Sunday, October 14, 2007

to LA and back

On Friday, I took a trip down to Los Angeles for the day, to attend a training on using the California Health Interview Study for looking at LGB health issues. The picture of the roof of San Francisco's international terminal is supposed to represent the glamor of travel. Actually, I flew on Virgin America, and highly recommend the experience. The free movie selection was perfect for a one hour flight - a bunch of short films produced by college students.
The training itself was a great opportunity to see old pals, and think about new work to collaborate on. I think I'm slowly building a reputation in the field. Of course, it would help a lot more if I would publish something, anything! It's all well and good to bring new ideas and perspectives to the field, but if nobody can read about it, it's not going to reach people.
Anyway, Susan Cochran presented a really neat overview of the field of health disparities affecting sexual minorities. I'm amazed at what she could accomplish in twenty minutes.
One thing that she pointed out that I'd like to follow up on is that a lot of the domestic violence research has concentrated on who experiences domestic violence, but not on the context in which it happens. So, even though sexual minorities tend to have high levels of having been beaten and assaulted in relationships, the simple fact is that the majority of that violence happens in heterosexual relationships. Susan summed it up beautifully "heterosexual relationships aren't good for homosexuals". So, where I'd like to take that further is to look at the broader social context that makes heterosexual relationships especially fraught with danger. I would imagine that these relationships are more likely to turn violent in areas where homophobia is an accepted cultural norm than in areas that are more liberated. This also ties into another analysis I've wanted to do for a while: my research showed that suicide rates were lower in areas where gay rights protections had been enacted, but really only for young white males in particular. I've long suspected that the homicide rates for women would be more affected by homophobia than suicide, particularly uxoricide, along the same reasoning that straight relationships are particularly dangerous for lesbians.

Another nice potential collaboration would be with Gary Gates, who has done work on the income gap between straight and gay men, using census information. He told me that when he looked at it in relation to whether states had gay rights protections, essentially all the gap (lower wages for gay men) happens in states without gay rights protections. (Makes sense). So we talked about a couple of ways to extend that analysis, using the measures I'd developed in my dissertation. I don't know much about the field of economics, but I do know about measuring normative heterosexuality, so it would be fun to branch out a bit, especially into an area with the potential to influence policy.

In order to catch my flight home, I would have had to leave about halfway through the meeting, but fortunately, my friend Daniel was also at the meeting, so he very kindly offered a bed for me to crash in, and I changed my flight to Saturday morning. I took the subway from Hollywood to the airport, and it was an interesting experience in terms of public transit. They've done an admirable job of trying to make a subway/rail system that is appealing to use, but it took over two hours to get to the airport! If the flight hadn't been delayed, I would have been stuck at the airport until the next one.

Paul and Sasha took great care of Tuna while I was gone. They went swimming in the ocean yesterday! Tuna has been wiped out since she came back home. I owe a great debt to Paul for his kindness. It has been great to get re-connected with him.

Well, off to do laundry, and read through my students' papers.

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