Tami Lubitsh, a 2014 Pride Foundation Scholar living in Alaska, has always been acutely aware of the suffering of other people. It is this awareness that eventually led her to become a psychologist and, despite being diagnosed with breast cancer in the spring of 2013, seek her doctorate in psychology from Alaska Pacific University. With a background as both a theatre director and a journalist, Tami believes that these three professions are not as different from each other as one might think because they share the same goal—to connect people. She explains, “I changed my title, but I don’t think I changed the essence of who I am in the world.”
Born and raised in Israel, Tami drew upon her experiences as a closeted lesbian in the Israeli Army to write a play called “Playing with Fire” as well as a book called “My Best Year Yet” that went on to become a best seller. She then moved to Alaska to live with her wife, where the two spent more than a decade living under the threat of separation due to immigration restrictions. In 2004, Tami and her wife were the first bi-national couple to be married in the United States (which was later nullified by the court).
According to Tami, their personal story is getting close to a happy ending, as she now has a green card and is in the process of applying for citizenship. While she is thrilled at the resolution, she explains that “there are thousands of couples who are still ‘prisoners of love.’ We are committed to continue to work toward equality until all same sex multinational couples will be able to hug each other at night knowing that they will wake up together, free of fear of deportation and humiliation.”
In Alaska, Tami’s professional time is spent as a clinician serving the mental health needs of her LGBT clients and facilitating a group for transgender people in different stages of transition. Her life has changed dramatically since being diagnosed with breast cancer, but she continues her work both as a clinician and a doctoral student despite going through cancer treatments.
She describes her journey through cancer as one of the most challenging experiences of her life, but also as a learning experience. When first diagnosed, Tami realized the lack of support that exists for LGBT cancer survivors and knew she had to take a step to address not only the suffering of others, but her own suffering as well. To that end, she established Alaska’s first LGBT cancer survivors’ support group.
Throughout all of this, Tami is clear that receiving a Pride Foundation scholarship has played an important role in helping her get through this challenging time. There have been many times when she has wanted to quit her doctoral program, but her mind continually goes back to the generous donors that have a real stake in her education. She explains, “I can’t let them down just because I have cancer now.”
The humbleness in Tami’s voice is palpable as she explains her costly cancer treatments, all while questioning whether or not she is draining the resources of her community by accepting this scholarship. In the end, however, Tami has realized that, with her doctorate and the extensive services she can provide to LGBT people in Alaska, she will be giving back so much more.
Upon being asked what advice she has for future Pride Foundation scholars, Tami’s advice is simple: “Ask for help when you need it and give back when you can.”