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 include the study of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) politics and the incorporation of LGBT individuals into groups (e.g., communities, cities) and the law.
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.
This project grew out of 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 other research projects include an analysis of transgender inclusion in queer sexual spaces and lesbian inclusion in sorority rushing.
My current major project is& four-city comparative study of the way lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities and individuals develop cultural citizenship through their integration into urban festivals in four cities in the South and Southwest. The sites for this project include two Southwestern fiestas (Santa Fe Fiesta and San Antonio Fiesta) and two cities that celebrate Carnival (Mobile Mardi Gras and Baton Rouge Mardi Gras). Urban festivals, particularly large, multi-day festivals, foster urban place-making and develop community and identity; thus, these festivals are a site for contention by minority groups, who advocate for their full inclusion and representation. I argue that this contention is inherently about citizenship in the city, as citizenship is about belonging to a social entity larger than oneself and being acknowledged by that entity as a member in order to achieve full inclusion in a social and political body. Whose culture gets included and valued, which events are allowed, and how different communities are represented become socially significant and fraught questions. This project studies the conditions under which minority groups are culturally integrated into city life, the extent to which distinct minority cultures are valued and acknowledged, and whether this acknowledgment leads to a greater sense of belonging to the city for minority group members.
A consequence of my research on Fiesta has been studying the history of Cornyation, a satire of debutante pageantry that began in 1951 and is now a popular Fiesta event. Through the years Cornyation has mocked social and political issues both in San Antonio and nationally. Since 1990, the show has raised over a million dollars for HIV/AIDS service organizations in San Antonio, among other causes.
I’m the incoming deputy editor of Gender &Society, a top-ranked gender studies journal.
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.