LGBT Pride Month: Harrison Oakes Discusses His Research

Friday, June 30, 2017

Head shot of Harrison OakesHarrison’s research reflects his commitment to social justice, and his desire to pursue interdisciplinary, multi-method research projects. Through his current research focusing on the ways in which homophobia motivates straight-identified men to closet their gender atypicality, he hopes to challenge the notion that homophobia drives only sexual minority men to closet aspects of themselves. The theoretical grounding of Harrison’s current work comes from sociology, specifically Eric Anderson’s (2009) Inclusive Masculinity Theory. One particularly influential research report Harrison came across was Mark McCormack’s 2011 ethnographic study of high school boys in England. McCormack reported that, across a 5-month period of regular observations, he witnessed no acts of homophobia. Harrison notes, “I was shocked by McCormack’s report, not only because it contrasted so strongly with my own experiences of homophobic bullying in high school, but also because it contradicted the reality I repeatedly encountered in my previous academic and activist work on bullying. Intrigued, my supervisor, Dr. Richard Eibach, and I began discussing the implications of a homophobia-free social environment for men, which eventually lead us to the question of whether such social environments might weaken the perceived association between gender atypicality in men and being gay.” Harrison’s work suggests that eradicating homophobia frees up men, regardless of sexuality, to express all aspects of themselves, whether or not they align with traditional notions of masculinity.

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