10:42 AM

Communication Professor Continues Fight for Equality, Inclusion

By Tim Meehan

Reaching one’s fifth decade of life usually equates to slowing down to some degree. But when you’re working, nay fighting, for equality and inclusion, changing paces isn’t necessarily an option.

While busy is the new normal for nearly everyone, meet Andy Spieldenner – new author, soon-to-be Faculty Center Research Colloquium speaker, recent NSF grant recipient and, above all, fighter.

“We're all busy,” Spieldenner said. “For me, there's been a lot of synchronicities, things that have finally come forward and hatched. A lot of the work that I'm doing, I'm lucky. It's funny. In Mexico, most of my friends when I say, ‘Oh, I have meetings all day,’ they’re like, ‘Oh, you're so lucky. You work, that's fantastic.’ So it's a very different perspective than what I have in the U.S. People are overwhelmed with all this stuff and don't appreciate the fact that there's stuff to do.”

For a person who battles and inspires daily, it’s not surprising to hear the associate professor of communication at Cal State San Marcos offer perspective like this.

Spieldenner has been teaching at CSUSM since 2017. In that time, he has further established himself as a groundbreaking researcher on topics that not only affect the LGBTQIA+ community but the world at large.

He considers himself a community-engaged researcher, conducting his work while directly involving patients, health service systems, community-based-organizations, and other stakeholder groups. He is active in providing knowledge and assistance to those beyond just CSUSM.

“I'm very active in the community,” said Spieldenner, who has been HIV-positive since 1998. “I work with multiple faculty and different campuses to do some of the work. I work also with some faculty in the UC system, especially the queer people of color. That's part of the network that I'm in. The work that I do on campus, I really try to make it meaningful for the entire college or the entire university. I try to bring my experience and nonprofit leadership into the budget discussions or getting a strategic plan done. It's not just an academic exercise. It is a practice-based thing. So I'm bringing that to my role at the university.”

One of Spieldenner’s passions is educating his students and the public about health inequalities, particularly within the U.S. And particularly involving gay men.

Years of research involving medicine like pills for erectile dysfunction and PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), which is nearly 100% effective against getting HIV from sex or injection drug use with one pill a day, led him to edit a collection of essays and articles entitled “A Pill for Promiscuity: Gay Sex in an Age of Pharmaceuticals.”

The official book release came in February at New York City’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center.

One of the main themes of the collection is the shame gay, bi, queer, and trans people have for their sexual desires, and how that shame manifests itself.

The center nearly sold out of its pre-ordered allotment on the day of his arrival.

“It's one of the things that we found really important was to engage in a dialogue or community dialogue that what people would want to buy, they want to be part of,” said Spieldenner, who has a bachelor’s in ethnic studies (UC Berkeley), a master’s in theatre (UCLA) and a doctorate in communication (Howard). “One of the things about university publishing right now is, it's become a bit of an echo chamber, where you're only talking to 12 other academics or a very small group of people. And I think, how do we get past that as academics and as professors? How do we get beyond if what we're researching is important? And if we think it's important to everyday people, why can't we find ways to communicate that out?”

One simple and well-thought-out solution came with Spieldenner’s publisher. A new offshoot of Rutgers University Press, Q+Public is a new publishing house that seeks to give voices to semi-academic and cultural LGBTQ+ collections from leading thinkers, writers and artists.

Q+Public agreed to keep the price of “A Pill for Promiscuity” under $20, a deal Spieldenner feels will allow it to be absorbed by the general community at a much more palatable rate.

“That's why this book was important in that it’s the first one I made that was not meant for only libraries,” said Spieldenner, whose co-editor and close friend Jeffrey Escoffier died after it was completed. “It’s meant to be sold, meant to be shared and showed around. There are comic books in it. There's art in it. There's lots of different ways to access the book. And it's different generations, too, so Andrew Holleran is in it. (Escoffier) is in it, and another guy, Jeff Weinstein. They're all in their 70s. And then we had people in their 20s writing in it. So they’re all having this kind of multigenerational queer conversation.”

Not stopping there, Spieldenner – who just celebrated the two-year mark of being executive director at MPact Global Action for Gay Men’s Health and Rights – recently earned a grant award from the National Science Foundation.

His proposal, “Knowledge of HIV/AIDS: Expertise, Participation, and the Archive in the Long Pandemic,” earned him a development grant in the amount of $56,944.

Taking initiative has been a hallmark of Spieldenner’s life at CSUSM.

Spieldenner brings his leadership and commitment to inclusivity to the College of Humanities, Arts, Behavioral, and Social Sciences (CHABSS) where he has also been working diligently alongside CHABSS Dean Liora Gubkin and Associate Dean Carmen Nava to formulate the college’s approach to the university’s strategic plan.

“As co-chair of the CHABSS Strategic Planning task force, Andy has given an invaluable amount of his time and energy to help create our vision moving forward,” Gubkin said. “Andy understands the importance of attending to both data and narrative, and I especially appreciate his calm and inclusive leadership. He clearly values the perspectives of many stakeholders and is committed to a thriving future for the college and university.”

On April 4, Spieldenner will be the guest speaker at the annual Faculty Center Research Colloquium gathering in front of the CSUSM community.

He was pleasantly surprised when he got to pick the food for the event (“As long as there’s wine, I’m easy”), and he invited his family to attend. He most likely will jot a few notes down for his talk, but more than likely it will veer to topics he finds interesting.

In typical Spieldenner fashion, he has something funny to say about the upcoming event, but he knows deep down that it’s yet another opportunity to share knowledge, spread love, and yes, keep busy.

“It's an honor to be considered for this, much less get it, and to share some of the work that I do,” said Spieldenner, who currently serves as vice-chair of the U.S. People Living with HIV Caucus. “We only see the small window into a person's life. As academics, we see that less because we only see each other in department meetings, and nobody reads each other's work really. So that's the other piece of it. They'll see how I believe that community voice is what changes laws and policies. Communities’ voices do it.

“That's what I'm going to focus my talk on – showing how communities change laws and policies and practices by using their voices and advocacy. People's voices matter. You can have all the data you want. People's voices matter.”

Media Contact

Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist

ebreier@csusm.edu | Office: 760-750-7314