Natasha Gadinsky, an HIV counselor about to study for her doctorate in psychology, has a tough act to follow. Her mom, Elizabeth “Liebe” Gadinsky of Miami Beach, is one of the nation’s leading LGBT ally activists.
“Already everyone thinks I am her carbon copy. It’s very true we look alike, and perhaps we have similar reactions,” says Natasha, 24, who works in New York as an AIDS counselor. “Many of her friends in Miami said, ‘Oh, she’s a little Liebe. She looks like you and sounds like you.’ I want to make sure I have my own independent voice and am not just a little Liebe.”
Liebe Gadinsky, 53, is quite sensitive about overshadowing her daughters, Natasha and Naomi, now 26 and studying to be a doctor. For years, Liebe lived in the shadow of her mother-in-law, arguably Florida’s best-known feminist lawmaker of the 1970s and ’80s, state Rep. Elaine Gordon of North Miami.
Gordon, who died of cancer at 68 in 2000, served in the Legislature from 1972 to 1994 and championed gay causes and the doomed Equal Rights Amendment.
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“She was awesome. It was so easy to talk to Elaine. You didn’t have to couch anything,” Liebe Gadinsky says. “Talk about a woman who stood up for the underdog. She was there for the elderly, the poor, victims, the mentally ill. Elaine was the go-to person for all marginalized or underserved populations.”
Liebe Gadinsky, who grew up in Central Florida with 12 siblings and other stepbrothers and sisters, married Gordon’s son Seth Gadinsky in 1985. Back then, Liebe studied race relations and history, and got an MBA from the University of Michigan.
After Hurricane Andrew, Liebe met Terry Dewis, a gay neighbor in Miami Beach. Soon, she and Dewis started Spirit, a group for gays and lesbians to explore their spirituality. Then Liebe got involved with SAVE Dade, the county’s leading gay-rights group.
“I didn’t think I had anything to offer. I thought all men were created equal,” she says. “I didn’t realize that discrimination was embedded into the law.”
Liebe put her business skills to use. “I primarily focused on finance and marketing. I did the bookkeeping for SAVE Dade forever as a volunteer, was the treasurer.”
She also got involved with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and is now national board co-chairwoman. She also has served on the Miami Foundation board and currently is on its GLBT Community Projects Fund Advisory Board.
Along the way, her daughters grew up surrounded by LGBT activists.
“Everyone was like my gay uncle,” says Natasha, known as Tashi. “I didn’t understand everything going on, but that we were fighting for equality for people who are LGBT. I didn’t understand why there had to be such a fight. Clearly, my mom has those values and I inherited them in some way.”
Before she graduated from Ransom Everglades School in 2008, Tashi helped start World AIDS Day activities there. At Brown University, she joined the LGBT alliance.
Tashi says her mom “has done an awesome job demonstrating how to be an effective ally.”
“I don’t feel my work is so much political,” Tashi says. “My mom is in-between, but my grandmother was definitely political,” Tashi says. “I would love to be able to chat with her now. If we’re lumped together for being activists and trying to help, it’s not the worst thing in the world. It’s not like it was handed to me. We’re all independently having to fight our own fight.”