August 3, 2022

EP. 276 — When Viruses Spread, Who’s Most Vulnerable? with Dr. Steven W. Thrasher

Viral spread, this week’s guest reminds us, “happens through very normative life activities: sex, breathing, handshaking, hugging, just being. The things that we have to do to stay alive.” So what happens when we encounter viruses through these activities? The answer often depends on who “we” are. Listen in as Dr. Steven W. Thrasher and Jonathan explore how social inequalities in the US and beyond shape how viruses spread—and who is most vulnerable when they do.

A note from team Getting Curious: We recorded this episode with Dr. Thrasher back in May, just as we started hearing about the international monkeypox outbreak, so even though this episode holds great relevance, you won’t hear much about monkeypox in the conversation itself. We’ll hope to have updated coverage and commentary on our @CuriouswithJVN social media pages soon.

CW: This episode discusses police violence, bodily harm, and hateful rhetoric.

Steven W. Thrasher, PhD holds the inaugural Daniel H. Renberg chair at Northwestern University’s Medill School, the first journalism professorship in the world created to focus on LGBTQ research. A columnist for Scientific American, his writing has been widely published by The New York Times, Nation, The Atlantic, Journal of American History, Esquire and New York Magazine. In 2019, Out Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential and impactful people of the year, and the Ford Foundation awarded him a grant for Creativity and Free Expression. The Viral Underclass is his first book.

You can follow Steven on Twitter @thrasherxy. You can follow Celadon Books on Twitter @CeladonBooks for updates on The Viral Underclass and other books.

Join the conversation, and find out what former guests are up to, by following us on Instagram and Twitter @CuriousWithJVN.

Jonathan is on Instagram and Twitter @JVN and @Jonathan.Vanness on Facebook.

Transcripts for each episode are available at

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JVN [00:00:00] Welcome to Getting Curious and every week, I sit down for a gorgeous conversation with a brilliant expert to learn all about something that makes me curious. On today’s episode, I’m joined by Dr. Steven Thrasher where I ask him: Are viruses classist? Welcome to Getting Curious. This is Jonathan Van Ness. This is going to be an interesting intro because usually, honey, I go right into it, but I just learned, you guys. Tan always tells me that I say “milk” in a really weird way because I don’t say milk, I say melk. I also just learned I do this in other words, when I was practicing this intro with our stunning guest. Dr. Steven Thrasher holds the inaugural Daniel H. Ramberg, chair at Northwestern University’s Medill School, the first journalism professorship in the world created to focus on LGBTQ research. His new book The Viral Underclass explores how viruses expose the fault lines of society. Wow. Dr. Steven Thrasher, how are you today

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