ASU faculty discuss LGBTQ+ barriers, opportunities in education

June 9, 2023

June is Pride Month, a time that promotes inclusivity, raises awareness of LGBTQ+ issues and celebrates the contributions the LGBTQ+ community has made to society. 

In honor of Pride Month, we spoke to a group of educators at Arizona State University to get their expertise on topics such as book bans, LGBTQ+ representation in media, finding community and more. In June, Pride Month is a time to promote inclusivity, raise awareness and celebrate the contributions the LGBTQ+ community has made to society. Photo by Meghan Finnerty Download Full Image

A buffet of knowledge

According to PEN America, 41% percent of currently challenged or banned books have content related to LGBTQ+ identity and themes.

For example, “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, the most banned book in the 2021–22 school year, has been banned in 41 districts. 

Gabriel Acevedo is one of many faculty in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences who are working to foster educational excellence, intellectual inquiry and discovery — from expanding students’ knowledge of LGBTQ+ literature to shifts in pop culture and community-driven work. 

“I try to give students a buffet of knowledge, a sample of everything,” said Acevedo, an assistant professor in the Department of English. “As an educator, I cannot send you out into the world without knowing there are options. Then they can decide what to do with that information.

“A job of an educator is to tell you all the facts and what is out there for you to make choices. By limiting that knowledge or not providing access to it, we are underestimating the student's abilities to make choices that fit their lives," Acevedo said. "We learn by reading. We learn by engaging these topics. If we don’t know these topics (because) we don’t engage with these materials, are we learning?” 

Fostering educational excellence and inclusion

Madelaine Adelman, a justice and social inquiry professor in the School of Social Transformation, researches LGBTQ+ identity and policy in the education system.

“There are people who are beaten down, worn out, not inspired to continue their education because of their negative experiences in the K–12 system,” she said.

Adelman says K12 education is crucial to a young person’s development. If they feel accepted, they will want to continue their educational journey.

“School is five days a week; it’s a majority over their week,” Adelman said. “Why would they want to be in a place where they don’t feel accepted? Why would they want to continue their education in that space?

“The research, the teaching, the advocacy is so important. I want any student at ASU, or any other place for that matter, to feel they belong.”

David Boyles, an instructor in the Department of English, teaches LGBTQ+ Youth in Pop Culture and Politics, a Discovery Seminar that examines pop culture in the context of contemporary issues, such as conversion therapy, transgender people participating in school sports and teaching LGBTQ+ history.

Because college is a time for exploration, self-discovery and personal reflection, these Discovery Seminars ideally allow first-year students a space to uncover new topics in a supportive environment.

Boyles has been teaching the course since fall 2019 and uses it to provide context and allow students to expand their knowledge to make informed decisions.

“My goal with the class was to present this information and open up opportunities for further discussion,” he said. “Whether that is talking about LGBTQ portrayals in media or television or the shift in cultural and political landscapes.”

Representation in the media

Julia Himberg, the director of the film and media studies program in the Department of English, researches media representation of the LGBTQ+ community and serves as a board member for GLSEN Arizona

Her course LGBTV: Television, Sexuality and Gender dives into popular shows that feature lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender characters. It looks at the representation of these characters and personalities in reality shows, sitcoms and dramas to “understand the complex functionalities of sexual identity in television shows.” 

Despite upward trends in book bans and other anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, the U.S. has seen an increase in representation of the LGBTQ+ community on TV.

For instance, between June 2021 and May 2022, a record high of 11.9% of regular characters on primetime TV shows were LGBTQ+, according to a study from GLAAD.

“We’ve seen a massive amount of change in the industry itself and how we consume television,” Himberg said. “I’m seeing this bigger push for representation in front of the cameras and behind the camera with the people helping to tell the story.”

Learning outside the classroom

The ASU scholars stressed that opportunities to learn about LGBTQ+ issues don't have to be limited to the classroom, and recommend for people to go out on their own to find resources and educate themselves about understanding various perspectives.

“I always encourage people, if they feel uncomfortable with a topic, to sit down and talk about it. It’s challenging your perspective and showing you a different outlook,” Acevedo said. 

“You may not agree with it, but it’s something that exists, and you’ll be grateful in the end because you had that conversation.” 

Some resources include:

• Media recommendations from faculty at The College that share LGBTQ+ stories and perspectives.

• Information about workshops, resources, cultural celebrations and more.

• How The College is helping support and foster a culture of inclusiveness.

For other ways to get involved, check out the following local organizations:


• Equality Arizona.

• GLSEN Arizona.

• Human Rights Campaign Phoenix.

Stephen Perez

Marketing and Communications Coordinator, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Pride Month summer reading, watching, listening

ASU faculty give their media recommendations on stories that honor the LGBTQ+ community

June 9, 2023

This Pride Month, professors in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University provide their recommendations for books, movies, podcasts and more that include stories and characters that have helped catalyze change in the LGBTQ+ community.

RELATED: Faculty at The College discuss LGBTQ+ barriers, opportunities in education Download Full Image


"Gender Queer: A Memoir"

The award-winning book by Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, documents eir journey of self-identity, the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, how to come out to family and society, and other parts of Kobabe’s journey.

“Gender Queer: A Memoir” is “more than a personal story: It is a useful and touching guide on gender identity — what it means and how to think about it — for advocates, friends and humans everywhere,” according to the book’s abstract.

"Into the Light"

The New York Times bestselling LatinxA gender-neutral version of Latino/a. queer author Mark Oshiro wrote “Into the Light,” a young adult fiction and thriller book that Publishers Weekly described as a “breathtaking indictment of corrupted religion’s consequences” that “presents a standout, deeply felt portrait of a teenager’s longing for connection.”

"The Mother of a Movement: Jeanne Manford — Ally, Activist, and Founder of PFLAG"

This true story written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Sam Kalda shares the story of Jeanne Manford, the founder of Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

“When her son Morty was beaten by New York City officials for handing out pro-gay leaflets, Manford wrote a powerful letter to the New York Post to complain about how Morty was treated. In the letter, she came out as the mother of a gay son,” reads the book’s abstract.


"One Year: 1977 podcast" — Episode 1

Episode one of One Year: 1977 — titled "Anita Bryant’s War on Gay Rights," hosted by Slate’s national editor Josh Levin, tells a story about a local fight over gay rights in Miami, Florida. “And at the center of it all was a pop singer and orange juice spokesperson named Anita Bryant,” reads the episode description.

This story launches the history podcast’s first season, covering a year when “gay rights hung in the balance.”

"TransLash Podcast"

TransLash Podcast, hosted by award-winning journalist Imara Jones, tells stories of transgender lives. In this biweekly series launched in 2020, Jones has discussions with members and allies of the trans community.

Together they discuss “how to create a fairer world for all,” according to the podcast description.


"Little Richard: I Am Everything"

How to watch: AppleTV, Vudu, YouTube

The documentary explores the life of rock n’ roll “King and Queen” Richard Penniman, famously known as Little Richard.

According to Rotten Tomatoes, the movie “tells the story of the Black queer origins of rock n’ roll, exploding the whitewashed canon of American pop music to reveal the innovator the originator Richard Penniman. Through a wealth of archive and performance that brings us into Richard’s complicated inner world, the film unspools the icon’s life story with all its switchbacks and contradictions.”

"Two Spirits: Sexuality, Gender, and the Murder of Fred Martinez"

How to watch: AppleTV, Vudu, YouTube

This documentary tells the tragic story of Fred Martinez. He was "a nádleehí," a male-bodied person with a feminine nature, a special gift according to his ancient Navajo culture.

“He was one of the youngest hate-crime victims in modern history when he was brutally murdered at 16. 'Two Spirits' explores the life and death of this boy who was also a girl, and the essentially spiritual nature of gender,” according to PBS.


"Abbott Elementary"

How to watch: ABC

“Abbott Elementary” is a mockumentary that follows a group of elementary school teachers in an underfunded school. One of the characters in the ABC sitcom, history teacher Jacob (played by Chris Perfetti), is an openly queer character.

According to PinkNews, fans have praised the show’s “casual and refreshing” reveal of the character’s sexuality and avoiding big, stereotypical plot lines.

"A League of Their Own"

How to watch: Amazon Prime

The television version of the 1993 baseball film is based on the real-life story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during World War II. The new series, created by Will Graham and Abbi Jacobson, focuses on the voices of queer characters that the film did not.

The Guardian said, “The women’s baseball drama smashes it out of the park when it comes to representation.”


How to watch: Netflix

A coming-of-age romantic comedy series adapted from the book of the same name, “Heartstopper” tells the story of Charlie Spring, a boy who falls in love with classmate Nick Nelson. 

Alice Oseman, the book’s author, told Vox, “I want ‘Heartstopper’ to inspire young people especially LGBTQ+ young people  to be whoever they want to be, and to believe that they can find happiness and find love and find friendship because it is a joyful story. … Everyone can get something out of it.”


How to watch: AppleTV+

This workplace drama stars Adam Scott, John Turturro and Christopher Walken. 

“In the series, Mark (Scott) leads a team of office workers whose memories have been surgically divided between their work and personal lives. When a mysterious colleague appears outside of work, it begins a journey to discover the truth about their jobs,” according to the show’s summary.

A subplot includes Burt (Walken) and Irving (Turturro) finding their way to each other despite the rules of interoffice romances.

Video series

Southern Arizona Gender Alliance video library

The Southern Arizona Gender Alliance is a nonprofit organization that supports, advocates and promotes justice for Southern Arizona’s transgender, nonbinary and gender-creative people. Their collection of videos shares several stories of real-life experiences, insights and journeys.

The StoryBank Project — GLSEN Arizona

This digital depository tells stories from people directly involved with the chapter’s work — educators, students, organizers and volunteers. Their story bank documents the chapter’s history, expands visibility and celebrates the strength of their community members.


"UP" by David Archuleta

David Archuleta’s latest single, released June 2, captures his journey coming out and learning to love himself. 

“I hit rock bottom. I thought I wouldn’t get through it, but here I am. … You need to hold on to that glimmer of hope and say, I am going to turn any type of hate and negativity into positivity and love,” he shared in a recent Instagram post about the song.

"You and Me on the Rock" by Brandi Carlile ft. Catherine Carlile

The 2021 song by country artist Brandi Carlile is about her wife, Catherine, who is also a featured artist.

Stephen Perez

Marketing and Communications Coordinator, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences