Dr. David Boyles and Rebecca Semik

LGBTQIA+ Activism in Arizona

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Don’t believe the hype! Much of the narratives about LGBTQIA+ communities and conversations regarding their rights have become fodder for political theatre. In this episode, the Lab brings together educators and community leaders to discuss the legacy and importance of intentional community, strong visual representation, and strategic activism.

In this episode, we are joined by ASU faculty Dr. David Boyles and Rebecca Semik, who provide insight on the ever-evolving landscape of LGBTQIA+ activism. Dr. Boyles is the President of Drag Story Hour Arizona and Semik works with GLSEN Arizona.

The backdrop of this episode is a laundry list of 426 anti-LGBTQ+ bills across the country, connecting Arizona to the larger national conversation around queer communities. Our guests take us through what Dr. Boyles explains as a cyclical history of LGBTQ+ visibility. We discuss escalating violence, the history and impact of Drag Story Hour, the legacy of intentional community building, and how to support LGBTQ+ youth and communities around the world. 

Together, they break down the overwhelming amount of new bills intended to criminalize, stigmatize and restrict drag performances, which can put a wide range of gendered experiences in jeopardy. Although these bills will not be passed in Arizona, other states around the country are starting to see these bills become laws. They also give insight into why these bills are linked to an escalation of violence in our communities and why activism is important.

Dr. Boyles references film historian and activist Vito Russo’s book “The Celluloid Closet” (Harper & Row, 1981) and the 1995 documentary based on the book. Explore the PBS collection “The LGBTQ+ Experience”, which includes films, visual timelines, digital shorts and articles on the history of LGBTQ+ activism and the contributions of their communities to the American experience. To stay current on state legislative efforts, explore the Equality Federation’s State Legislation Tracker and learn more about the equal rights advocacy work of the Human Rights Campaign in Arizona along with state organizations Equality ArizonaGLSEN ArizonaDrag Story Hour Arizona, Support Equality Arizona Schools and Trans Queer Pueblo

Kyle McKinney, a recent graduate of the Interdisciplinary Studies master’s program at ASU, provides the episode’s “Learning Moment” to reflect on the ideas presented in the episode.

Dr. David Boyles
Rebecca Semik

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