Born in California in 1976, Duff began her journalistic career as the founder of an underground school newspaper, The Tiger Club, while an 8th grader at South Pasadena Junior High School in 1989. After five published issues, she was suspended from school by the principal for refusing to stop disseminating the newspaper.
After seeking help from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the South Pasadena Unified School District agreed to allow her to return to school. She completed her 8th grade year and was then accepted as an early entrance student to California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA), which she attended for a year and a half.
While at CSULA Duff was on staff of an alternative newspaper published by Los Angeles art-critic Mat Gleason who, at the time, was a graduate student in the school of journalism and president of an alternative Greek organization, Omega Omega Omega, and later went on to publish Coagula Art Journal.
Involuntary conversion therapy
Concerned about her daughter's sexual orientation, Duff's mother had her transported against her will to Rivendell Psychiatric Center (now called Copper Hills Youth Center) in West Jordan, Utah. Duff was admitted to Rivendell Psychiatric Center on December 19, 1991, at age fifteen.
During the drive from California to Utah, Duff covertly called journalist Bruce Mirken, a friend who then wrote for both the Los Angeles Weekly and The Advocate. The two had had plans to meet for dinner prior to her forced detention and upon hearing of her situation, Mirken phoned Public Council, a public interest legal aid society which secured pro bono services of corporate attorney Gina M. Calabrese of the Los Angeles firm Adams, Duque & Hazeltine.
Although Rivendell was not officially affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Duff later said that she was visited by Mormon missionaries during her six months at the Utah psychiatric facility and that the treatment she received was heavily influenced by religion. Duff says that Rivendell therapists told her that a gay and lesbian orientation was caused by negative experiences with people of the opposite gender and that having a lesbian sexual identity would lead to sexually abusing other people or engaging in bestiality. Duff was diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder (GID) and clinical depression. Duff was subjected to a regimen of conversion therapy. This involved aversion therapy, which consisted of being forced to watch same-sex pornography while smelling ammonia. She was also subjected to hypnosis, psychotropic drugs, solitary confinement, and therapeutic messages linking lesbian sex with "the pits of hell." Behavior modification techniques were also used including: requiring girls to wear dresses, unreasonable forms of punishment for small infractions similar to hazing like having to cut the lawn with small scissors and scrubbing floors with a toothbrush and "positive peer pressure" group sessions in which patients demeaned and belittled each other for both real and perceived inadequacies.
Emancipation and adoption
In late 1992, with the help of Legal Services for Children and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and with legal assistance provided by the National Center for Youth Law, Duff petitioned the courts to have her mother's parental rights terminated. She was one of a handful of children who divorced their parents that year. In October 1992, a lesbian couple in San Francisco adopted Duff. She lived with them until the age of eighteen, when she began living independently and returned to college.
Youth rights activism
From 1992 through 1998, Duff was an outspoken critic of the mental health system, appearing on CNN, ABC's 20/20, and numerous print, radio and television media outlets. She also spoke at a number of human rights, civil rights, mental health and youth services conferences about her experiences and the rights of young people to live free of discrimination and oppression on the basis of their sexual orientation. During these years she also served on the board of several national organizations including the National Center for Youth Law (board member from 1994–2001) and the National Child Rights Alliance (board member from 1992–1993, board chairperson from 1994–1999). In 1996, Duff was honored as a keynote speaker and given a human rights award at the international conference of the Metropolitan Community Church.
During these same years, Duff was emerging as a journalist in her own right, writing for Youth Outlook, a column in the San Francisco Examiner, and the Pacific News Service. She joined the staff of Flashpoints, a daily hour-long drive-time show broadcast on Pacifica Radio's KPFA in 1994. Her writings have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Francisco Examiner, Salon online, the Utne Reader, Sassy Magazine, the Washington Post, Seventeen, the Miami Herald and the National Catholic Reporter.
In 1995, Duff traveled to Haiti where she established Radyo Timoun ("Children's Radio"), that country's first radio station run entirely by children under the age of seventeen. She reportedly worked closely with Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide.
By the late 1990s, Duff was a well-established international journalist with postings in Haiti, Israel, Croatia, several African countries, and Vietnam. After the United States invaded Afghanistan, she traveled to the front lines as one of the few non-embedded Western journalists.
In early 2000 she began to cover religious affairs from her posting in Jerusalem, writing widely on the problems and conflicts between Christians, Jews and Muslims. In 2002, Duff earned an MA in Theology.
In February 2004, Duff, who was then living six months out of every year in Jerusalem, was home in the United States on a brief visit when a group of ex-soldiers overthrew the democratically elected government of Haiti. She quickly traveled to Haiti, arriving in Port-au-Prince when the coup was only days old and reporting on the situation extensively for several national media outlets.
From 2004-2006, Duff regularly covered the situation in Haiti for the San Francisco Bay View, Pacifica Radio's Flashpoints, and Pacific News Service. Her reporting is a blend of in-depth investigative reports and "as told to" first person commentaries by Haitian nationals. Subjects have included politically motivated mass rape, the United Nations mission in Haiti, killings by American Marines in Port-au-Prince, civilians taking over the neighborhood of Bel Air and murders of street children by police and ex-soldiers.
- "COMMITTED SHE WAS A REBEL AND A LESBIAN. HER MOM HAD HER CLAPPED INTO A MENTAL HOSPITAL. NOW SHE SPEAKS OUT FOR KIDS LIKE HERSELF" San Jose Mercury News (California), September 6, 1994 Tuesday MORNING FINAL EDITION, LIVING; Pg. 1C, 1789 words, MIKE HALE, Mercury News Staff Writer
- "Journalist to discuss sex conversion therapy" (Press release). NYS Museum. May 29, 2008. Retrieved 2010-11-17.
- Picks of the Week - June 5–11. The Times Union (Albany, New York), June 5, 2008 Thursday, PREVIEW; Pg. P4, 912 words
- Phillip Sherman & Samuel Bernstein (1994)"Uncommon heroes: a celebration of heroes and role models for gay and lesbian Americans", page 150. Fletcher Press.
- Mirken, Bruce (June 1994). "Setting Them Straight". San Francisco: 10 Percent. pp. 54–60.
- PRESS CLIPS Village Voice (New York, NY), October 06, 1998, 1595 words, by Andy Hsiao
- TOM JARRIEL & BARBARA WALTERS. ABC NEWS SHOW: ABC 20/20 (10:00 pm ET). "MOM, I'M A LESBIAN: MOTHER COMMITS LESBIAN TEEN TO INSTITUTION" AUGUST 29, 1997
- True love or imprisonment? Teen behavior programs in spotlight. The Associated Press, January 19, 1998, Monday, PM cycle, Domestic News, 813 words, By MICHELLE LOCKE, Associated Press Writer
- Chris Holmlund & Justin Wyatt (2005) "Contemporary American independent film: from the margins to the mainstream" page 190. Psychology Press. http://books.google.com/books?id=9sYDqH2FAcsC&pg=PA190&dq=%22Lyn+Duff%22&hl=en&ei=dIP5TOu4IdK5hAfMmvSSCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=8&ved=0CEkQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=%22Lyn%20Duff%22&f=false
- "Gender identity problems; Gays angered about doctors forcing issue" The Houston Chronicle, August 2, 1995, Wednesday, 2 STAR Edition, HOUSTON; Pg. 3, 1310 words, CAROLE RAFFERTY; Knight-Ridder Tribune News
- Pela, Robert L. (November 11, 1997). "Boys in the dollhouse, girls with toy trucks". The Advocate. pp. 55–59.
- . The Lambda Update. Fall 1993. p. 4. Missing or empty
- David B. Cruz (1999) "Controlling Desires: Sexual Conversion and the Limits of Law" Southern California Law Review 72:1297. http://www-bcf.usc.edu/~usclrev/pdf/072502.pdf
- CHURCHER, Sharon (1998) "GOING STRAIGHT." Sunday Mail (Queensland, Australia), September 6, 1998, Sunday, NEWS; Pg. 40, 1274 words
- Ladie Terry. (1994) 'ORPHANS' SPEAK OUT. San Jose Mercury News (California) Tuesday MORNING FINAL EDITION. December 13, 1994. EDITORIAL; Pg. 7B
- Ocamb, Karen. "Shannon Minter on NARTH Lawsuit Against Psychological Child Abuse Law". www.bilerico.com. The Bilerico Project. Retrieved May 2015.
- Molnar, Beth. "JUVENILES AND PSYCHIATRIC INSTITUTIONALIZATION: Toward Better Due Process and Treatment Review in the United States" (PDF). Health and Human Rights (Harvard College) 2 (2): 98–116. Retrieved May 2015.
- Family Law, Public Policy and New Federalism by Steven K. Wisensale, Accessed July 10, 2007
- Lyn Duff, "I Was a Teenage Test Case", California Lawyer Magazine. May 1996
- "Families have role in gender problems" The Times Union (Albany, NY), July 30, 1995, Sunday, 1066 words, CAROLE RAFFERTY
- Stevens, Frances "Rising to the challenge". (Frankly Speaking). Curve, June 2002, Vol. 12, No. 4; Pg. 2(1), 506 words.
- Itinerary of CNMHC Program, 3/16/97 showing Duff as speaker. Accessed July 10, 2007[dead link]
- Disciplinary camps, schools put teens' rights on the line SFGate.com, January 18, 1998, by Marianne Costantinou. Accessed July 10, 2007
- "AREA EDITOR, SCIENTIST WIN 'GENIUS' GRANTS FOUNDATION REWARDS GIVING A VOICE TO THE VOICELESS: San Jose Mercury News (California), June 13, 1995 Tuesday MORNING FINAL EDITION, FRONT; Pg. 1A, 927 words, SANDY KLEFFMAN, Mercury News Staff Writer
- DAVID WIEGAND (1998) "COMING UP; WHAT'S NEW THIS WEEK." The San Francisco Chronicle, AUGUST 23, 1998, SUNDAY
- "LIFE STIRS UNDER SAN FRANCISCO." Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), January 14, 1998 Wednesday; Pg. 3E, 591 words, By LYN DUFF
- LIFE WITH CARNIVALS: 'WHERE MISFITS FIT IN' Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), September 10, 1997 Wednesday, FINAL / ALL, NEXT; Pg. 3E, 524 words, By LYN DUFF
- "The beat goes on, despite suicide bombers" San Bernardino Sun (San Bernardino, CA), July 25, 2002 Thursday, OPINION, 761 words, LYN DUFF
- Children's Radio Station Gives Voice to Haiti's Future San Francisco Examiner ©1996, by Lyn Duff. Accessed July 10, 2007
- Jean Bertrand Aristide: Humanist or Despot? Pacific News Service, 2 March 2004 by Lyn Duff. Accessed July 10, 2007
- Debunking the Media's Lies about President Aristide www.dissidentvoice.org, March 14, 2004 by Justin Felux. Accessed July 10, 2007
- Kat Snow (1997). "Journalist Lyn Duff, 21". The Advocate 739/740. August 19, 1997. Page 67. http://books.google.com/books?id=MGQEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PT68&dq=%22Lyn+Duff%22&hl=en&ei=-YT5TJvGNaiAhAe81u2FCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CDwQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=%22Lyn%20Duff%22&f=false
- Anderson-Minshall, Diane. "Where are they now." Curve, June 2002, Vol. 12, No. 4; Pg. 28(4), 3012 words
- Peter Phillips & Greg Palast (2006) "Censored 2005: The Top 25 Censored Stories" Seven Stories Press. http://books.google.com/books?id=-og-GZfAuWcC&pg=PA79&dq=%22Lyn+Duff%22&hl=en&ei=Q4j5TMuAB8nIhAfGrdGOCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CCoQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=%22Lyn%20Duff%22&f=false
- Haiti Rapes Zmag.org, February 24, 2005 by Lyn Duff. Accessed July 10, 2007
- Flashpoints Radio Special Correspondent Lyn Duff on the ground in Haiti, Wednesday, March 31, 2004. Accessed July 10, 2007
- We Won't Be Peaceful and Let Them Kill Us Any Longer ZMag, November 04, 2005, by Lyn Duff. Accessed July 10, 2007
- Killings of Haitian Street Kids Soar Zmag.org, January 15, 2005, by Lyn Duff. Accessed July 10, 2007
- Profile at Selves and Others
- "The Other Regime Change: Overthrowing Haiti's President Jean Bertrand Aristide" by Lyn Duff & Dennis Bernstein in "Impeach the President" (Eds: Peter Phillips and Dennis Loo). Seven Stories Press: 2006