Amy Brainer is an assistant professor of Women’s & Gender Studies and Sociology and Coordinator of the LGBTQ Studies Certificate Program at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. She conducts research on queer and transgender family issues in Taiwan and in transnational contexts.

Current Projects

Gendering Home: Queer Kinship and Family Change in Taiwan
Gendering Home provides an in-depth look at queer and transgender family relationships in Taiwan. The book explores ways that changes in parenting, intergenerational care, and the gendered division of family work and resources shape queer and transgender lives. Its findings challenge the prevailing wisdom about such topics as “coming out” to family, sources of family pressure for daughters and sons, and the hopes and concerns of heterosexual mothers, fathers, siblings, and grandparents. The arguments presented in the book are based on 16 months of ethnographic fieldwork and 80 life history interviews with sexually and gender nonconforming people ranging in age from their early twenties to their late seventies, and with their heterosexual parents and siblings. The people and families who took part in this research are diverse by education, income, and region, hailing from 11 of Taiwan’s 13 counties. Dr. Brainer received two grants from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research to support this work.

Queer Trajectories in Family Based Immigration
A second project investigates how family and sexuality are constructed through processes of migration and citizenship. The project follows queer and trans individuals and couples as they navigate family-based immigration to the United States after the end of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013. This research is funded by a Seed Grant from the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Personal Bio

As is true for many researchers, Dr. Brainer’s research interests have personal origins. She became interested in global and transnational family issues as a result of her own family history of migration between the US and China, where she spent part of her childhood and teen years, and where her parents and youngest siblings continued to live until recently. Her interest in queer and trans family issues is rooted in her experience coming out to a close-knit and deeply faith-oriented family. Sociology provided her with a toolkit for linking her personal biography to larger cultural and structural issues. Dr. Brainer is passionate about sharing this toolkit with students and supporting student efforts for social transformation. Currently she is the faculty advisor to two student organizations, She’s the First and PRIDE.

When she is not at work, Dr. Brainer enjoys spending time with her parents and four siblings and with her kitten Betty. She also likes soap operas, burlesque and drag shows, and getting to know Detroit, her new city and home.