Ari S. Gzesh, MSW is pursuing a PhD in Social Welfare at Penn’s School of Social Policy and Practice, and is a Fellow in Leadership Education and Adolescent Health (LEAH) at Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania. Gzesh is passionate about exploring how identity-based supports provide corrective experiences for past attachment ruptures, embodied oppression, and complex trauma for LGBTQ+ youth. They use mixed methods to explore the relationship between history of victimization, future orientation, and risk-related behaviors, so as to better ascertain gauges of distress for youth involved in street economies. This research is imperative to provide nuance for the continuum of agency between consensual sex work and sexual exploitation, and the need for mutual aid and harm reduction for multiply marginalized and pathologized populations.
Gzesh’s goal is to expand conceptualization of family systems and non-biological kinship within the field of social welfare, so as to harness cultural wealth embedded in LGBTQ+ communities, and to use research-informed practice and practice-informed research to improve clinical interventions for transitional age youth. They have worked in direct practice with marginalized young people for over a decade, as both an educator and therapist. Gzesh earned a Master’s in Social Work from Columbia University, and as a clinician, they worked at Westcoast Children’s Clinic and Larkin Street Youth Services, supporting system-involved youth experiencing sexual exploitation, substance use, and homelessness.