“I’ve been into politics since I was 14. I always thought I’d run for office.” Logan, from St. Louis, received his undergraduate degree in political science from Truman State University, a small liberal arts college in Missouri. “In college I got really into the research side of politics because of the McNair Scholars Program.” McNair prepares qualified undergraduates for entrance to a Ph.D. program in all fields of study. The goals of the program are to increase the number of first-generation, low-income and/or underrepresented students in doctoral programs, and ultimately, to diversify the faculty in colleges and universities across the country. He says, “Without that program, I don’t think I would have made it to grad school.” His undergraduate advisor told him to apply to Michigan and he says, “It was my dream school. I didn’t think I’d get in.”
He did. Logan is a Ph.D. candidate in political science studying LGBT politics in America, particularly how negative emotions such as disgust influence people’s political opinions. His dissertation stems from the overall sentiment that gay politics is getting better: “Our lives might be better, and we focus on progress, but there are still underlying negative opinions. While positive opinions are expressed outwardly, there are negative ones under the surface that vary in intensity depending on the policy issue or which part of the LGBT community is represented or benefited. I want to explore the influence of these negative emotions. I’m transgender, so my interest in this topic is both academic and personal.”
He admits that studying negative reactions to LGBT people and issues can be challenging: “I do a lot of self-care, and it helps that my research responses are through online surveys rather than in person, but I think it is important to have these lived experiences and let them inform my work. I think about how my own life affects the questions I have and know I need to be honest and open about it in my research. We all have vested interests; I think acknowledging them makes us better scientists.”
Logan is still completing research and testing specific subgroups, particularly around the issue of employment non-discrimination, adding photos to solicit deeper attitudes toward different groups and ultimately determining how we can put systematic patterns and numbers to LGBT politics.
Logan’s interest in politics isn’t just academic. He is on the City’s Human Rights Commission (HRC) and spent the last year working with the City of Ann Arbor on legislation that recently passed to update and improve the city’s non-discrimination policy. The next piece the Human Rights Commission hopes to accomplish is a ‘ban the box’ ordinance that would institute fair hiring practices, recommended by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, about past convictions. “This is an extension of the non-discrimination work we’ve accomplished.”
He’s also on the board of the Jim Toy Community Center, a resource for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and allied residents of Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and greater Washtenaw County. His political and civic involvement is volunteer-based now, but he says, “Eventually, I’d like to run for office, but I don’t know when or where. I need to settle in a community and see what that looks like.”
Logan is applying for tenure track positions this year and looking into postdoctoral opportunities. He is developing a body of research outside of the academic context, and he feels confident in his options for employment. Logan is working with the LGBT Representation and Rights Research Initiative at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, researching the influence of transgender politicians. He describes, “I’m exploring what experiences transgender politicians had running for office, and for those in office, what they were able to accomplish once they got there. This is academic research with the specific goal of creating a public good, public knowledge, and I also hope to create an academic policy paper from this research. I want to use the research we do here and the resources in the academy to actually help people.”
His connection to Michigan runs deeper than many. “I transitioned while at U-M, in my 2nd and 3rd years. Everyone here was so wonderful and supportive. Mine is not a typical experience, and that’s one of the reasons it’s been so important for me to work with the Human Rights Commission. I’m white, middle class, and walk through the world as a male. I’ve had all this privilege and opportunity and it’s important to use this to support people in my communities and beyond who don’t have that kind of access. Privilege brings responsibility.”