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Faculty Spotlight: Libby Adler

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Headshot of Libby Adler

Professor Libby Adler always knew she wanted to teach. Both of her parents were high school teachers and, while she was also interested in becoming a lawyer, Adler says the “teaching bug” has always been with her.

After graduating from Northeastern’s School of Law, Adler decided to return to law school at Harvard University and earn her LLM. “I went back to round myself out as a legal thinker and get a stronger sense of the history,” said Adler. The extra time spent in law school further prepared Adler to teach at Northeastern’s School of Law, where she has been a faculty member for more than two decades.

Before Professor Adler began teaching, she worked as a policy attorney for the Massachusetts Child Support Enforcement Agency, drafting regulations and legislation. She also spent two years working at The New England Home child welfare agency before she started law school. Adler’s experiences in both of these positions contributed to her growing interest in women’s and gender studies, leading her to her current position teaching in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program. She’s been at CSSH since 2017.

Adler’s book, Gay Priori: A Queer Critical Legal Studies Approach to Law Reform, was published in 2018 by Duke University Press. Adler describes Gay Priori as two strands of her life coming together–personal and academic. Her personal interest in LGBTQ rights arose from her experience growing up in upstate New York through the start of the AIDS crisis. Adler described the time as “scary,” as she saw how much homophobia affected minorities and low-income members of the LGBTQ community.

“My earliest experiences of joining the LGBT community was a time where I was surrounded by a lot of fear, a lot of poverty, and not a lot of safety.”

Adler drew from experiences in the community around her for Gay Priori, and was motivated to write from her academic perspective as a professor of law. Using her knowledge in queer theory and critical theory, Adler wrote a thorough critiqe of mainstream LGBTQ legal agendas. “Adler invites us to shift priorities, focusing on the poorest and most marginalized sectors of our communities while at the same time resisting and challenging the prototypical frames of gay identity,” wrote a Slate book reviewer.

In the 2023 Spring semester, Adler will be teaching Sexuality, Gender, and the Law in CSSH. Aside from her teaching, Adler is also working on a new project about LGBTQ legal progress in Cuba.

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