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Steven Thrasher

Steven Thrasher

Assistant Professor and Daniel H. Renberg Chair

Steven W. Thrasher is the inaugural Daniel H. Renberg Chair of social justice in reporting (with an emphasis on issues relevant to the LGBTQ community) and an assistant professor of journalism.

Thrasher has worked as writer-at-large at the Guardian, staff writer at the Village Voice, and facilitator for the NPR StoryCorps project. His articles are regularly published in the New York Times, BuzzFeed News, Esquire, the Nation, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Daily Beast. He’s also a former researcher for Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update.”

Thrasher will teach Medill courses in journalism at the graduate and undergraduate levels, as well as elective classes cross-listed with American Studies, African American Studies and Gender and Sexuality Studies.

In Ferguson the same week Michael Brown was killed in 2014, Thrasher has reported on the Black Lives Matter movement for five years. His research combines journalistic and ethnographic methods to study how racism, homophobia, policing, medicine, incarceration, culture, and health intersect. 
A scholar of the criminalization of HIV/AIDS, Thrasher’s work centers on marginalized populations. As a teacher, he encourages students to draw upon history, theory, culture, and reporting to critically read and create media narratives. Research and reporting areas include U.S. Civil Rights; international histories of LGBTQ and gender identities; social movements; court reporting; media frames; colonialism; critical race theory; queer methods; policing; art criticism; public health reporting; and HIV/AIDS history.   

Thrasher is a frequent guest on NPR, CNN, and Democracy Now. He has also lectured extensively at universities and cultural institutions internationally, including the San Francisco Public Library, the Schomburg Center in Harlem, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the American University of Beirut.


Prior to joining the Medill faculty in 2019, Thrasher earned his Ph.D. in American Studies from New York University. He also holds a bachelor of fine arts in film/television production and dramatic writing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. He is a fellow of the Sexuality Project at Northwestern and a member of the American Studies Association, the American Sociological Association, the City University of New York AIDS Working Group, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, and the National Association of Black Journalists.

Awards And Honors

For his academic research on the criminalization of HIV/AIDS and his journalism on LGBTQ and other marginalized people, Thrasher has been named or awarded:
  • One of the most influential and impactful people of 2019 on Out magazine's Out 100
  • An Honorable Mention for the American Studies Association's Ralph Henry Gabriel Prize for Best Dissertation (2019)
  • A Ford Foundation grant for Creativity and Free Expression (2018)
  • An inductee into the Hall of Fame of the American Sociological Association journal Contexts (2017)
  • The Gannett Foundation’s Al Neuharth Award for Investigative Journalism (2015)
  • The National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association’s Journalist of the Year Award (2012)
  • The Hunter College’s James Aaronson Award for Social Justice Journalism (2011)
  • The Anti Violence Project's Courage Award (2010)

Authored Works

Selected Journalism Publications

  • Thrasher, S. (2019).“Right to refuse”: Lesbian couple discriminated against right before their wedding—and it’s still legal in 2019. In the Daily Beast.
  • Thrasher, S. (2019). The radical politics in this year’s Best Picture nominees are quietly conservative. In Esquire.
  • Thrasher, S. (2018). It’s a disgrace to celebrate George H.W. Bush on World AIDS Day. In the Nation.
  • Thrasher, S. (2018). What Tumblr’s porn ban really means. In the Atlantic.
  • Thrasher, S. (2018). Mike Pence is still to blame for an HIV outbreak in Indiana—but for new reasons. In the Nation.
  • Thrasher, S. (2018). Why do you need the n-word tape? In the New York Times.
  • Thrasher, S. (2018). Why is Angels in America still the most prominent story being told about AIDS? In BuzzFeed News.
  • Thrasher, S. (2018). A problem Starbucks can’t train away. In the New York Times.
  • Thrasher, S. (2018). Why I see a Black queer therapist. In
  • Thrasher. S. (2016). Those who marriage equality left behind. In Esquire.
  • Thrasher, 2. (2015). A Black body on trial: the HIV conviction of “Tiger Mandingo.” In BuzzFeed News
  • Thrasher, S. (2015). Missouri police officer brags about spending ‘annual Michael Brown bonus’. In the Guardian.

Academic Publications

  • Thrasher, S. (2018). Obituarizing male Blackness, obituarizing Prince. Biography, 41 (1), 9 -16.
  • Thrasher, S. (2017). Contexts interview: Observing life and death in America with Gary Younge. In Contexts, Winter 2017.
  • Thrasher, S. (2016). Black suburbia: From Levittown to Ferguson. In Journal of American History, 103 (2), 141 – 145.
  • Thrasher, S. (2016). Super slaves: Breeding and controlling the modern Black American male through sports. In Radical History Review, 125, 168-178.
  • Thrasher, S. (2016). Contexts Interview: RaceBaitr Talks #HistoryByHillary, Queerness. In Contexts, Summer 2016
  • Thrasher, S. (2016). Contexts Interview: Talking Happiness, Security and Counterinsurgency with Laleh Khalili. In Contexts, Spring 2016
  • Thrasher, S. (2015). “I can breathe” and the occasional fear of covering protests. In Contexts, Winter 2015

Book Chapters

  • Thrasher, S. (2019 forthcoming). Justin Philip Reed: A most indecent Black queer poet. In Contemporary Literary Criticism, 457. Gale/Layman Poupard Publishing.
  • Thrasher, S. (2019 forthcoming). Discursive hustling and queer of color interviewing. In A. Ghaziani and M. Brim (Eds.), Imagining Queer Methods. New York University Press.
  • Thrasher, S. (2018). An interview with Sarah Schulman. In S. Schulman, My American History: Lesbian and Gay Life During the Reagan/Bush Years, 2nd Edition (pp. 329-343). Routledge Press.
  • Gutiérrez, J. & Thrasher, S., Helm-Hernández, P., Vidal-Ortiz, S. Rothlein, T. and Jones, A. (2018). Systemic Violence: Reflections on the Pulse Nightclub Massacre. In A. Jones., J. DeFilippis and M. Yarbrough, The Unfinished Queer Agenda After Marriage Equality (pp. 20 -35). Routledge Press.
  • Thrasher, S. & Foster, G., Ochs, R., Vaid, U. and Ziyad, H. (2018). LGBTQ Politics After Marriage: A panel discussion. In A. Jones. J. DeFilippis and M. Yarbrough, Queer Activism after Marriage Equality (pp. 17 – 36). Routledge Press.
  • Thrasher, S. (2018). The three Missouri Mikes; and, Knowledge for the next generation’s movement. In S. Ali and P. Cohen (Eds.), Contexts Reader, 3rd Edition (pp. 141 – 144, 236-237). W.W. Norton.
  • Thrasher, S. (2017). Black Lives Matter pop culture moment couldn’t come at a better time. In H. Strmic-Pawl and M. Vickerman (Eds.), Race and Ethnicity: Constancy in Change. Cognella Academic Press, 2017.
  • Thrasher, S (2016). Who’s the man? Black masculinity and stardom. In J. Bell and A. Clark (Eds.), Black Star: A BFI Compendium (pp. 6 – 14). British Film Institute.