Even as a child, Catherine Tuerk was concerned with the welfare of the family. With a natural aptitude as mother’s helper and babysitter, she was seemingly destined to become a nurse. While in nurse’s training, her concern about hospitalized children being separated from their parents led to innovations that earned her an award in pediatrics. She is a longtime advocate for patients’ rights in relation to reproductive and maternal/child issues, and has been active in the movements for black civil rights and women’s equal rights and reproductive freedom. She has taught in a nursery school and worked as a nurse in the arenas of public health and reproductive endocrinology.
For more than thirty years Catherine has been a clinical specialist in adult psychiatric and mental health nursing. She has written and spoken extensively, for professional and lay audiences, with an emphasis on topics related to women’s health, sexual orientation, and gender variance. She has authored several professional journal articles and has made presentations at many conferences, including those of the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Federación Mexicana de Educación Sexual y Sexología.
An advocate for LGBT people in her Jewish community, Catherine worked with the DC-area Jewish Social Service Agency to establish ongoing staff education to ensure that their services and programs would be gay-knowledgeable and welcoming. She has worked with rabbis and others to foster welcoming synagogues, and has done outreach to Jewish families with HIV-positive members.
Catherine has served as a volunteer with numerous LGBT organizations, most notably the Metro DC chapter of PFLAG. Under her leadership the chapter won a national award for advocacy. She has been a volunteer therapist at the Whitman-Walker Clinic and has served on advisory boards for several groups. In 1997 she spoke at the first Youth Pride Day in Washington, DC.
In her collaboration with Dr. Edgardo Menvielle at the Children’s National Medical Center, Catherine’s work in support of gender-nonconforming children and their families has gained recognition. In 2005 the Skylight Project in San Francisco bestowed on them its Ma Vie en Rose Children’s Advocate Award. In 2006 their work was honored by Youth Pride Alliance in Washington, DC. In 2008 the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists conferred on them its Stuart Nichols Award for outstanding achievement in support of LGBT mental health.
Catherine is the mother of a gay son, Joshua, who has three children, and a straight daughter, Jennifer, who has two children.