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A Call For Bystander Intervention To End Racism

In the recent sociological blog debate on racism versus the supposed dawn of “post-racism” in America, we often touched on problems that make talking about racism difficult, if not entirely impossible.  In addition to institutional constraints, there are interpersonal factors that can derail meaningful conversations about race and racism.  In addition to calling attention to these barriers, it is important to make explicit that too few people take on this difficult task.

Responsibility For (Anti-)Racism

In general, too few people consistently assume responsibility for talking about race and racism, and fighting racism more broadly.  That kind of work is presumed to be taken on by activists and leaders of social movements.  But, in particular, the responsibility generally falls in the laps of those victimized by it — in this case, people of color.  As Jason noted in his contribution to the “post-racism” blog debate, racial and ethnic minorities generally face this burden alone.

But, people of color are neither alone in this racist society nor the creators of this system of oppression.  Whites are implicated by virtue of the benefits they receive (i.e., white privilege) from the historical legacy of racism, as well as today.  Eliminating racism, then, is just as much their responsibility, if not more, as it is for people of color.

As I re-watched a few of ABC’s “What Would You Do” social experiments regarding race and racism, I was reminded just how problematic America’s sense of responsibility for racism and anti-racism are.  While too few whites intervene when they witness racist discrimination in stores against (innocent) people of color, many seem quick to intervene to sanction Black people’s criminal behavior but not that of whites (see part 1 and part 2).  (Three young Black men sleeping in their own car got more calls to 911 than did three young white men vandalizing and breaking into someone else’s car.)

A Personal Anecdote

Racist events are plentiful, from small slights to extreme forms of violence.  So, there are too many missed opportunities to confront racism, or at least learn from these events to do things differently in the future.  One such event stands out in my own life.

At the start of my second semester of graduate school, my cohort and I sat through the beginning of our training and preparation to carry out a telephone survey on social attitudes that summer.  In talking through concerns for the project, whether we as  interviewers “talk black” was posed as a potential bias in our interviews.  It felt as though as though a grenade had gone off right in the middle of class, but we continued on ignoring it.  I thought, “was I the only one who heard that?”

This event only became an issue when my colleagues of color and I were overheard joking about the racist comment the following week.  That was brought to the attention of the professor who, out of concern, asked us whether and how to “handle” this.  Three weeks later, we finally devoted an entire two-hour class to discussing the comment about “talking black” — a phrase the professor wrote explicitly on the board to facilitate our conversation.

Of course, five minutes that felt like an eternity passed before anyone broke the thick silence that suffocated the room — it was me, naturally, in which I called attention to that deafening silence.  As the tense conversation carried on, my cohort was divided, with the students of color and anti-racist white students taking issue with the concern about “talking black,” and the rest remaining silent, or speaking up to say they did not see a problem or even recast the comment in their head so that it was not problematic.

The conversation boiled down to whether the commenter said “talking black” or talking black, where the quotation marks became the symbolic boundary between belief that there is a(n inferior) style of English unique to Black Americans and the knowledge that others believe that (but not believing it oneself).  Only a racist person would forgo the quotation marks, for this would reflect their own beliefs.

With the conversation ending with a half-ass apology from the commenter, that one’s upbringing in the Midwest should suffice as an excuse for one’s racist prejudice, we left the room more divided than ever before.  The rest of our department remained curious bystanders, but nothing more came of these events outside of the efforts of students of color to challenge racism in the department and university.

To add insult to injury, later in the semester, my colleagues of color and I overheard some of our classmates complain about the ongoing divisiveness, placing blame on us for not having gotten “over it” yet.  Their simultaneous lack of understanding and lack of sympathy only further fueled the division.  I am happy to say that a great deal has been forgiven, but one can never forget such events.  But, sadly, because little came of it, we saw yet another racist event occur years later.

A Call For Bystander Intervention

I, as others before me, call for a bystander intervention approach to ending racism.  Too often, individuals not directly involved in a dangerous or difficult scenario — or bystanders — simply stand-by and watch without intervening to provide help.  As such, in the case of the prevention of sexual violence (since this “bystander effect” was coined after no one intervened in the brutal rape and murder of Kitty Genovese), advocates have strongly emphasized the need to turn bystanders into potential interveners – “bystander intervention.”  Applied to racism, this means that individuals are called to action to intervene if they witness racist discrimination, bullying, or violence.

However, I push this anti-racist bystander intervention one step further beyond intervening in difficult situations.  Similar to my calls for bystander intervention to prevent sexual violence (i.e., rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment), I stress that our anti-racist work must include a sense that racism is a community issue and, as such, anti-racism is a community responsibility.

Ways To Intervene

A related aspect is noting that racism exists at multiple levels and, as such, there are an infinite number of ways in which we can fight it:

  1. One can intervene when they witness racist discrimination or harassment.  Of course, this depends upon a number of factors that make this easier said than done.  And, no one should intervene in ways that place them at risk for getting hurt.  If it is a scenario of extreme violence, like a racially-motivated hate crime, a safe means of intervening may be to call the police.  If it is an instance of the unfair firing of a Latina coworker, you could approach your supervisor to note that you feel your coworker deserves a second chance.
  2. Challenge racist prejudice.  This can entail calling people out who appear to harbor prejudice toward people of color, or hold misguided stereotypes.  It also means calling out offensive comments that others’ may make about racial and ethnic minorities.
  3. Challenge yourself.  No matter one’s racial or ethnic background, and one’s racial ideology, no one is immune to the pervasive poison of racism.  It is important to also check your own biases and actions.  Do you seek out friends of the same race?  Do you avoid “that part of town”?  Do you do certain things, at least in part, to avoid appearing racist?
  4. Educate yourself.  Unfortunately, most Americans leave formal education knowing little about racism and the history and experiences of people of color beyond obligatory coverage during Black History Month.  To push beyond this, one can take the time to learn more (even from March to January).  Read books about and by people of color.  Go see films on historical and contemporary accounts of the lives of racial and ethnic minorities.  Visit museums that feature exhibits on race and ethnicity.  Become comfortable talking about race and racism with the people around you, no matter their race and ethnicity.
  5. Support victims of racist prejudice, discrimination, and violence.  As I wrote the first suggestion, I realized that there are so many concerns that one may have in directly challenging racist actions.  But, there are fewer concerns regarding harm in supporting victims of these actions.  Though your supervisor who unfairly fired your Latina coworker very well could threaten you, as well, you are freer to reach out to your coworker.  See if she wants to talk, needs help finding a new job, or even filing a discrimination or EEO complaint.  Even outside of severe instances of racist acts, you can be a supportive ally by really hearing people out when they reveal their experiences to you (rather than blaming them or encouraging them to think of alternative reasons for those acts).
  6. Challenge racist practices of organizations and institutions.  Though the days of overt racist laws and policies are mostly gone, there are still many — albeit neutral in intention and language — that disproportionately harm people of color.  It is important to challenge these, just as it is to challenge racism at the individual-level.  Maybe you can speak up if your workplace implements a dress-code policy that unfairly targets racial and ethnic minorities.  Take action to prevent the efforts to repeal Affirmative Action and other policies that aim to redress racial inequality.  Educate yourself and others about how new policies or policy change can contribute to racial equality, even if they are not targeted solely toward people of color (e.g., Affordable Care Act).

Concluding Thoughts

Obviously, everyone cannot become leaders of social movements like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or lead deadly anti-racist efforts like abolitionist John Brown or the slain Mississippi civil rights workers.  Most of us are not lifelong activists.

But, there are many opportunities throughout a given day to make a difference, no matter how small.  For, even small acts add up to a big contribution to challenge prejudice and stereotypes, educate oneself and others, end racist discrimination and violence, and promote racial diversity and equality.  Just as we are all implicated in racism, it will take all of us to end it.

Can We Celebrate Queer Lives And Activism, Too?

James Franco

I’m (not) sorry, but can we hold up on celebrating every white straight cisgender man who does anything minimally non-homophobic/biphobic/transphobic?  I appreciate these efforts.  And, I recognize the work of some as anti-homophobic, anti-biphobic, and/or anti-transphobic activism (you know, because not being a bigot is not the same thing as being an ally or advocate).  In my opinion, they should be doing this, and giving a cookie to every self-proclaimed ally reinforces the message that bigotry is just a few bad apples and justice can be achieved through a few noteworthy, but infrequent acts.

Beyond that, I find that queer people do not get enough credit for existing, daring to be visible, authentic, happy.  Coming out.  Refusing to hide.  Refusing to conform.  Refusing to resign themselves to a miserable, invisible, inauthentic existence.  Refusing to tolerate the status quo.  Refusing to be excluded from important social and political institutions. Who could ever imagine a day that lawsuits are filed in the country’s most conservative states to force them to get up to speed with federal recognition of same-gender couples?  Even in the face of opposition that has demonized queer people as promiscuous, drug-abusers, pedophiles, non-monogamous, and perverts, queer people have demanded to have their relationships recognized and celebrated.

We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.  Straight, cisgender people, get used to it!  That is some brave, bold shit.

Oh, but it takes a lot to be so brave.  Individual queer people are worn out from the daily toll of being out (or not) or making that negotiation minute by minute.  Our relationships are tested as we navigate another, unexpected layer of the closet: queer love and sex.  Do we embark on the war with our intolerant families?  How do we navigate our communities?  How do we navigate the law and institutions?  All while not really seeing ourselves, seeing others like us, in public and the media.  All while, at best, being tolerated but never fully accepted.

Sometimes, the well runs dry.  Sometimes, it is easier to give it up — accept our second-class citizenship.  The opposition can be so fierce that you begin to wonder why you fight — maybe you are asking for too much, too soon.  Maybe you are naive to hope for better.  Maybe you are even greedy for wanting equality in an unequal world.  Maybe you should concede to the world’s desire to make you disappear.

Fuck.  That.  Noise.

My activism is not radical unless staying alive is radical.  It is radical if equality is radical.  We have got to fight — all of the time — so we can stop fighting.  When one of us gets weary, another one should step up to carry on, and another to support the both of them.  By continuously fighting, we carry on the legacy of those who fought before us, and improve the opportunities for future generations.  It is not a war we started, but it is one we will have to win in order to survive.

So, I am celebrating queer warriors — all of them.  And, I am honoring the fallen.  Fight on.  Thanks to our heterosexual and cisgender supporters and allies; keep fighting on, but celebrate the victories for queer justice — not yourselves.

Actually, Racism Is Probably Worse Than We Realize

In 2008, the argument that race has declined in importance became the crystallized “post-racial” thesis upon the election of President Barack Obama.  By his re-election in 2012, some had offered clarification that race still exists, but it is racism that has disappeared – the “post-racism” thesis.  There it sits, almost as a sense of relief — “whew, now we can stop tip-toeing around people of color, and supporting these race-related causes like Affirmative Action.”

On day 2 of George Zimmerman’s trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin, the supposed reality of post-racism contrasts with that of the hyperrelevance of race and racism.  A young Black man was killed because his race made him a suspect.

Today, Blackness is still a crime, and whites are charged with the task of policing Black people.  The harshness of law enforcement and the criminal justice system is magnified for Blacks, from the use of excessive force to longer sentences to denial of justice all together.  Even those who are not police officers, judges, and lawyers serve to police Blacks; the days of lynching Black women and men has merely evolved into a calmer form of extralegal vigilance.

For example:

My blood boiled as I watched this video.  I posted it in various places on Facebook, expecting similar outrage.  The video was widely shared, but often introduced with concerned, but surprisingly calm notes: “watch this”; “wow”; “this is messed up.”  Those were comments mostly comments from white people.

But, even some Black folks articulated concern, but little surprise.  In fact, a few people seemed to think that it was problematic that I was surprised, and that they are superior in some way for being unmoved.  The unsympathetic response of “why are you surprised?” stung, playing on my fear that I am “not Black enough” or “too white” to fully comprehend the severity of contemporary racism.  I suppose the anonymity of the internet is a dual-edged sword, where hostility is widely expressed and, absent of an in-person connection, there is little expression of empathy and solidarity.

Racism Is Worse Than We Realize

As I further processed my reactions to this video, I realized that my surprise and anger are warranted.  Yes, in the self-confident sense where I do not need to justify my feelings, or shape or suppress them according to others’ opinions.  But, also because the sheer pervasiveness and severity of racism cannot be fully comprehended by one person.  Even as a researcher, I am unable to see every instance, manifestation, and consequence of racism in every corner of the world.

Like this video, racism that hides behind seemingly race-neutral interactions, laws, and practices is harder to see, and near impossible to prove exists.  Today, we are dealing with consciously suppressed and unconscious racial prejudice — both which shape behaviors.  Few racists openly, proudly identify themselves as racists, and most racists do not even know that they are racist.

Racial discrimination, too, is harder to identify, particularly absent of outwardly expressed racial bias.  It is no longer limited to exclusion at the entry point or first contact.  The “whites only” sign has to be implied since it cannot be hung from the front door.  We may be hired, but then harassed on the job or denied opportunities to advance.  We may receive a loan, but are offered one that is economically risky.

On the ground, we cannot see other interactions to “accurately” assess whether we have been discriminated against.  (This speaks to the importance of research to look at the broader patterns!)  Like the racial profiling video above, Black people may suspect unfair or differential treatment driven by racial prejudice, but rarely can we compare the same situation experienced by a white person.  Even in some of the recent audit studies that demonstrate racial discrimination in the labor force, some of the participants were unaware of the discriminatory treatment they faced until they compared notes with others and the researchers.

In reality, racism and the pervasiveness of racial discrimination are likely far worse than we can imagine.  So, I stand by my surprise because it is a reasonable reaction to such harsh reminders of the everyday consequences of racism.  But, also because I much prefer to hope for something better than resign myself to accept the world as it is.

Preventing Sexual Violence And Supporting Survivors Is A Community Responsibility

The title of this post sums up the position that many have taken in efforts to prevent sexual violence (e.g., rape, sexual assault, incest, stalking, sexual harassment) and to support survivors of violence.  Such a stance goes against two problematic positions, one hostile and one supportive to survivors of violence.

  1. Hostile Victim-Blaming: Unfortunately, many people lay blame for sexual violence in the hands of victims of violence themselves.  Violent acts, such as sexual assault, are seen as incidents that are preventable simply by changing one’s behavior, interactions with others, appearance, and mentality.  First, survivors of violence, especially women, face the dilemma of providing proof that they have been victimized.  Second, if they are believed, they must provide enough evidence to convince others that such violence was not somehow the result of being sexually promiscuous, dressing in revealing clothing, giving “mixed signals” in interactions (sexual and non-sexual) with one’s attacker, drinking too much, and so forth.
  2. Supportive Victim-Blaming: Indeed, many are concerned with eliminating sexual violence for good.  But, efforts to prevent violence, like the above, center on the victims of violence themselves.  As an online op-ed at Ebony magazine points out, too much sexual violence prevention work provides potential and past victims of violence suggestions to protect themselves: don’t walk alone at night in unfamiliar places, tell a friend where you are going, watch your drinks at parties, don’t go home with strangers.  While this position differs from the above in its concern for survivors of violence, it too lays responsibility for sexual violence on the victims themselves.

Sexual Violence As A Social Problem

With estimates denoting that 17-25 percent of women and 3 percent of men are survivors of violence (experiencing sexual violence at least once in their lifetimes), it is undeniable that a substantial portion of the US population is directly or indirectly affected by violence.  The numbers alone point to a larger, systemic problem that cannot be reduced to the individual motivations and actions of every instance of sexual violence.  Yet, there are many other social factors that contribute to making sexual violence a standard component of our social world, as well.

  • Myths and stereotypes: One barrier to acknowledging and addressing sexual violence and supporting victims of violence is the inaccurate, and sometimes offensive, “information” that pervades our culture regarding gender, sex, sexuality, and violence.  Sexual violence myths include assuming all victims are women, attacked by a lone stranger (a man) in a ski mask lurking in the bushes.  But, stereotypes outside of sexual violence also contribute to a false understanding of sexual violence: men with uncontrollable sexual appetites (“they can’t help themselves“), women who have or should have little interest in sex, strong and aggressive men and weak and passive women, LGBT people as sexual aggressors, etc.
  • Exclusive focus on victims: Even in prevention advocacy and research, we place so much attention on survivors of violence — who are they, what happened to them, how many are there.  Despite extreme underreporting of sexual violence because of stereotypes, the feeling that no one will believe you, fear of retaliation by one’s attacker, and so forth, we have some sense of the demographics of survivors of violence.  But, we know little about perpetrators of sexual violence, with most information coming from reports about those who have been convicted of sexual violence.  One important fact, surprising to some, is that most perpetrators of sexual violence are not men lurking in bushes at night, nor are they otherwise innocent men who got carried away once in sexual activity; perpetrators tend to be repeat offenders (of both sexual violence and non-sexual crimes) and often know the person they attack.
  • Misplaced responsibility: Too often, potential and past victims of sexual violence are burdened with the responsibility for such violence and any efforts to prevent violence.  We, as a society, generally fail to place such responsibility on the perpetrators of sexual violence.  And, when we do, we narrowly focus on them, while ignoring others’ responsibilities to prevent sexual violence and to support survivors.  Many advocates and researchers are beginning to promote the notion of bystander intervention, which calls upon others who witness violence to intervene.  And, while we must push to never see another case where bystanders stand idly by as someone is attacked, our efforts to encourage bystander intervention also include promoting ways to change the culture that condones sexual violence: challenging gender stereotypes and gender socialization in general; teaching about sexual violence; teaching about sexual violence as expressions of sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, ageism, xenophobia, ableism, and so on.
  • Exclusive focus on gender: Another barrier to comprehensively understanding sexual violence is focusing exclusively on the role of gender: men rape women.  What is missing from this narrow analysis, besides overlooking male survivors of violence, is attention to the ways that sexual violence intersects with race and ethnicity, sexual identity, gender identity, class, body size and shape, age, nativity, and ability.  Attending to these systems of oppression does not mean only documenting demographic characteristics of the survivors and perpetrators of violence.  It also means assessing how sexual violence may operate as manifestations of these systems of power, for sexual violence itself is an expression of power over another person.  For example, in many countries, lesbian, bisexual, and queer women are raped by men in an effort to “cure” them of their sexual orientation.
  • Ignoring the role of society: Given the pervasive problem of sexual violence in society, many advocates and academics have argued for thinking about sexual violence more broadly.  As noted above, we too often lay blame on individuals, especially survivors of violence, while ignoring the roles that communities, social institutions, and culture play.  Some have pointed out that we live in a culture that normalizes sexual violence — we live in a “rape culture.”  Various institutions, like colleges, the military, and the medical system, are implicated in their failure to prevent sexual violence, support survivors of violence, and punish perpetrators of violence.  Some have argued that these institutions are structured in ways that make sexual violence invisible and potentially even promote violence.

Indeed, given the complexity and multiple layers and dimensions of the problem of sexual violence, it seems like a tall task to take on.  But, in order to protect everyone from sexual violence and to support survivors of violence, we must address every aspect of the problem.  We can no longer leave the responsibility to prevent sexual violence exclusively in the hands of potential and past victims of violence.

Service

As a scholarly, I use my research, teaching, mentorship, and service to the academy and local community to advocate for equality, social justice, and inclusiveness.  Further, I use my work in each of these domains to inform my efforts in the other domains of my scholarship.  In particular, I draw on my conversations with my students and members of the community I work with to refine and enhance my work on various social problems in my research.  In turn, I actively promote the dissemination of new and critical research – sometimes including my own — to the media and the broader public so that this knowledge can be used to improve policy, programming, and everyday understandings of the social work.  For example, I have worked with a local intimate partner violence and rape crisis center to improve its anti-sexual violence educational programming based on past research on bystander intervention strategies.  Also, I edit and blog at ConditionallyAccepted.com, and use Twitter to share links to stories about new research and current events.

Selected Community Service

  • With staff and volunteers from Middle Way House and Illumenate, I co-organized Boyfriend Lessons, a series of workshops in 2011-2012 for gay, bisexual, and transgender men in Bloomington, IN on healthy romantic and sexual relationships.  Throughout these workshops, we discussed LGBT health, identity, community, sexual violence, safe sex, and relationships.
  • I volunteered with Middle Way House, an organization in Bloomington, IN that provides services related to sexual and intimate partner violence, to enhance the anti-sexual violence curricula of the Building Healthy Relationships program.  I created a report on bystander intervention research and programming.
  • I volunteered as a Safety Escort for Planned Parenthood in Bloomington, IN during the fall semester of 2011.  You can read about my experiences.
  • I volunteered in the resource center for the Shalom Community Center, a day shelter for people experiencing homelessness and poverty in Bloomington, IN in 2009.  I assisted clients by providing toiletries, mail, running the sign up sheet for the center’s shower, and other administrative tasks.

Selected Academic Service

  • I regularly call attention to the urgent need for scholars to pay attention to sexual identity, and gender identity and expression, especially in the lives, experiences, and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.  These efforts have included organizing sessions at conferences (e.g., LGBT Health, Anti-LGBTQ Bullying and Violence), a conference at Indiana University entitled “Transcending Boundaries in Sexuality Research Conference”, and founding a chapter of the Campus Coalition for Sexual Literacy at IU.  These efforts are especially apparent in my own research.
  • I emphasize the importance of examining the intersections among systems of oppression (racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism) and identities (race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality) in scholarship through conference sessions that I organize (e.g., Race, Ethnicity, and Sexualities), and other academic service efforts.  These efforts are especially apparent in my own research.
  • I advocate for the dissemination of academic research, theory, and concepts beyond the walls of academia.  In particular, I use blogging to connect current events and “real life experiences” to my own and other scholars’ work.

CV

downloadable PDF version
You can also see my vita at Academia.edu.

ERIC ANTHONY GROLLMAN, Ph.D.
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
302E Weinstein Hall
28 Westhampton Way
University of Richmond, VA 23173

Email: egrollma [at] richmond [dot] edu
Department Phone: (804) 287-6816
Department Fax: (804) 287-1278

PROFESSIONAL POSITIONS HELD

Assistant Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Richmond.  2013-present.

Affiliated Faculty, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, University of Richmond.  2013-present.

Affiliate Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University. 2017-2018.

EDUCATION

Doctor of Philosophy, Sociology. Indiana University, Bloomington, IN. 2013.

Masters of Arts, Sociology. Indiana University, Bloomington, IN. 2009.

Bachelors of Arts, Sociology and Psychology. University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD. 2007.
Certificate: Gender and Women’s Studies

RESEARCH AND TEACHING INTERESTS

Race, Gender, Class, & Sexualities; Medical Sociology; Mental Health; Discrimination

PEER-REVIEWED PUBLICATIONS

Grollman, Eric Anthony. Forthcoming. “Sexual Orientation Differences in Whites’ Racial Attitudes.” Sociological Forum.

Sumerau, J. E., Eric Anthony Grollman, and Ryan Cragun. Forthcoming. “‘Oh My God, I Sound Like a Horrible Person’: Contemporary Christians and the Conditional Acceptance of Sexual and Gender Diversity.” Symbolic Interaction.

Grollman, Eric Anthony, and Nao Hagiwara. 2017. “Measuring Self-Reported Discrimination: Trends in Question Wording Used in Publicly Accessible Datasets.” Social Currents 4: 287-305.

Grollman, Eric Anthony.  2017.  “Sexual Health and Multiple Forms of Discrimination Among Heterosexual Youth.”  Social Problems 64: 156-75.  [Video: “‘The Authors’ Attic’ with Dr. Eric Anthony Grollman“]

Grollman, Eric Anthony.  2017.  “Sexual Orientation Differences in Attitudes About Sexuality, Race, and Gender.” Social Science Research 61: 126-41.

Miller, Lisa R., and Eric Anthony Grollman.  2015.  “The Social Costs of Gender Non-Conformity for Transgender Adults: Implications for Discrimination and Health.”  Sociological Forum 30: 809-831.  [PDF]

Meyer, Doug, and Eric Anthony Grollman.  2014.  “Sexual Orientation and Fear at Night: Gender Differences among Sexual Minorities and Heterosexuals.”  Journal of Homosexuality 61: 453-470.

Grollman, Eric Anthony.  2014.  “Multiple Disadvantaged Statuses and Health: The Role of Multiple Dimensions of Discrimination.”  Journal of Health and Social Behavior 55: 3-19.  [Online supplement]

Grollman, Eric Anthony.  2012.  “Multiple Forms of Perceived Discrimination and Health among Adolescents and Young Adults.”  Journal of Health and Social Behavior 53: 199-214.  [Online supplement]

Lottes, Ilsa L., and Eric Anthony Grollman. 2010. “Conceptualization and Assessment of Homonegativity.” International Journal of Sexual Health 22: 219-33.

OTHER PUBLICATIONS

Grollman, Eric Anthony. Forthcoming. “Black, Queer, and Beaten: On the Trauma of Graduate School.” In Negotiating the Emotional Challenges of Conducting Deeply Personal Research in Health, edited by A. C. H. Nowakowski and J. E. Sumerau. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Grollman, Eric Anthony. 2008. “Old-Fashioned and Modern Homonegativity within an American College Student Sample.” UMBC Review: Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Works 9: 76-101.

MANUSCRIPTS UNDER REVIEW AND IN PROGRESS

Grollman, Eric Anthony. “Sexual Orientation Differences in Women’s and Men’s Gender Attitudes.” Under review.

Grollman, Eric Anthony, and Nao Hagiwara. “‘Discrimination’ Vs. ‘Unfair Treatment’: Measuring Discrimination and Its Association with Health.” Under review.

Sumerau, J. E., and Eric Anthony Grollman. “Concealing Oppression: Racism, Cissexism and the Persistence of Social Inequality.” Under review.

Whitaker, Manya, and Eric Anthony Grollman. BRAVE: Narratives of Courage and Overcoming Among Women of Color in Academia (edited volume). In progress.

REPORTS AND OTHER WORKS

Grollman, Eric Anthony, and Laurel Westbrook. 2017. “Promoting Transgender Justice through Sociology.” Footnotes (newsletter of the American Sociological Association) 45(3).

Interview with Lisa R. Miller and Eric Anthony Grollman, Scholars Strategy Network. 2017. “How Discrimination Harms Health” (regarding transgender health). No Jargon [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from http://www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org/podcast/how-discrimination-hurts.

Miller, Lisa R., and Eric Anthony Grollman.  2016.  “Discrimination as an Obstacle to the Wellbeing of Transgender Americans.”  SSN Key Findings, Scholars Strategy Network.

Grollman, Eric Anthony.  2014.  “How Discrimination Hurts Health and Personal Wellbeing.” SSN Key Findings, Scholars Strategy Network.  [Also on The Society Pages]

Grollman, Eric Anthony.  2013.  “Blogging for (A) Change.”  Remarks, Newsletter for the Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities, American Sociological Association.

Culatta, Elizabeth, Daniel B. Shank, Eric Anthony Grollman, and Alec Watts. 2012.  “Social Psychology Graduate Student Advisory Report on a Survey of Student Members.”  Graduate Student Advisory Committee, Section on Social Psychology, American Sociology Association.

Grollman, Eric Anthony.  2010.  Bystander Intervention Curriculum.  A report on sexual violence prevention curricula for Middle Way House, Bloomington, IN.

FELLOWSHIPS AND SCHOLARSHIPS

Summer Research Fellowship, University of Richmond, 2017.

Summer Research Fellowship, University of Richmond, 2016.

SAGE Teaching Innovations & Professional Development Award: stipend to attend American Sociological Association Teaching and Learning Preconference.  2013.

Lee Student Support Fund, Society for the Study of Social Problems, 2011.

Ford Diversity Predoctoral Fellowship, 2010-2013.

Summer Research Fellowship, Department of Sociology, Indiana University, 2010.

Diversity Fellows Program, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, 2010.
Received stipend, university housing, and travel allowance to teach Sociology of Sexuality

Lee Student Support Fund, Society for the Study of Social Problems, 2009.

Schuessler Scholarship for Study at ICPSR Summer Program in Quantitative Methods, Indiana University, 2009.

Summer Research Fellowship, Department of Sociology, Indiana University, 2009.

Graduate Fellowship, Department of Sociology, Indiana University, 2007-2012.

GRANTS

Course Transformation Grant to develop new course, “Medical Sociology,” Program for Enhancing Teaching Effectiveness, University of Richmond. $3,000.  2014.

National Sexuality Resource Center grant to start a Campus Coalition for Sexual Literacy chapter at Indiana University. $2,000. 2008.

HONORS AND AWARDS

Faculty Ally of the Year (for LGBTQ students), Office of Common Ground, University of Richmond.  2016.

Best Dissertation Award, Section on Mental Health, American Sociological Association, 2014; for, “The Continuing Significance of Discrimination: Multiple Forms of Discrimination and Health.”

Karl F. Schuessler Award for Graduate Research, Department of Sociology, Indiana University, 2012; for “Multiple Forms of Perceived Discrimination and Health among Adolescents and Young Adults.”

1st Place Graduate Student Paper Competition Award, Midwest Sociological Society, 2012; for “Multiple Forms of Perceived Discrimination and Health among Adolescents and Young Adults.”

Outstanding Graduate Student Mentor Award, Department of Sociology, Indiana University, 2011.

3rd Place Graduate Student Paper Competition Award, North Central Sociological Association, 2011; for “Multiple Forms of Perceived Discrimination and Health among Adolescents and Young Adults.”

Phi Beta Kappa Society, 2007.

Omicron Delta Kappa, National Leadership Honor Society, 2007.

Alpha Kappa Delta, National Collegiate Honor Society for Sociology, 2006.

Psi Chi National Honor Society in Psychology, 2006.

The Golden Key International Honour Society, 2005.

Peace & Justice Award, Washington Peace Center, Washington, D.C., 2005.

PROFESSIONAL PRESENTATIONS

“Sexual Orientation Differences in Attitudes About Sexuality, Race, and Gender.” Sociologists for Women in Society winter meeting.  Memphis, TN.  2016.

“Measuring Discrimination: ‘Discrimination’ versus ‘Unfair Treatment’ Question Wording and Health.”  Southern Sociological Society annual meeting.  New Orleans, LA.  2015.

“Sexual Health and Interpersonal Discrimination among Heterosexual Youth.”  American Sociological Association annual meeting.  San Francisco, CA.  2014.

“Multiple Disadvantaged Statuses and Health: The Role of Multiple Dimensions of Discrimination.”  American Sociological Association annual meeting.  New York, NY.  2013.

“The Social Costs of Gender Non-Conformity for Transpeople: Implications for Discrimination and Health-Harming Behaviors.”  American Sociological Association annual meeting. Denver, CO. 2012 (with Lisa R. Miller).

“Multiple Forms of Perceived Discrimination and Health Among Adolescents and Youth.”  American Sociological Association annual meeting. Las Vegas, NV.  2011.

“Anti-LGBTQ Bullying and Harassment: Renewed Attention to an Old Problem,” introduction for the special session.  Society for the Study of Social Problems annual meeting.  Las Vegas, NV.  2011.

“Traditional and Modern Homonegativity Among Undergraduate Students.”  The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality annual meeting.  Indianapolis, IN.  2007.

SPECIALIZED RESEARCH TRAINING

Summer Institute in LGBT Population Health, The Fenway Institute & Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA. 2011.

Summer Program in Quantitative Methods, Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. 2009.

Summer Institute on Sexuality, Education, and Politics, National Sexuality Resource Center, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA. 2008.

Primer on Empirical Research on Sexual Orientation, The Williams Institute, University of California Los Angeles School of Law, Los Angeles, CA. 2008.

RESEARCH EXPERIENCE

Research Assistant, Social Support from Similar Others, 2011.
Funded by Indiana University, Principal Investigator: Peggy A. Thoits.
Assisted with the development and administration of an telephone and face-to-face interview study of Mended Hearts volunteers, including their volunteer experiences and support provided for current heart patients and family members. Also, served as a mentor for masters students working on their masters theses.

Research Assistant, Social Contact with Immigrants in the U.S., 2008.
Funded by Indiana University, Principal Investigator: Patricia McManus.
Assisted with the administration of a telephone survey of US citizens in 5 major US cities about their attitudes toward immigrants and immigration policies.

Principal Investigator, Old-Fashioned and Traditional Homonegativity Study, 2006-2007.
Designed survey instrument, recruited participants, administered survey, collected and entered data, conducted data analyses.

TEACHING AND PEDAGOGY TRAINING

Teaching and Learning Workshop, Associated Colleges of the South, Trinity University, San Antonio, TX. 2014.

Teaching and Learning Preconference, American Sociological Association.  New York, NY.  2013.

TEACHING EXPERIENCE

Assistant Professor, University of Richmond (2013-present)
Foundations of Society: Introduction to Sociological Analysis (Fall 2015, Spring 2016)
Sociological Research Methods (Fall 2013-Fall 2015)
Social Constructions of Gender and Sexuality (Fall 2013 and Spring 2015)
Social Inequalities (Spring 2014)
Sociology of Health and Illness (Fall 2014, Spring 2016)

Diversity Fellow Lecturer, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (2010)
Sociology of Sexuality (Summer 2010)

Associate Instructor, Indiana University (2009-2010)
Field Experience in Sociology (Spring 2010)
Sexual Diversity (Fall 2009 and Spring 2010)

Graduate Teaching Assistant, Indiana University (2007-2009)
Social Psychology (Spring 2009)
Gender Roles (Spring 2008, Fall 2008)
Introduction to Sociology (Fall 2007)

Undergraduate Teaching Assistant, University of Maryland Baltimore County (2007)
Sexuality, Health, and Human Rights (Spring 2007)

SERVICE

Professional

Reviewer (journals): American Journal of Sociology, Gender & Society, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Society and Mental Health, Social Problems, Population Research and Policy Review, The Sociological Quarterly, Sociological Perspectives, Journal of Adolescence, Journal of Family IssuesEthnic and Racial Studies, and Journal of Homosexuality.

Reviewer (grants): Northern Illinois University Division of Research and Graduate Studies (2014).

Speaker, “On Becoming an Intellectual Activist,” Department of Sociology Race Workshop, Duke University.  Durham, NC.  2017.

Mentor, American Sociological Association Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities (SREM). 2016-present.

Organizer, Medical Sociology regular session, American Sociological Association annual meeting. Seattle, WA. 2016.

Co-organizer, Sociologists for Trans Justice forum, American Sociological Association annual meeting. Seattle, WA. 2016.

Co-organizer, Sociologists for Justice forum on racial justice, American Sociological Association annual meeting. Seattle, WA. 2016.

Panelist, All My Friends Are Stressed: Mental Health, Social Support, and Self-Care in Graduate School, American Sociological Association annual meeting. Seattle, WA. 2016.

Keynote speech, “Blogging for (a) Change in Higher Education,” Media Sociology Preconference, American Sociological Association annual meeting. Seattle, WA.  2016.

Founder and Co-chair, Sociologists for Trans Justice.  2016-present.

Speaker, “Blogging for (a) Change in Higher Education,” Department of Sociology, Hamilton College.  Clinton, NY.  2016.

Organizer and Panelist, Intellectual Activism: Protecting Scholars from Public Backlash and Professional Harm.  Sociologists for Women in Society winter meeting.  Memphis, TN.  2016.

Editor and Blogger, “Conditionally Accepted” — a career advice column for scholars on the margins of academe at Inside Higher Ed. 2016-present.

Panelist, Intellectual Activism in 21st Century America: Ethics, Technology, and Constraints, Parren Mitchell Symposium on Intellectual Activism, Social Justice & Criminalization, University of Maryland.  College Park, MD.  2015.  [Available online here.]

Panelist, Thinking Forward: Empowerment Through Intellectual Activism and Social Justice, Conference of Ford Fellows.  Washington, DC.  2015.

Editorial Board Member, Contexts journal.  2015-2017.

Publications Committee Member, Section on Sex and Gender, American Sociological Association annual meeting.  2014-2015.

Council Member, Section on Sexualities, American Sociological Association annual meeting.  2014-2017.

Panelist, Professional Development Workshop, Using Social Media as a Professional Development Tool, American Sociological Association annual meeting. San Francisco, CA.  2014.

Panelist, Professional Development Workshop, Navigating Queer Identities in the Department and Classroom, American Sociological Association annual meeting. San Francisco, CA.  2014.

Keynote Speaker, Sociology/Anthropology Student Ceremony, Randolph-Macon College, Ashland, VA.  2014.

“Open Scholarship as Intellectual Activism.” Panel on Open Scholarship, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA. 2014.

Panelist, Open Scholarship, Virginia Commonwealth University.  Richmond, VA.  2014. [See my talk online here.]

Roundtable Presider, Sexualities and Health, Section on Medical Sociology, American Sociological Association annual meeting.  New York City, New York.  2013.

Roundtable Presider, Gender and Society, Honors Program, American Sociological Association annual meeting.  New York City, New York.  2013.

Editor and Blogger, ConditionallyAccepted.com – an online space for scholars on the margins of academia.  2013-present.

Session Organizer, Sociology of Prejudice and Discrimination, Midwest Sociological Society annual meeting.  Chicago, IL.  2013.

Session Organizer, LGBT Health, Midwest Sociological Society annual meeting.  Minneapolis, MN.  2012.

Member, Ad-Hoc Graduate Student Advisory Committee, Section on Social Psychology, American Sociological Association.  2011-2012.

Graduate Student Representative, Section on Sexualities, American Sociological Association. 2011-2012.

Discussant, Social Reactions to Mental Illness: The Continued Relevance of Stigma and Social Control, Society for the Study of Social Problems annual meeting. Las Vegas, NV. 2011.

Session Organizer, Anti-LGBTQ Bullying and Violence, Society for the Study of Social Problems annual meeting. Las Vegas, NV. 2011.

Newsletter Editor, Sexual Behavior, Politics, and Communities Division, Society for the Study of Social Problems. 2010-2011.

Session Organizer, Sexualities, Race, and Ethnicity, Midwest Sociological Society and North Central Sociological Association joint meeting. Chicago, IL. 2010.

Blogger, KinseyConfidential.org, The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, Indiana University. 2009-2013.

University

Search Committee Member for Associate Director of LGBTQ Campus Life, Office of Common Ground, University of Richmond. 2016.

Co-Facilitator, enVision: A Social Justice Leadership Retreat, University of Richmond. 2015.

Co-Facilitator, From Ferguson to Charleston: A Racial Justice Forum, University of Richmond.  2015.

Co-Facilitator, Ferguson: A Community Dialogue, University of Richmond.  2015

Advisory Group Member, Terms of Racial Justice, University of Richmond.  2013-2016.

Resource Compilation Subgroup Co-Chair, Mental Health Working Group, Indiana University. 2011.

Member, Mental Health Working Group, Indiana University. 2010-2011.

Panelist, Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Speakers Bureau, Indiana University. 2009-2011.

Member, Campus Coalition for Sexual Literacy, Indiana University. 2009-2010.

Organizer, Transcending Boundaries in Sexuality Research Conference, Indiana University. 2009.

Founder and Chair, Campus Coalition for Sexual Literacy, Indiana University. 2008-2009.

Facilitator, Crossroads (LGBT graduate student organization), Indiana University. 2007-2009.

Department

Member, Spring Awards Ceremony committee, University of Richmond.  2016.

Coordinator, Spring Awards Ceremony, University of Richmond.  2015.

Member, Department Search Committee, University of Richmond.  2014.

Member, Election Committee, Graduate Student Association, Indiana University.  2012.

Coordinator, Mentor-for-an-Hour Program, Graduate Student Association, Indiana University.  2011-2012.

Executive Committee Representative, Graduate Student Association, Indiana University. 2011-2012.

Graduate Student Mentor, Graduate Student Association, Indiana University. 2010-2012.

President, Graduate Student Association, Indiana University. 2010-2011.

Member, Outstanding Faculty and Graduate Mentor Awards Committee. 2009-2010.

Member, Race and Ethnic Relations Committee, Indiana University. 2007-2013.

Graduate Affairs Committee, Graduate Student Association, Indiana University. 2009-2010.

Member, Public Sociology Forum, Indiana University. 2008-2011.

Graduate Student Mentor, Graduate Student Association, Indiana University. 2008-2009.

Race and Ethnic Relations Committee Representative, Indiana University. 2008-2009.

Co-Chair, Race and Ethnic Relations Committee, Indiana University. 2008-2009.

Member, Graduate Student Association, Indiana University.  2007-2013.

Mentorship

Summer Research Advisor (Maddy Dunbar, University of Richmond). 2015.

Internship Advisor (Jazzmin Reid, University of Richmond). 2015-2016.

Honors Thesis Advisor (Aurora Breeden, University of Richmond).  2015-2016.

Honors Thesis Advisor (Haley Tillage, University of Richmond).  2014-2015.

Honors Thesis Committee Member (Gigi Dejoy, University of Richmond).  2014-2015.

Honors Thesis Committee Member (Dana McLachlin, University of Richmond).  2013-2014.

Honors Thesis Committee Member (Katherine McKinney, Sociology, Indiana University).  2011-2012.

Community

Executive Board Member, Virginia Anti-Violence Project.  2015.

Panelist, Transgender People in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Settings: Recent Research, Virginia Anti-Violence Project, University of Richmond Downtown, Richmond, VA.  2014.  (See my comments from the panel online.)

Safety Escort, Planned Parenthood, Bloomington, IN. 2011.

Boyfriend Lessons, Illumenate and Middle Way House.  2011-2012.
Developed and facilitated eight session workshop series on healthy sexual and romantic relationships for gay, bisexual, and transgender men ages 18-28.

Building Healthy Relationships, Middle Way House, Bloomington, IN. 2009-2011.
Assisted with development for sexual violence prevention curriculum for local middle and high schools. Produced a report on bystander intervention research and programming.

Resource Center Volunteer, Shalom Community Center, Bloomington, IN. 2009.
Provided administrative support in the Center’s office, distributing mail and toiletries to people experiencing homelessness and extreme poverty.

OTHER PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE

National Student Intern, National Sexuality Resource Center, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA.  2008-2009.

National Office Intern, National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, Washington, DC.  2005-2006.

PROFESSIONAL AFFILIATIONS

American Sociological Association
Association of Black Sociologists
Scholars Strategy Network
Sociologists for Women in Society
Southern Sociological Society

REFERENCES

Available upon request.

——

Last updated on 07-21-2017.

A Letter To An Activist-Turned-Academic

Dearest Eric of the past, and Eric of the future,

In 1985, you were born into worlds of intolerance, inequality, and oppression. Your mother, Black, from a large, (mostly) single-parent family facing the hardships of poverty. Your father, white and Jewish, from a working-class family in which only his father was employed while his mother cared for home and family. Despite the message of the world – that people should only enter romantic and sexual relationships with people of their same racial group – and even some subtle resistance from their own families, your parents raised you in an environment of love, acceptance, and self-confidence. Even before you had a real sense of the world with all of its racial and racist realities, you knew you were both Black and white. A five-year-old, standing up to a teacher to challenge the forced option of one racial category. Those same episodes played out throughout your childhood and adolescents – “why must I choose one when I’m more than one?” By early adolescents, you were frequently contributing to an online forum for multiracial and multiethnic people. Of course, your parents were worried about this activity, fearing your words might be stuck on the net forever causing later pain and regret.

In all of this time, you knew you were different in another way. You played the expected role for boys, at least romantically: having a girlfriend, expressing interest in sex with girls to male friends. Despite a feeling that you weren’t quite a boy in a broad sense of the term since age 5, you hid it – from others, from yourself. By 17, the secret feelings of attraction to other boys, of not feeling like “a boy,” boiled over in subtle hints to friends that you might be bisexual. Then it was calling your older sister, a lesbian, confiding in her, but obviously seeking a positive response, validation, rather than solutions to “fix it.” Then it was all of your friends, one by one, almost making a game of it. Then it was your parents, not at the same time, and not in the same way. Your friends were fine with it for the most part, though you lost touch with one who you suspected was too religious to reconcile her views with your newfound identity. And, two friends, who had one of the most homoerotic friendships you have ever seen, also decided to stop talking to you. But, with all others, either the friendship did not change, or you became closer. Your parents were another story… A father who took it to heart – now with 2 gay kids – wondering if it is something he did wrong as a parent. A mother who incessantly checked your trash, searched for you on the internet. Before going off to college, you took your first, extremely visible step into the world of activism. You organized the National Day of Silence for your high school, Oxon Hill. It was modest in form, mostly you passing out the cards to your friends that you made on your computer at home. The most profound moment was the Colonel’s – one of the leaders of the Junior ROTC program you were in, as a high ranking officer at the time – request for a few of these cards. “Wow,” you thought, “I would have assumed he is homophobic. And, wow, now he knows for sure that I’m bisexual.”

In college, you immediately joined UMBC’s organization for queer students. The friends you had made that summer in the preliminary program of the Meyerhoff Scholarship Program attended most of that year with you. You also made many new friends there, some who remain friends today. On that first day, the officers of the club, Freedom Alliance, announced an opening for the position of Secretary. You jumped at the chance – it seemed like it was open just for you. Within a few weeks as Secretary, your parents began to raise concern that your name was listed on the organization’s website. You fought with them about it, arguing that it was obvious that organizations listed their officers in this digital era. But, for them, they were worried that “Grollman” would be associated with “gay” somehow – a concern for your father, not for you.

The year was an okay transition, though your grades suffered, and your relationship with the scholarship program became strained as you grew tired of their unspoken homophobia and more and more aware that its focus on math and science was not for you. You grew tired of your parents’ reassurance that they love you, but still took issue with all things associated with your sexuality – affiliation, relationships, academic interests. Eventually, you cut contact with them, ignoring their phone calls and emails. “Hey, I’m an adult now,” you thought, “on a nice scholarship, away from home. I don’t need them if they’re going to treat me like this.” You could have been right. Or, you could have been horribly wrong. After some time, your father surprised you with a visit at school, nearly an hour away from home. “Eric? There’s a cop downstairs here to see you,” the receptionist at the residential hall desk said when she called for your room. You rushed down, going over in your head all of the possibilities for such a visit from the police. It turned out to be your father – a little relieved that it wasn’t actually “the cops,” just your father in his police uniform. But, you were not excited to see him, unwilling to talk, demanding that he go back home. He was able to at least get you outside of the residential hall. But, outside, you simply argued, talking in circles, and you refused to look him in his eyes. “How can you love someone unconditionally if there is a condition,” you kept repeating, “that I’m not this.” You fought with your parents a lot in the early years after coming out, primarily challenging the authenticity of their love and acceptance given their discomfort with your sexuality. Because you didn’t look him in the eye, you didn’t see his heart breaking every time you promised him that you’d be okay if you just ended your relationship then and there. After maybe an hour, you eventually settled down, and he was able to convince you to get food. The food was mediocre, but the conversation was unforgettable. Though your parents still were struggling, they never stopped trying, caring, and loving.

But, given the academic problems, rough seas still remained ahead. You fell into academic probation after a bad spring semester. The following summer, you took courses to make up for a few bad grades from the first-year of college. You also started looking into leaving the scholarship program. Your parents were quite angry and frustrated with your willingness to completely leave a free ride because you did not like math and science and your insistence that the program is homophobic. You tried to negotiate with them, maybe they could cover some if you left it, maybe you would get lucky and secure a generalist scholarship from the university. After a summer of good grades, and a good fall semester, you made the request to leave the program official. In hindsight, this was one of those instances of a blind leap of faith. You officially left one scholarship with little knowledge of how likely you could secure another. You lucky dog, you secured another full scholarship, obtaining positive support from the previous program despite your occasional disobedience and poor grades. This transition allowed you to then change your major to sociology after taking a few interesting courses. It also put your parents’ worries to rest – after all of this fear that you would walk away from a full ride to nothing, you proved to them that you would be okay after all. They admitted to you later that this also helped them to see that gay or straight, you were still successful, still brave.

All while you resolved academic and family struggles, you continued to remain involved on campus. After the insistence of a friend in the math and science scholarship program to join his organization, the Student Events Board (SEB), you eventually checked it out. You wanted to run for president of the queer student group, but the position in SEB seemed that it would be too demanding time-wise. So, you went for SEB, knowing little about what you were getting into, but confident that you could handle being secretary in this new organization after being in that position for a year in Freedom Alliance. It wasn’t an LGBTQ organization, but most of the group’s members were LGBTQ friendly, and the staff advisors to the group were lesbian or bisexual themselves. Further, you had support in all of your efforts to pursue issues related to sexuality. Although you were not an event-planner, you received support for your own event-planning efforts – a successful film series followed by discussions, a discussion series about various social and political issues. Your involvement in this group — the second largest in terms of funding, institutional support, and clout — allowed for you to shift your efforts to a larger, mainstream audience. By your senior year, you successfully ran the organization as president, gaining a bit of recognition from student affairs staff.

In addition to your persistence, your confidence, your bravery, and your newfound visibility, you also found activism through love. Though you began to have romantic interactions with men as soon as you came out, your first real relationship was in the sophomore year of college. You weren’t overwhelmingly attracted to him physically, but his openness and confidence enticed you. You spoke for the first time by instant messenger, you using the general account for an organization for first-year students – First Year Council – that you were maintaining over the summer. He said something about an ex-boyfriend. You took his comment in stride, though you were so excited that he was so open with a complete stranger. “What? Oh yeah, ‘boyfriend.’ I’m gay.” He said it so easily, as though there’s no reason to worry that another person might become hostile or violent. You decided to meet since he was visiting the campus, and you ended up spending a little bit of time in the Women’s Center. Soon after, you began dating and let others know, like your friends in SEB, with pride. (They already knew you were gay when you first joined SEB, since you attended the preliminary meeting still dressed in drag from the Freedom Alliance drag show.) Throughout the first year of your relationship, you walked the campus, hand in hand, and sometimes hissed at those who gawked. It was love, but it was also political – an interracial gay couple, both centrally involved in key student organizations.

During the second year of your relationship, you both decided to run for homecoming court. The previous year, a same-sex couple ran, though as “king” and “queen,” but did not win. Their attempted run pushed the next year’s organizers to reconcile this new reality, that couples are not all heterosexual. So, they opened the call for “homecoming court,” which also opened the door for friends to run as well. The two of you ran, making a real effort of it – Facebook posts, emails, pleas to friends, and even a number of flyers on campus. The prior year’s same-sex couple used flyers that simply made reference to “love = love = love,” yet yours actually included pictures of you and your then-boyfriend and a tongue-in-check reference to the “gay agenda.” Overall, the experience was positive – most friends supported you, and you even won homecoming court. As nervous as you could be, you both kissed on the soccer field where your victory was announced. It seemed that the crowd paused their cheers just as you kissed, maybe surprised that we were actually a couple (and not two friends), maybe just stunned because of the general invisibility of gay sexuality and gay people in our culture. Just days before, a friend had warned you that some were making potential threats against you. Days after, a few of your flyers turned up defaced, including homophobic slurs and expressions. Along with our victory, these hostile responses, though rare, caught the attention of The Retriever Weekly, the campus newspaper. Also, after our public kiss, one angry parent called the university president to complain, though he, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, directed the call to the direct of student affairs, Dr. Patty Perillo, an out lesbian. All in all, the response was positive, but it was an important moment to let shine through the prejudice that LGBTQ people still face. Indeed, the hostility was minimal given that this was a college environment. Sadly, homecoming court disappeared after that year, I suppose an experience that could be chopped up to the gays leading to demise of marriage and society.

All while this was occurring, you were in the midst of leading a small group of students, staff, and faculty that advocated for a number of new initiatives for resources and services for queer students. The primary goal — a big one — was to establish a campus resource center for queer students, mirroring the Women’s Center support for women students. Some really important people on campus became involved with the group, including many of the students affairs staff, and even the then-vice president of student affairs. Unfortunately, most of this energy was swept up into a task force led by the student affairs division to assess the needs of the campus for queer folks. However, reflecting back, these efforts were taken seriously. Your work was covered by the student newspaper several times. A petition in support of the campus center was signed by over 400 people. Very important staff and some faculty became involved, rather than simply talking you out of it or directing you to some other existing resource. And, the president of the university responded after being made aware of your work; of course, he charged the VP of student affairs to respond – or maybe to “deal with it.” Imagine it, in all the work that students do on campus with little recognition by staff, faculty, and administrators, that your work gained such momentum and recognition.

Unfortunately, the culmination of the crumbling relationship and the stalled progress of the queer initiatives lead you to shift your focus away from activism back to school. Without your partner in love and activism, it just wasn’t the same. And, with the needs assessment, it seemed that your hands were tied. So, you decided to channel your energies exclusively into school. You knew that graduate school was an obvious next step after college, a decision made early in college and expected by your parents once they completed their master’s degrees years before (you know, to “do better” than they did, academically speaking). So, you decided to pursue an honors thesis to establish your qualifications for graduate schools. With the help of your advisors, you settled on an assessment of anti-gay prejudice on campus – maybe this could be presented on campus and used to supplement the needs assessment. Having received a small research grant from the university, you decided to exceed the initial goal of 300 surveys from students on campus. With a great response from professors to enter their classes, you were able to obtain over 700 surveys. Looking back, that exceeds what many established researchers achieve for their own work. The project became a presentation at the Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day, April of your senior year, as well as a presentation at the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS), a national organization, and, years later, a publication with your advisor, Dr. Ilsa Lottes. Though you were aware that you were headed into an academic route, this experience really solidified your goal of achieving your activist goals through a route that seemed easier and more natural that “pure,” on the street activism.

And, then you went to graduate school, expecting to be surrounded by others who were academically-oriented, but still committed to social justice. Week by week, you came to realize that you were right about the orientation to academic pursuits, but the concern for social justice did not exist as you had hoped and expected. You were shocked to find that some people who were ignorant, even prejudiced, about issues of race, gender, sexuality, and class were colleagues, including faculty. You were surprised by the general inattention to the community and world outside of the university and lack of effort to do work that matters and make one’s work matter. You were surprised that those who championed public sociology were merely speaking to a newspaper, or assumed their work mattered to lay audiences. The culmination of the homesickness for Maryland, now in Indiana, the lack of racial diversity, the lack of a distinct LGBTQ community, the reality of the academy previously unbeknownst to you, made you consider leaving, or at least transferring to a school in Maryland. You spent many nights with other students of color in your cohort, feeling hopeless and bamboozled. Though you resigned yourself to stay, you took on a rather militant perspective about race, even beginning to question your own biracial identity and relationship with your (white) father. You began to question your preference for white men as romantic partners. You questioned friendships from college with white students. Your parents fought with you, worried about this newfound obsession with “Black stuff.” During a summer program at the National Sexuality Resource Center, you decided to do this “grad school thing” but to do it your way. You came back with a new attitude and a new tongue ring to emphasize the new “fuck you” attitude. You were knocked back again, defeated, suddenly obsessed with an undergraduate student’s recent suicide. (How could someone whose pain was obvious to others get to the point of suicide?) It was time to make a change, a change of environment or a change of attitude. You threw yourself into work, getting back on track, and surrounding yourself with other friends, friends who were more integrated and more optimistic.

Though things got better, you still found the same disillusionment about activism among academics. So, you forced yourself to make time for volunteering, starting with local homeless shelter. It was nice for a while, primarily for you to feel as though you were making a difference that you could see instantly, and feel it. Eventually, you decided to turn your energy to Middle Way House – the local domestic violence and rape crisis center. Initially, you attempted to get involved with the center’s anti-sexual violence program in schools, but found that you did not have the time to devote to daily presentations. So, you took a step back, taking a supporter role in the program’s development of curriculum for these programs. You put together a report on bystander intervention, not thinking much of it, but finding it to be of great help for the center. Then, as the center expanded, picking up a focus on queer youth, you became a part of the small group that worked to develop a curriculum for the Building Health Relationships program specifically for sexual minorities.

In your experience as an instructor, teaching Sexual Diversity, you learned that this, somehow undervalued activity is a great way to make an immediate, yet long-lasting difference. With research, you spend years just getting a project from start to print, just to have no one but other academics in your area read it. With teaching, two times a week for an hour and a half, you are provided a captive audience of 70 young minds. Though they do not care to learn everything, and will not learn everything, you have the chance to validate those who are invisible in society, to teach those in the majority groups of the importance of recognizing diversity and their own privilege, and emphasizing the importance of thinking outside of one’s own experience. You are given the attention of many young people to teach them about the world and encourage them to think critically, if not actually going out into the world to do something about inequality and oppression. You have the opportunity to inspire and captivate. Remember this. And, do not let the institutional value system – that research is number one, and teaching is an obligation – force you to lose sight of that.

Now, about half way through with graduate training, you are aware of what the academy is – at least one academic environment. You know that there is an incessant pressure to publish, do as many things as possible, minimize energy devoted to teaching and service. You, at the present moment, are experiencing a pain in your chest that you suspect is the product of unending anxiety. At this time, it is important to reevaluate, to remember why you’ve gone this route, and what it is you want from life. For starters, it is time to find a release valve for the anxiety. The social support you receive is too tied up with your academic obligations, friends from your department, and many of them demand more of you than you demand of them. You have been freed from teaching, thanks to a prestigious fellowship, but your primary focus is on research – and the expectations for more research have increased now with more “free time.” You somehow get by hyper-involved in the department and discipline, but barely find the time to continue on with Middle Way House. And, of course, anything else in the community is seen as out of the question. Breathe. Relax. Expand your horizons, and find the lost social life you have had outside of school.

At present, you understand that the value system of the environment you are in dictates that you must publish often and in top journals of your field, it must be quantitative, you must minimize teaching, you must get big research grants, you must be at the top department in the country. But, just four years ago, you established your goals to be much simpler – to teach and do research as a professor. With that, you implied the desire to do research on areas that interest you and that are tied to your social justice goals. You implied that teaching was a part of your job, not an obligation, and that you would make time for students as professors had made time for you. You never cared about the prestige of a journal or department – and now, the anxiety surrounding those considerations has impacted your health. Return to your early values – secure a job as a professor to pursue social justice through this academic avenue. It is the work you do and its importance to the world that is importance to you, not its importance to others like you. You never signed on to be popular among academics, specifically sociologists. Ultimately, you have learned that the most popular among academics are often just as irrelevant as the unpopular. So, why bother? And, often, it is those who simply do what they do who seem the most content and satisfied with their lives broadly speaking. This job, even as a career, is simply that – it is not meant to take the place of one’s life. You do not want to reach the level of success of your mentors at present if it means being childless, unhealthy, and sleep-deprived as they are. That is for them, the decisions they have made – not for you.

So, continue with the work that you are doing, but don’t let it weigh you down. Seek to satisfy your social, psychological, emotional, political, and spiritual appetites as well. What you do now is just the beginning of your career, so there is no point treating it like life-or-death work. Aim for a comfortable job that will allow you to live our your social justice dreams – while status can be useful, don’t let it dictate where you go from here. Be aware of what the Kool-Aid tastes like, but don’t drown in it any longer. Return to those roots of bravery where you leapt because it was right, not because it was what others valued and expected.

Love always,
Eric