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Northwestern experts can speak on issues facing LGBTQ+ communities

National Coming Out Day is Tuesday, Oct. 11

On the eve of National Coming Out Day, LGBTQ+ communities, allies and the lawmakers working for equality face a host of challenges to progress made in the last decade. Northwestern University faculty members are available to speak to media about efforts to protect marriage equality in the wake of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, “don’t say gay” in school bills, monkeypox, trans health care and more.

Experts on marriage equality: These experts can speak to risks and consequences in society and the law.    

  • Héctor Carrillo (he/him) is a professor of sociology and gender and sexuality studies at the Northwestern Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and has affiliations with Latino/a Studies, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Science and Human Culture, the Institute for Policy Research (IPR) and the Institute for Gender and Sexual Minority Health and Wellbeing (ISGMH). He also co-directs the Sexualities Project at Northwestern (SPAN), which promotes interdisciplinary research and education on sexuality. Carrillo can speak on sexual diversity, LGBTQ social movements and rights, same-sex marriage, coming out as a visibility strategy in LGBTQ communities, and a variety of other topics related to the sociology of sexualities.

“The recent Supreme Court decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization case has raised considerable alarm among LGBTQ people. It suggests that the Supreme Court’s conservative justices have the power to take away recognized rights that we all assume are here to stay, including equal marriage rights that the LGBTQ movement fought hard for and achieved nationally with the 2015 Obergefell vs Hodges decision. Dobbs has made it clear that progressive sexuality-related social movements can never lower their guard despite their achievements.”

  • Andrew M. Koppelman (he/him) is the John Paul Stevens Professor of Law at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and a professor (by courtesy) of political science. His scholarship focuses on issues at the intersection of law and political philosophy, and he has written more than 100 scholarly articles and eight books. In addition to the current threat to same sex marriage and gay rights, Koppelman can talk about law and religion and conflicts of law.

“I’m a longtime advocate of gay rights. In 1988, I developed the sex discrimination argument that the Supreme Court adopted in 2019 in Bostock v. Clayton County. I think that the current conflict between gay rights and religious liberty is unnecessary and destructive. There’s enough room in this society for everyone to pursue their own understanding of what makes a good life. The Respect for Marriage Act and the Fairness for All Act would both be steps in the right direction.” 

Experts on LGBTQ education: States such as Florida are enacting “don’t say gay” in school bills while others are writing LGBTQ history into their curriculum. Where are such initiatives headed?

  • Kathryn Macapagal (she/her) is a clinical psychologist, associate professor in medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and associate director of The Center for Translational Health Research and Interventions Advancing Equity for Sexual and Gender Minorities (THRIVE) at ISGMH. 

“Having LGBTQ-inclusive and LGBTQ-specific education is so important for youth, but for many in the U.S., it is out of reach. Although we often think and talk about the importance of LGBTQ-inclusive sexual health education, it’s also crucial to have positive LGBTQ representation in other subjects. For LGBTQ kids and teens, this can help them make sense of what they are feeling and thinking, help them feel seen and affirmed, and know that there are role models in history and society who also were and are LGBTQ. For kids and teens who are not LGBTQ, exposure to LGBTQ-inclusive education is also important, as it can be a powerful way to combat stigma and promote a broader worldview. My own work shows that the internet, media, and social media are where teens get LGBTQ-specific education, and while I’m working to create education that meets them where they are, we still need to advocate for this information in OTHER spaces they spend their time – like at school, home and the doctor’s office.”

  • Brian Mustanski, Ph.D. (he/him) is a clinical psychologist,director of ISGMH, and a professor of medical social sciences, infectious diseases and psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and co-director of the NIH-funded Third Coast Center for AIDS Research (CFAR). He has been a principal investigator of over $60 million in federal and foundation grants on research focused on the health and development of LGBTQ youth and is globally one of the most cited social scientists. He can speak to topics surrounding coming out and mental health, sexual health, LGBTQ inclusive education, and priorities for LGBTQ health research.

“Books telling the stories of LGBTQ people or that offer advice on coming out can be a lifeline for LGBTQ young people seeking to understand their sexuality, gender, or place in the world. Depriving young people of these stories will only make them feel isolated and invisible.” 

Experts on trans health care: From vastly increasing access to trans health care to putting it most at risk, 2022 has been a big year for trans health care.

  • Sumanas Jordan (she/her), founding director of Northwestern Medicine Gender Pathways Program and an assistant professor of plastic surgery at Feinberg, can speak to gender affirming surgeries and medical care, changing guidelines surrounding trans health care and her research finding that top surgery improves quality of life for young transgender people.
  • alithia zamantakis (she/her) is a postdoctoral scholar at the ISGMH who conducts qualitative research and is a community activist for intersectional queer/trans justice. Her thoughts were recently published in an advisory about changing trans health guidelines and bodily autonomy, which she can speak on more, in addition to other topics impacting the trans community.

“WPATH still has work to do to ensure its standards of care are representative of the needs and experiences of all non-cisgender people and that the standards of care are used to ensure that individuals receive adequate care rather than to gatekeep who gets access. Future iterations of the standards of care must include more stakeholders per committee, greater representation of transgender experts and stakeholders of color.”

Experts on intersectional challenges: Coming out poses unique challenges for different communities. The following experts can speak to the ways sexuality and queerness intersect with other aspects of identity.

  • Patrick Johnson (he/him)is dean of the School of Communication and Annenberg University Professor at Northwestern University. A member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Johnson’s work has greatly impacted African American studies, performance studies, and gender and sexuality studies. In addition to his production of Gays & Gospel, which will explore gospel’s roots, Johnson can talk about intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality and performance.

“Many people go through a phase, I would include myself, where it is difficulty to reconcile spirituality with sexuality. That's a long process for many people. And for some, it's an ongoing process. The Black church in particular established one of the original "don't ask, don't tell" scenarios for queer people in congregations. It's not unusual to have people in the church who are still struggling even though they are leading the choir or in the pulpit."

  • Doug Kiel (they/them) is an expert on Native American history and museums. They are an assistant professor in the department of history and the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities as well as faculty affiliate in the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research, and can speak about queerness and coming out in Native and Indigenous communities.
  • TJ Billard (they/them) is the founding executive director of the Center for Applied Transgender Studies in Chicago and editor of the Center’s flagship journal, the Bulletin of Applied Transgender Studies. They are an assistant professor in the School of Communication and (by courtesy) the department of sociology at Northwestern, where they are affiliated with the Center for Communication & Public Policy and the ISGMH. Billard’s expertise spans transgender studies and has a primary focus on the relationship between media and the US trans rights movement.

Experts on monkeypox: Monkeypox has hit the MSM community especially hard. The following experts can speak to the medical and societal ramifications.

  • Rob Murphy, MD (he/him) is executive director of the Havey Institute for Global Health, Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering and the John Phair Professor of Infectious Diseases at Feinberg. His research focuses on diagnosing and treating viral infections including HIV/AIDS, COVID-19, and now monkeypox.

“COVID-19 is a pandemic that has killed over 1 million in the U.S. and 6.5 million globally. The monkeypox outbreak started on May 6, 2022, and has infected over 67,000 in 142 countries. Despite our ample resources, the U.S. leads the world in the number of cases for both, and with COVID-19, in the number of deaths. The monkeypox outbreak is particularly disturbing in that this was not a new infection being endemic in Africa for many decades, there is a vaccine and a treatment. It's obvious that there is something terribly wrong with our public health approach to emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. In this environment, it is imperative that all stakeholders push as hard as possible for access to diagnostics, care and treatment.”

  • Ramon Lorenzo-Redondo (he/him) is an assistant professor of medicine in infectious diseases and bioinformatics and director of the Center for Pathogen Genomics and Microbial Evolution (CPGME) at Feinberg and can talk about the evolution of viruses like monkeypox and modes of transmission.

Experts on health disparities: Many of Northwestern’s doctors treat patients in the LGBTQ+ community for whom no research has been conducted and are actively working to fill this gap.

  • Jagadīśa-devasrī Dacus (he/him)associate director of the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing (ISGMH) and research assistant professor at Northwestern, is a social worker who explores Black sexual minority men’s ability to stay HIV-negative using a resilience- and strengths-based approach, as well as more broadly the health and wellbeing of BIPOC sexual minority populations.

    "The strengths and resiliencies of Black sexual minority men who are able to stay HIV-negative (1) are derived from how they learned, as Black boys and young men, to survive in a world that is anti-Black, (2) are predicated on 'The Talk,' a cultural transmission of methods for 'not getting killed' while 'being Black,' and (3) lay at the intersection of their racial and sexual identities as Black sexual minority men."