Out magazine named Steven Thrasher, ISGMH faculty member and Daniel H. Renberg chair of social justice in reporting at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, to its annual Out100 list of “the year’s most impactful and influential LGBTQ+ people.” Profiled for his fight against the criminalization of HIV, Thrasher enjoys the company of journalist Ronan Farrow, rapper Lil Nas X, trans activist Gavin Grimm, and WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner on this year’s list.
“I am deeply honored to be included on the Out100, especially as I wrote for Out in the early years of my journalism career,” said Thrasher. “And I was especially touched to be included alongside two HIV researchers I deeply admire—and to see the Renberg chair mentioned. The Renberg chair was named for Daniel Renberg by his surviving husband, Eugene Kapaloski, and they were owners of Out decades before Daniel passed away. So it’s nice to see the work I am able to do at Northwestern in this chair honored in a gay publication they supported long ago.”
Thrasher spent several years covering the legal case of Michael Johnson, a Black man who was sentenced to 30 years in prison for exposing male sexual partners to HIV without disclosing that he was HIV positive, for BuzzFeed News. Earlier this year, Johnson was released 25 years early after an appeals court determined that his original trial was “fundamentally unfair.” The laws that criminalize HIV exposure—like those used to charge and sentence Johnson—do not stop the transmission of HIV, according to Thrasher. Instead, such laws stigmatize those living with HIV and can prevent people from getting tested for the virus. “Among a majority of young people, the virus transmits most frequently from people who do not know that they are living with HIV. So there is no ‘deterrent effect’ from HIV laws in terms of ‘risky behavior,’” Thrasher told Out.