Leonard Hirsch was born in Queens, New York, in 1955. He graduated from Pomona College, in Claremont, California, with a degree in International Relations, in 1976. He then studied political science at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, earning his Ph.D. in 1980. Len’s dissertation, “Dependence, Development, and Regional Organizations: A First Look at Dependency Reversal,” an analysis of third-world dependency theories and their solutions, has been influential in a variety of situations, particularly in Brazil.
Len spent several years in Tampa, Florida, teaching at the University of South Florida, where he helped start a gay and lesbian faculty organization. He also worked on LGBT issues with the Tampa Bay Human Rights Task Force. During the 1984 annual conference of the American Political Science Association here in DC, Len held the first meeting of what became the association’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered Political Caucus.
Len came to DC permanently in 1985, leaving his teaching post to join his partner, Kristian Fauchald, whom he had met in 1983. They have been together ever since, celebrating their commitment in 1988, registering their domestic partnership in 2002, and marrying in 2008.
During his first years in DC, Len worked successively for a data management firm that published the first desktop-produced book acquired by the Library of Congress, formed a company that produced a personal computer given top ratings by PC Magazine, and performed research under a Department of Education grant at Prince George’s Community College. Len then accepted a one-year appointment in the Smithsonian Institution’s Office of International Relations, beginning more than two decades’ service to the science community, facilitating research in the United States and internationally, with special emphasis on environmental issues—biodiversity, global change, carbon tracking, and ecological systems.
Len organized the first meeting of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender employees of the US government that became Federal GLOBE in February, 1988, and served as its first president. Under his leadership (which continues, as he currently serves another term as president), Federal GLOBE has worked tirelessly to eliminate discrimination in the federal government based on sexual orientation. Federal GLOBE has developed and provided educational programs and assistance mechanisms that address the concerns and needs of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered individuals in federal employment, and has educated policy makers, the public, and other federal employees about issues of concern to the LGBT community. GLOBE’s and Hirsch’s activism on behalf of LGBT federal employees has resulted in, among other accomplishments, an executive order on non-discrimination issued under the Clinton administration and President Obama’s 2009 memorandum extending certain federal employee benefits to same-sex couples.
Len also was a co-founder of the Smithsonian Institution Lesbian and Gay Issues Committee (SILGIC) and the Pomona College Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Trans and Ally Alumni Association, and he has served as the president of the Network of Gay and Lesbian Alumni/ae Associations.