Assistant Professor of Sociology and of Women's and Gender Studies

Ph.D. University of Michigan

Areas of Specialization:

  • Sexuality
  • Culture
  • Family
  • Law and Society


 Curriculum Vitae

In my research I investigate circulating discourses about sexuality, as reflected in both culture and the law, and the consequences of those discourses for people's identities and family relationships.

One strand of my research investigates the relationships between culture, identity, and family relationships. Works pertaining to this strand address the following questions: What are the cultural understandings of sexuality that exist currently in the United States?  How do individuals utilize, negotiate, or disrupt existing cultural understandings of sexuality? I bring feminist and poststructural theoretical perspectives to these questions.

Projects in this area include an analysis of the sexual identities of rural gays and lesbians. Motivated by research that points to the increasing geographical diversity of gays and lesbians - in contrast to cultural narratives that link gay and lesbian sexualities to urban spaces - this project demonstrates how rural contexts shape the way that people construct gay and lesbian identities. Other analyses of the project examine how gender, class and race matter for the way people make sense of geography and for the experiences of sexual minorities in rural areas.

The second strand of my research investigates law as a central site where ideas about sexuality are constructed and contested. In this research, I ask: How do people make sense of their identities and family relationships through the law? How do people make sense of others’ rights claims? I bring a legal consciousness theoretical perspective to bear on these questions.

Projects in this area include an analysis of how heterosexual allies who support same-sex marriage reconcile conflicting understandings about how gay marriage should become legal. 

Currently, I am working on three projects that pertain to my interest in how cultural and legal contexts matter for sexual minorities’ family relationships.

The first assesses how stereotypes about bisexuality impact the coming out process for bisexuals in families. The second analyzes how heteronormative cultural expectations about parenthood shape the fertility intentions and experiences of lesbian women.

My final project focuses on same-sex couples raising children and asks two questions: first, how do gay and lesbian parents make decisions about second-parent adoption or creating legal ties to non-biological children? and second, how do parents navigate the disjuncture between their social status (‘parent’) and legal status (‘non-parent’) in everyday interactions?

My work has appeared in Gender & Society, Journal of Family Issues, Sexuality Research and Social Policy, and Qualitative Sociology.

I've also been quoted in Pacific Standard Magazine and my research has been featured on Salon and Jezebel.

Dr. Emily A. Kazyak