My book, Boystown, will be published next year by University of Chicago Press. Through three years of Chicago-style ethnography, Boystown examines the changes to neighborhoods and sexual life as gay men are assimilated into straight society. Chicago’s gay neighborhood Boystown is undergoing late-stage gentrification like many gayborhoods around the country. Boystown has become a “gay disneyland” where business owners engage in heritage commodification to bring young white straight women into the clubs to replace the young gay men who they perceive as fleeing the neighborhood for other venues in neighborhoods north. Combined with the sexual violence and sexism of straight clubs in nearby Wrigleyville, these factors lead straight women to go on safari into gay clubs, transforming them with their tourist gaze and stripping these spaces of their naked intimacy. Moreover, heritage commodification and assimilation essentialize the gay habitus, transforming it into a kind of white ethnicity, with racial consequences in the neighborhood as Black and Latino gay men are increasingly seen as outsiders. However, some gay men resist. Sex-positive cultures exist on the periphery, literally in terms of their spatial location to Boystown. These sexy communities embody the queer ethos of radical sexuality, a rejection of respectability, and are more racially diverse as a result. Written in a creative nonfiction style, but using a variety of classic and contemporary social theory from Bourdieu to Durkheim to Bahktin, Boystown is a book for sociologists, their students, and queer people themselves, reminding us all of the importance of sexuality—as sex and not just sexual identity—to our lives and neighborhoods.
I am also a qualitative methodologist and teacher. I am lead author on a co-authored textbook on qualitative methods, An Invitation to Qualitative Fieldwork, published next year from Routledge. Unlike many qualitative methods books, we bridge the “how-to” and “why-to” with exercises to actually show how to create key documents like interview guides and practice skills like participant observation. We focus on the interacting logics within projects: the voice of participants, the voice of the academic community, and the researcher’s voice. I’ve used these exercises and frameworks to consult on qualitative projects around University of Wisconsin-Madison, from education to pediatrics.
As scholar of identity management, my theory of strategic outness–the continual contextual management of queer identity–is a sociological alternative to developmental coming out theories. The latest articulations can be found in Sexualities and The Sociological Quarterly.
You can find me also at my ethnography blog, Queer Metropolis.
For a description of my current research in nontechnical language–using only the 1000 most common english words–see here.