2019. “Determining Transgender: Adjudicating Gender Identity in U.S. Asylum Law.” Gender & Society 33(3): 439-462.
Abstract: Transgender legal protections have long been contentious issues, with courts often refusing recognition of transgender identities or, alternatively, recognizing them in pathologized ways. Recently, however, courts adjudicating transgender asylum claims have recognized “transgender” as a legitimate category of protection for the first time. I take this legal development as an opportunity to expand theories of doing/redoing/determining gender by asking how courts determine if individuals are transgender. While previous work has shown how courts maintain the gender binary, asylum law offers the first chance to analyze what happens when a third gender category is legally recognized. Drawing on ethnographic observations and interviews in conjunction with court decisions, I argue that the move to recognize transgender as a category in its own right implicitly recognizes the malleability of gender. Yet, the actual adjudication of transgender asylum cases continues to uphold a fixed and binary conception of gender by assuming a “born into the wrong body” narrative and that claimants should always already know their gender identities, thus effacing other possible ways of experiencing transgender identity and expressing other forms of gender non-conformity.
Forthcoming. “Constituting the ‘Sexually Violent Predator’: Law, Forensic Psychology, and the Adjudication of Risk.” Theoretical Criminology.
Abstract: Considerable socio-legal scholarship demonstrates law’s constitutive power, and much criminological research has considered the effects of actuarial risk assessment. However, these strands have rarely been brought together to consider how legal risk assessment practices constitute sexual subjects. This article argues that law and forensic psychology co-constitute the category of the ‘sexually violent predator’ (SVP) as a distinct type of person through the use of psychiatric diagnosis and actuarial risk assessment. Contrary to dominant views of actuarialism as de-individualizing, this article asserts that SVP proceedings are centrally concerned with individualized intervention, yet such proceedings continue to produce static risk subjects rather than the dynamic subjects identified in recent research on actuarial practices. It is argued that this stems from entrenched cultural views of sexuality as a fixed essence inherent in individuals. The risk assemblage in SVP proceedings therefore presents a unique theoretical case that does not clearly fit prevailing accounts of actuarialism.
2019. “Science, Technology, and Sexuality: New Directions in the Study of Sexual Knowledge.” Sociology Compass 13(3):e12669.
Abstract: The sociology of sexualities and the sociology of science, knowledge, and technology share many areas of theoretical and empirical interest, yet the fields’ engagements with each other have been limited. Work that has engaged both fields has tended to focus on sexuality from a biomedical perspective, neglecting other forms of knowledge production. This paper critically reviews existing areas of convergence between the fields, including measurement and classification, medicalization and risk, reproduction and families, politics and the state, and social movements. I offer suggestions for new avenues of research in these areas in addition to considering how greater theoretical exchange between the two fields could enrich both. I ultimately contend that analyzing forms of social knowledge making—such as law, religion, and the humanities and social sciences— and adopting a broader understanding of STS as method can provide a fresh direction in studying the production and circulation of sexual knowledge.
2016. “Legally Queer: The Construction of Sexuality in LGBQ Asylum Claims.” Law & Society Review 50(4):856-889.
Abstract: Using court decisions, interviews with legal actors, and ethnographic observations, this paper analyzes the development of sexual identity classifications for sexual minorities seeking asylum in the United States and argues that the adjudication of such claims works to consolidate and regulate sexual identities but also creates possibilities for recognizing marginalized queer identities. Asylum seekers must prove their sexual identities, and immigration officials must classify claimants as belonging to a protected group. At the inception of queer asylum law in 1990, protected categories were highly circumscribed, but the indeterminacy of the law allowed advocates and asylum seekers to challenge existing categories and stake out new claims based on their sexualities. Against the backdrop of extant criticisms of the asylum process for queers, this paper suggests that the way asylum law has been elaborated, adapted, and interpreted, particularly in approximately the past decade, offers possibilities for making unique identity claims that are not recognized in existing scholarship.
2016. “Welcoming Diversity? Symbolic Boundaries and the Politics of Normativity in Kansas City’s LGBTQ Communities.” Journal of Homosexuality 63(2):169-92.
Abstract: Using document analysis and ethnographic field work, this article examines the debate within the LGBTQ community of Kansas City over the decision to hold its Pride festival in the Power and Light District (P&L), a renewed downtown area with a controversial dress code. Despite the developers’ and city’s goals of creating a cosmopolitan urban space that welcomed diverse populations, the P&L acquired a reputation as an anti-Black, anti-queer space due to its dress code and redevelopment history. I argue that the debate surrounding this controversy reveals limits to notions of diversity and diverging approaches to sexual politics within the LGBTQ community that are normally obscured by political actors within the movement but that work to create symbolic boundaries that exclude “non-respectable” members of the LGBTQ population. Recovering queer perspectives allows us to imagine a more capacious definition of diversity and inclusion, both within the LGBTQ movement and in urban space.