that will enhance a person’s resiliency. Through her inspirational approach, Jaki has a passion for empowering marginalized populations. She is devoted to serving the LGBTQIA+ community throughout their journey of self-discovery, self-love, and long-term sobriety. Jaki assists individuals in finding their voice and advocates for self-expression. Additionally, Jaki believes in the transformation of recovery and is passionate about helping others find their truth


Rick Pollard, M.Ed.

Rick brings extensive and varied experience to be the Executive Director of Solstice East and received his Masters in Educational Leadership from Mercer University.In 2004, he began with the inaugural team of New Leaf Academy of NC, an all girls’ therapeutic boarding school that he helped lead over 5 years. He continued his career in therapeutic education as he led admissions teams for wilderness programs, assisting families with placements for a variety of diagnoses. During the 3 years prior to joining the team at Solstice East, he was Assistant Head of School at Brandon Hall School, an independent boarding school in Atlanta, GA. Rick joined Solstice East in 2015 and considers it a privilege to lead the caring Solstice East team that brings so much positive change and healing to the lives of adolescents and their families. Outside of Solstice East, Rick is pursuing his PhD and with occasional free time, he enjoys a variety of activities including kayaking, hiking, singing, printmaking and painting. He loves his daily walks and time with his Yorkshire terrier daughters, Katy and BeBe


Dr. John Singleton

Dr. John Singleton has 30 years of experience working in education and 15 years of experience in therapeutic school leadership. John’s extensive education experience is steeped in life-changing results and award-winning programs. In early 2000, John’s strong belief in multisensory learning and an individualized approach to education guided him from public school administration into the Program Director role at Stone Mountain School, a therapeutic wilderness boarding school in Black Mountain, NC. A few years later, he used his knowledge and management experience to help establish New Leaf Academy of North Carolina, an all girls’ therapeutic boarding school. By 2006, he became the Executive Director of Cedars Academy in Delaware, a program for Autism Spectrum Disorder students; a role he continued for four years before serving as President and Head of School at Brandon Hall in Atlanta. During his five years at Brandon Hall, he was instrumental in overseeing the school’s 700% growth in student enrollment, facility development and creation of a 21st Century technology enriched learning model. Finally, for the past year and a half, he has been the Director of Business Development at Trails Carolina, a therapeutic wilderness program in Western North Carolina. John has presented nationally and is published on the subject of Educational Leadership and learning differences. His most recent presentations include: CASE-NAIS National Conference Pre-Conference Advancement Master Class, January 2013, Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), Philadelphia, PA, May 2011 and Texas A&M University – Southwest Teaching and Learning Conference in 2010.
He has attended Harvard Graduate School of Education – Independent Schools Institute. He has also furthered his studies at Yale Child Study Center in 2008; Minds and Hearts Clinic, Tony Attwood, Ph.D. in 2007; and The Medical University of South Carolina, Russell Barkley, Ph.D. in 2006. John received his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Education from Gardner-Webb University and his Doctorate in Educational Leadership in 2010 from the University of Phoenix. His research was focused on the topic of Educational Leadership and working with students on the Autism Spectrum.In his spare time, John enjoys traveling, gardening and spending time with his family and dogs.


Dr. Lisa Cheyette

Dr. Lisa Cheyette has practiced as a licensed psychologist in the Atlanta area since 1995, working with children, teens and adults. In 2012 she transitioned her practice to educational and therapeutic consulting, serving families both locally and nationally. A recognized specialist in autism spectrum disorders, anxiety disorders, depression and other complex psychological issues, Dr Cheyette uses her skills in diagnosis, assessment and treatment in her consulting work. Combining individual attention with first hand knowledge of programs and schools, she strives to become the family’s advocate before, during, and after placement. Dr. Cheyette personally visits schools and programs around the country throughout the year. She talks with the students, tours the campus, and meets directly with the clinicians and administrators to learn who they work best with, and how they work with them. Dr. Cheyette received her Bachelor of Arts with Highest Honors from McGill University in Montreal, a Masters in Counseling/Criminal Justice from Northeastern University in Boston, and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from CSPP-San Diego. She completed an advanced training program in psychoanalytic psychotherapy with the Atlanta Psychoanalytic Society and the Emory University Psychoanalytic Institute. Lisa serves on the faculty of the Emory School of Medicine as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences where she also does executive coaching at Emory’s Gouizueta Business School in their Leadership Development Program. As a Professional Member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) since 2013, a Professional Member of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP) since 2013 and a Professional Member of The Therapeutic Consulting Association (TCA) since 2015, Dr. Cheyette is dedicated to providing quality professional services and assistance to her clients. Lisa spends her downtime recharging by cycling, hiking, working out, reading and spending time at home with her 2 dogs and family.