I've always been interested in the ways in which policy is used as a tool that drives diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. In particular, I'm driven by the question: how is policy an articulated expression of a community or organization's principles? Put another way, my work examines how policy does important discursive work, orienting towards certain ways of doing DEI (and consequently away from others).
I've examined this question through a wide variety of projects, from transgender policies at historically gendered colleges to gender in craft beer communities and more.
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Trans @ Historically Women's Colleges
BUILDING BRIDGES: RESEARCHING WITH, AND NOT FOR, STUDENTS ON DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
Public Feminisms, with Gabrielle Rodriguez Gonzalez and Jack Kendrick
In this chapter, we explore the impacts of trickle-down diversity work and imagine the possibilities of trickle-up diversity work as an alternative through our shared experiences as trans and non-binary students, alumni, and faculty at three historically women’s colleges (HWC). HWCs have been a central site for discussing transgender diversity, inclusion, and policy particularly after Smith College, an HWC in Massachusetts, denied the admission of Calliope Wong in 2013. Such debates, which have continued on these campuses, center around the institutional purpose of these colleges as well as ask for whom these colleges are for and how they determine womanhood—by sex or by gender. As a result of trans student-led activism, over half of all HWCs have since adopted formal admission policies that allow for the admissions of trans women, men, and non-binary applicants, though these policies vary widely across institutions regarding the various criteria of who is considered admissible. While certainly such policies are necessary, however, they do little to actually include trans students if students’ presence is tenuous at best. In what follows, we engage in an ethnographic dialogue to theorize key considerations for practicing trickle-up policy work as a public feminist method with, and just not for, trans students.
While few in number, gender-selective colleges have become a central site of public discourse surrounding the presence of transgender students. Because such colleges rely on bounded conceptions of sex (or, as discussed, gender) to determine who can and cannot be eligible for admissions, the enrollment and matriculation of transgender students pose a challenge to these definitions. In effect, the central organizing logic of the gendered institution becomes undone, or rather, re-done as such colleges have also attempted to create new admissions policies to accommodate such population changes. As such, this poses the sociological question of how these colleges are defined: by the sex of the student body, or gender? In this review, I first synthesize the small, yet growing academic literature on transgender students and policies at single-sex/gender diverse colleges. I then draw upon theorizations of gendered and queer organizations to analyze attempts to or transgender organizations through the adoption of transgender inclusive policies and practices. As Schilt and Westbrook (2014) have noted, the enactment of gendered policies is, at its core, about upholding the logic of gender segregation by determining what gender means through alignments of biomedical, identity, and legal criteria. I ask how the construction and enforcement of transgender inclusive policies within gender-specific colleges both rearticulates and transcends the gendering of organizations. In answering this, this research contributes to three research concerns within Sociology of Gender: 1) educational experiences and outcomes beyond the gender binary; 2) (re)gendered and transgender-inclusive organizations; and 3) critical transgender policy development. In sum, this paper rethinks gender as central organizing principals and products of organizations; not simply in terms of the identities that are listed in policies or present in spaces, but in the negotiation of gender’s construction between interactional and institutional level.
OPEN GATES, BROKEN PROMISES: INCLUSION POLICIES AND TRANSGENDER STUDENT EXPERIENCES IN GENDER-SELECTIVE COLLEGES
Since 2013, over half of all gender-selective women’s colleges in the United States have adopted admission policies that outline varying biological, social, and legal criteria for who may apply to their institution. In effect, these policies opened the gates to admission, driven by the goal to be more inclusive to transgender applicants, especially trans* women. This dissertation examines if and how these policies enact missions of social justice, diversity, and inclusion through the informal practices, production, and regulation of gender on campus. How do gender-selective women’s colleges go from trans* admitting to trans* serving? Through a nine-month ethnography of trans* admission policies at two gender-selective women’s colleges, including 126 interviews with students, alumni, faculty, staff, and administrators; archival document analysis regarding trans* and queer history on campus; and participant observation of events and spaces on campus with trans* students, my objective is to describe the world that takes shape when gender and feminism become institutionalized, routine, and used as descriptions to both include and exclude. I contend that the impact of these admission policies is not limited to the application process, but rather the experiences of matriculated students are shaped by the gendered norms and discourses structured within the policies themselves. Findings suggest that despite the fact that these policies, formally, allow for transgender students to apply and enroll to gender-selective women’s colleges, institutionalized commitments to inclusion obscure and even intensify existing gender inequality, particularly for students who do not fit within normative ideals of the “right way to be trans*” including those who are low-income, non-white, and trans* men. Because the feminist missions of these colleges continue to reaffirm an ideal of white, cisgender womanhood on campus, the extent to which these inclusion policies were able to make fundamental structural changes in how gendered power, resources, and opportunities are distributed was limited at best. As such, this dissertation is a call to think about gender as an institutional product; not simply in terms of the politics that are attached to the experiences, bodies, and identities, but in the very constitution of gender as a social category. As an ethnography of how these categories become comprehensible, admissible, and livable, this dissertation complicates our understanding of how policies work, how gender is reinforced in the women’s college setting, and how to transform institutional practices through a trans* justice framework.
Rethinking LGBTQIA Students and Collegiate Contexts: Identity, Policies, and Campus Climate, with Kari Dockendorff and Z Nicolazzo
While there has been an ongoing push within postsecondary education for “data-driven decision-making,” there has been some provocative questioning of just what it means to collect data and develop policies to accommodate trans* populations. The relative lack of interrogation about such policy-making signals the ways in which institutional sexism reinforces and bolsters the ongoing effects of transgender oppression. This chapter discusses how calls for collecting certain types of data that already exist (e.g., climate data) or are rift with problematic assumptions and often become overly simplified (e.g., demographic data) continue to serve as impediments to forward policy-based progress. Rather, this chapter discusses what data is needed in order to chart a course for trans*formative change in postsecondary education, highlighting several ongoing initiatives to collect data with and alongside transgender students, faculty, and staff to further gender justice. The chapter closes with a vision of what trans*formational policies could look like across educational contexts and spaces.
Intersectionality and Higher Education: Identity and Inequality on College Campuses
Outcry and protest arose in 2013 when Smith College, a women’s college in Massachusetts, denied admission to Calliope Wong, a trans* woman, because her financial aid form indicated her sex as male. Since then, at least 20 women’s colleges have adopted admissions policies outlining varying biological, social, and legal criteria for who may apply to the institution. In this chapter, I complicate our understanding of gendered policies as a relationship between identity, biology, and legal status leading to trans* precarity. Rather than sex/gender serving as the sole institutional barrier for trans* individuals at these institutions, the utilization of an intersectional analysis can highlight how even seemingly inclusive institutional policies may still exclude the most marginalized students. I call for higher education practitioners and policy makers to rethink adding trans* identities to pre-existing nondiscrimination policies that invite students into broken systems. I emphasize trickle-up justice and policy building led by the students to assist with addressing the multiple, interlocking systems of inequalities preventing full inclusion and participation within postsecondary systems of education.
Advances in Gender Research: Gender Panic, Gender Policy (vol. 24)
This study highlights the nuances and strategies of boundary construction in regards to the social category of woman. I propose that researchers expand theorizations of gendered boundary negotiation to consider the ways in which boundaries are drawn not only as a form of panic and exclusion but also as a response to such panics to promote inclusivity and diversity.
Gender & Society 31(2):145-170, with David Brunsma
In 2013, controversy sparked student protests, campus debates, and national attention when Smith College denied admittance to Calliope Wong—a trans woman. Since then, eight women’s colleges have revised their admissions policies to include different gender identities such as trans women and genderqueer people. Given the recency of such policies, we interrogate the ways the category “woman” is determined through certain alignments of biology-, legal-, and identity-based criteria. Through an inductive analysis of administrative scripts appearing both in student newspapers and in trans admittance policies, we highlight two areas U.S. women’s colleges straddle while creating these policies: inclusion/exclusion scripts of self-identification and legal documentation, and tradition-/activism-speak. Through these tensions, women’s college admittance policies not only construct “womanhood” but also serve as regulatory norms that redo gender as a structuring agent within the gendered organization.
CIS: WOMEN'S STUDIES OR GENDER STUDIES?
Rethinking Women’s and Gender Studies II, edited by Catherine Orr and Ann Braithwaite. New York: Routledge.
The SAGE Encyclopedia of Trans Studies
Journal of LGBT Youth 15(2):135-137
Higher Ed Inequalities
Gender and Society
Journal of LGBT Youth 16(1):113-15
Research in Higher Education 59(5):553-590, with Sarah Ovink, Demetra Kalogrides, and Patrick Delaney
Recently, multiple studies have focused on the phenomenon of “undermatching”—when students attend a college for which they are overqualified, as measured by test scores and grades. The extant literature suggests that students who undermatch fail to maximize their potential. However, gaps remain in our knowledge about how student preferences—such as a desire to attend college close to home—influence differential rates of undermatching. Moreover, previous research has not directly tested whether and to what extent students who undermatch experience more negative post-college outcomes than otherwise similar students who attend “match” colleges. Using ELS:2002, we find that student preferences for low-cost, nearby colleges, particularly among low-income students, are associated with higher rates of undermatching even among students who are qualified to attend a “very selective” institution. However, this relationship is weakened when students live within 50 miles of a match college, demonstrating that proximity matters. Our results show that attending a selective postsecondary institution does influence post-college employment and earnings, with less positive results for students who undermatch as compared with peers who do not. Our findings demonstrate the importance of non-academic factors in shaping college decisions and post-college outcomes, particularly for low-income students.
Gender & Craft Beer
Humanity & Society 44(4):449-468, with Nathaniel Chapman, Slade Lellock, and Julie Mikles-Schluterman
While women are drinking more craft beer in the United States, the association between masculinity and beer remains intact. Yet, sparse research has considered how involvement in craft beer culture may differ across public and elite beer spaces. In this article, we analyze a questionnaire of 1,102 craft beer drinkers to compare the ways that men and women gain and enact cultural legitimacy within different craft beer spaces. Our focus on public and elite consumption spaces generates two interconnected insights. First, in public spaces, men are assumed to have a natural basic beer knowledge. Women, however, are dismissed as ‘not real beer drinkers’ through men’s gatekeeping. Second, within elite spaces, both men and women must prove their belonging as elite drinkers and ultimately navigate gatekeeping mechanisms. As a result, our work extends consumption and gender literature by showing how inclusive cultural movements rest on the gendering of contextually specific knowledge and the policing of elite status and prestige in public and elite leisure spaces.
Food, Culture and Society 21(3):296-313, with Nathaniel Chapman, Slade Lellock, and Julie Mikles-Schluterman
While beer has maintained a position as the most popular alcoholic beverage among men age 21–34, a recent Gallup poll indicates that craft beer has surpassed wine as the most popular beverage for women in the same age group in USA. In light of this trend, there has been little research done to explore gender dynamics in craft beer consumption and the craft beer industry. This paper seeks to understand the increasing popularity of craft beer among women by: (1) exploring beer as a gendered object, (2) illuminating the experiences of women in the craft beer culture and industry, and (3) examining how gender is done, redone, and undone in craft beer spaces. Drawing from a discursive content analysis of an online beer community, it seeks to consider the gendered nature of beer and how gender is both reconfigured and upheld, allowing for the possibility for new consumption patterns.
Race & Racisms
Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, with David Brunsma, David Embrick, Amy Ernestes, Whitney Hayes, and Kevin Zevallos
Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 2(1):1-9, with David Brunsma and Slade Lellock
Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 1(2): 1-5, with David Brunsma and David Embrick
Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 1(1): 1-9, with David Brunsma and David Embrick
Handbook on Transgender, Non-Binary, & Gender Minority Populations, with Austin Johnson and Chase Harless
In order to develop protections, interventions, and other resources to support the health and well-being of transgender, nonbinary, and gender diverse Southerners, they must first understand who trans Southerners are as a community, and how they currently understand and experience their health and healthcare. This chapter contributes to this growing effort to understand the experiences of LGBT health in the South, centering the experiences of trans, nonbinary, and gender diverse Southerners in particular, to parse the effects of gender and sexual minority status on Southern health experiences. Using quantitative data from the 2018 to 2019 Southern LGBT Health Survey, this chapter compares trans participants to cisgender participants, to present an overview of transgender, nonbinary, and gender diverse Southerners’ health perspectives and experiences across a range of health-related contexts and interactions. The Southern LGBT Health Survey includes a total of 5716 respondents, 1205 (30.2%) of whom identify as transgender, nonbinary, or otherwise gender diverse. Comparing the transgender, nonbinary, and gender diverse subsample to the cisgender subsample from this regional LGBT community survey, we offer a quantitative overview of trans health in the American South, with special attention to the ways that race, class, and income impact factors related to health for trans Southerners.
With Chase Harless, Austin Johnson, Adam Polaski, and Jasmine Beach-Ferrera
Breakout Reports: Black Transgender Respondents, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia (with Abigail Bowen)
Ethnic and Racial Studies 38(13):2408-2410, with David Brunsma