Meet Hannah Davis, a senior at
UNC Chapel Hill studying sociology. Her Honors Thesis is titled
"Sexual Orientation and Racial Identity in Young Adults"
Photo by Clarisse
LAMBDA: What made you
return to school after all these years?
Davis: I went to community college in Iowa for several years.
I worked at this awful job at a grocery store. When I realized the
biggest challenge of my job was memorizing produce barcodes, I
decided it wasn’t for me and that I wanted to finish my education.
The timing worked perfectly because my partner was enrolling in a
graduate program at Duke University. So I’ve been in North Carolina
for two years now.
L: What brought about the beginning of your thesis?
HD: I started at
the end of last spring. I’d done a lot of work with transgender and
transsexual archival research and read a particular paper on an MTF
transitioning group in the Triangle. Initially I’d wanted to do a
follow-up study on this group for my project, but my advisor, Dr.
Sherryl Kleinman, said I needed to challenge myself because I was
too comfortable with transgender issues.
L :So what made you choose sexuality and racial identity as
the subjects of the study?
HD: Race has
always been an uncomfortable issue for me. I was not raised in a
very diverse area. I also was unfamiliar with most literature or
formal research involving race. Since I already had an interest in
sexuality studies, that’s when I decided to add race to the mix.
L: And what made you decide to focus your study on young
HD: It was a
personal decision to study young adults – I wanted to look at a
young group (16-20 years old) because they are really in the thick
of figuring out who they are. The structure of my research is in the
framework of identity. This age bracket turned out to be too young,
however, so I chose to study a college group – still young enough
for my purposes.
L: What questions are you hoping to answer in your studies?
HD: I’m looking at
the range of identities held by LGBT young adults and the processes
used to form and enact sexual orientation and racial identity. I’m
very interested in observing responses when racial and sexual
orientation are called upon to be enacted simultaneously. I think
the biggest thing that people forget is that “white” is a race. It
will be interesting to see how that plays out.
L: How has it been working with your study group at UNC-CH?
HD: This group
(the GLBT-SA) in particular is wonderful. I found a much more
diverse group of subjects than I thought I would find. I was also
surprised by the number of straight women involved.
L: What’s one of the more notable trends you’ve discovered?
HD: Well, I
wouldn’t say it was a trend, but I did witness something interesting
about (February’s) Kiss-In – very few people of color participated.
Especially given the location of the Pit and the number of minority
students around – I think that’s particularly interesting.
L: What are your plans for the future?
HD: I’m applying
to the Teach for America program. There’s a good chance I’ll be
placed in North Carolina, and then I’ll be off to graduate school