Webster adjunct professor Andrea Miller explores the relationships of gender and sexual minorities, that are not often researched, in a newly released book. In “Expanding the Rainbow: Exploring the Relationships of Bi+, Polyamorous, Kinky, Ace, Intersex and Trans People,” Miller and her coeditors said their book is one of the first collections of articles on queer relationships beyond cisgender gay and lesbian relationships.
Miller co-edited “Expanding the Rainbow” with Brandy Simula, a post-doctoral fellow at Emory University and J Sumerau, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Tampa.
Miller said the idea came to Simula and her last year at the The American Sociological Association’s annual conference. After the two professors presented dissertations on bisexuality and BDSM culture, Miller said they noticed a disappointing lack of new studies. According to Miller, some of the only research on bisexuality presented at the 2018 conference came from Miller and Simula.
Miller said that night, she and Simula decided to take the direction of LGBTQ+ research into their own hands.
“In literally 15 minutes at 11 p.m. at night in a hotel lobby, we sketched the outline of this new book,” Miller said.
After this fateful night, Miller said she and Simula knew they needed more voices than
their own to write the book. Miller and Simula joined with Sumerau and began a search for field experts on what Miller calls alternate sexualities.
Miller said she believes “Expanding the Rainbow” is unique in the way it covers
relationships of many lesser researched genders and sexualities. Additionally, she and her co-editors sought out an intersectional diversity of 26 contributing authors.
Miller identifies as bisexual.
“Taking on a project that covers so many groups within sexuality and gender is
something that needs to come from experts in the field,” Miller said. “So, while I may be an
expert on bisexuality, for example, I am not an expert on asexuality or intersex folx.”
Miller said seeking out authors with personal experience and knowledge leads to the most relevant content.
Amanda Stitzel, a Webster student and staff member, has dated a trans man since April. According to Stitzel, the challenges trans people face in the relationships are unique and often invisible to cisgender people.
“Sometimes I don’t think of things,” Stitzel said. “For example, once I was like, ‘We should take a day trip to the beach.’ I was all geared up for it, but Eli seemed not super excited about it.”
Stitzel said she did not realize her partner felt self-conscious about taking his shirt off after “top surgery,” or surgery to align a person’s torso with their gender.
“I didn’t think about that,” Stitzel said. “I felt awful.”
Stitzel said going to bars or restaurants often presents challenges she had not considered before dating a trans man. According to Stitzel, if her partner ordered an alcoholic beverage, bartenders often request to see identification. However, Stitzel said Eli’s driver’s license still lists his “dead name,” or the name her partner used before coming out as a trans man, and a photo before his transition.
“These are things I never had to think about in other relationships,” Stitzel said.
Stitzel said when she started facing these unique challenges, she attempted finding academic research on relationships with trans people. According to Stitzel, she found the amount of information available underwhelming before “Expanding the Rainbow” was released.
Sumerau, a trans woman, and her partner wrote a chapter titled “Relational Fluidity: Somewhere between Polyamory and Monogamy,” modeled on their relationship.
“I wish I had something like this when I was in college,” Sumerau said. “It’s quite
disheartening to grow up without any representation or people who look like you in the media.”
Stitzel said she recognizes the importance of trans authors writing about trans issues.
“Only trans people know how trans experiences truly feel,” Stitzel said.
Miller said she and her co-editors tried to keep a light hand when it came to edits to allow the expert’s research shine.
According to Miller, traditional qualifications for academic publication was not necessary. Miller said the editors of “Expanding the Rainbow” sought out writers without Ph.Ds to obtain a variety of information.
Miller said her expertise came from a lifetime of teaching. She has also published academic articles on bisexuality and teaching sexuality in the classroom.
Miller said she is already using the book in some of her classes. She said while she has
not had the opportunity to assign the full book, she selected chapters for readings. She said she hopes the book will be adopted by many scholars and educators for use in the coming year.
Miller said she urges students who are interested in her book or LGBTQ+ topics to take classes in the LGBTQ studies minor.