To study sociology is to understand our place in the social world better. How we came to be, what we think and feel, and how we identify ourselves.
My research interests lay at the intersection of the sociology of social movements and the sociology of gender and sexuality.
My dissertation work at the University of Michigan on transgender inclusion in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) movement combined these interests by examining how political campaigns composed primarily of lesbian and gay activists created and defended transgender-inclusive non-discrimination laws on the local level. Transgender inclusion has been fraught with difficulty in the LGBT movement, and transgender issues are frequently marginalized by lesbian and gay activists. My dissertation explores how lesbian and gay activists grow supportive of transgender inclusion by creating ally identities and how these ally identities translate into group support of transgender-inclusive legislation.
My book, Gay Rights at the Ballot Box, focuses on how activists in political campaigns fight anti-gay initiatives. More and more LGBT rights are contested at the ballot box through the referendum and initiative process, such as in California with Proposition 8, which eliminated same-sex marriage with a constitutional amendment. While the passage of Proposition 8 in California in 2008 brought anti-gay ballot measures to national attention, the LGBT movement and religious right have been battling each other at the ballot box since 1974 all across the country. Since 1974, the LGBT movement has fought over 145 anti-gay ballot measures sponsored by the religious right, losing the vast majority of the time. This book is the first historical overview of all anti-gay ballot measures, both attempted and on the ballot, thus far. Using detailed historical records and interviews with more than 100 activists who fight anti-gay ballot measures, this book gives the story behind the campaigns. In Gay Rights at the Ballot Box, I analyze how LGBT activists, working against tremendous odds, have developed tactics or ways of fighting these ballot measures, devoting considerable movement resources to these battles. Through a detailed history of the fight against these ballot measures, this book examines how some tactics become valued over others, normalized within the movement.
My other research projects include an analysis of transgender inclusion in queer sexual spaces and lesbian inclusion in sorority rushing, along with a newly begun project on gender and sexuality in urban festivals. I am studying the politics of Fiesta events such as the Cornyation and Fiesta Frenzy, events sponsored primarily by the local LGBT community during a city-wide festival in San Antonio. Who is allowed to represent the city at such a visible, public event is a political question, and the consequences of that representation may resonate in city politics outside of Fiesta time.
I've been involved for several years as a survey researcher on the San Antonio Point in Time committee, which coordinates an enumeration and survey of the homeless in San Antonio every year. I've also spoken across the city on LGBT issues.
I'm a frequent judge of the Sexual Diversity Alliance (SDA) drag show, faculty co-sponsor of SDA, and a member of the Women and Gender Studies Advisory Committee.