Carla headshot

Carla A. Pfeffer

Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology, Michigan State University
Chapter Member: Michigan SSN
Areas of Expertise:

Connect with Carla

About Carla

Dr. Pfeffer's research focuses on LGBTQIA+ individuals, families, health, and social equity. Overarching themes in Dr. Pfeffer's writings include critical inquiry into bodies considered marginal and social actors’ management of stigma and discrimination processes.

In the News

Guest to discuss the trans and nonbinary community being left out of the discussion surrounding overturning Roe V. Wade on Cheddar News, Carla A. Pfeffer (with Baker Machado), May 23, 2022.
Carla A. Pfeffer quoted on social media's role in promoting gender-neutral pronouns by Camille Camdessus, "He, She, They: Americans and the Choice of Gender Pronoun" The Jakarta Post, November 18, 2019.
Carla A. Pfeffer quoted on social perceptions of partnerships between transgender men and women who are cisgender by Samantha Schmidt & Forrest Milburn, "To Some, This Queer Couple Look Straight. For Him, That’s Okay. But for Her, It Feels ‘Like a Lie.’" The Washington Post, August 23, 2019.
Carla A. Pfeffer quoted on gendered labor dynamics in heterosexual, same sex, and transgender relationships by Rachael Rifkin, "Emotional Labor Is a Lot of Work" The Outline, June 19, 2018.
Carla A. Pfeffer's research on labor dynamics in transgender realtionships discussed by Claire Cain Miller, "How Same-Sex Couples Divide Chores, and What It Reveals About Modern Parenting," The New York Times, May 16, 2018.
Carla A. Pfeffer quoted by Mark Peters, "Leveling the Field Between Trans and Cis" Boston Globe, January 12, 2018.
"Queering the Familiar: Genealogy of a Book and its Cover," Carla A. Pfeffer, Gender & Society Blog, January 9, 2018.
Carla A. Pfeffer's research on the sociological implications of fatness and sexuality discussed by Charlotte Morabito, "Coming Out as Queer is Even More Complicated for a Fat Person," Huffington Post, August 18, 2016.
"(Trans)Gender Culture Clashes: Social Recognition and Determining the ‘Real’," Carla A. Pfeffer, Gender & Society Blog, August 20, 2014.


"Medical Uncertainty and Reproduction of the “Normal”: Decision-Making Around Testosterone Therapy in transgender Pregnancy" (with Sally Hines, Ruth Pearce, Damien W. Riggs, Elisabetta Ruspini, and Francis Ray White). Qualitative Research in Health 4 (2023).

Explores how trans individuals on testosterone therapy receive medical advice regarding pregnancy, the evidence base in the medical empirical literature for this guidance, and how these individuals respond to it. Findings aim to shed light on the impact of medical advice on trans individuals, particularly taking into account the role of testosterone therapy in reducing gender dysphoria, mental health protection, and providing a greater likelihood of being recognized by social peers in accordance with one’s gender.

"Men, Trans/Masculine, and Non-Binary People Negotiating Conception: Normative Resistance and Inventive Pragmatism" (with Damien W. Riggs, Ruth Pearce, Sally Hines, and Francis Ray White). International Journal of Transgender Health 22, no. 1 (2021): 6-17.

Explores the experiences of gestational parents who identify as men, trans/masculine, or non-binary regarding their pregnancies, especially focusing on conception. Findings suggest that men, trans/masculine, and non-binary people who are gestational parents seek to normalize their experiences of conception, while also acknowledging the specific challenges they face.

"Trans Pregnancy: Fertility, Reproduction, and Body Autonomy" (with Sally Hines, Ruth Pearce, Damien W. Riggs, and Francis Ray White). International Journal of Transgender Health 22, no. 1 (2021): 1-5.

Discusses the increasing importance of issues concerning reproduction for transgender people, specifically focusing on the experiences, needs, and rights of men, trans/masculine, and non-binary individuals who become pregnant. Aims to contribute to a better understanding of the specific reproductive inequalities experienced by trans and non-binary people, with the hope that it will lead to improved cultural and healthcare practices and reduced health inequalities.

"Transnormativity in the Psy Disciplines: Constructing Pathology in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and Standards of Care" (with Damien W Riggs, Ruth Pearce, Sally Hines, Francis White, and Elisabetta Ruspini). American Psychologist 74, no. 8 (2019): 912-924.

Examines the impact of psychological disciplines (psychiatry, psychology, psychoanalysis, and psychotherapy) on shaping perceptions of transgender lives, and how these disciplines created opportunities for transgender individuals to access treatment but often required compliance with transnormativity. Discusses recent contributions from transgender people, emphasizing informed consent models and clinical research, while highlighting ongoing challenges in accessing ethical and transcompetent care.

"Queering Families: The Postmodern Partnerships of Cisgender Women and Transgender Men " (Oxford University Press, 2017).

Represents the largest, most geographically comprehensive, in-depth interview study conducted with the cisgender women partners of transgender men to date. Discusses marriage, family, LGBT communities, gender, sexualities, sociology, and qualitative methods. 

"None of the Above: Toward Identity and Community-Based Understandings of (A)sexualities" (with Scherrer and Kristin S.). Archives of Sexual Behavior 46, no. 3 (2017): 643-646.

Discusses an article written by L. A. Brotto & M. A. Yule, which ascribes asexuality to the category of sexual orientation. This article challenges this categorization, and argues for a typological option that considers asexuality as an identity and community. The authors suggest that this approach better captures the essence of asexuality and may be applicable to a broader range of gender and sexual minorities.

"Normative Resistance and Inventive Pragmatism: Negotiating Structure and Agency in Transgender Families" Gender & Society 26, no. 4 (2012): 574-602.

Identifies the social processes by which the partners of transgender people access regulated social recognition, services, and institutions on behalf of themselves, their partners, and their families.

"‘Women’s Work?’: Women Partners of Transgender Men Doing Housework and Emotion Work" Journal of Marriage and Family 72, no. 1 (2010): 165-183.

Discusses the types of household and emotional labor performed by the partners of transgender people, expanding scholarship on LGBT families and family life.

"‘I Don’t Like Passing as a Straight Woman’: Queer Negotiations of Identity and Social Group Membership" American Journal of Sociology 120, no. 1 (2014): 1-44.

Challenges the notion that LGBT group membership is solely biological and that LGBT people would never choose to be LGBT. Suggests that human rights should not be predicated on biological vs. choice-based determinations of group membership.

"Beliefs about the Etiology of Homosexuality and about the Ramifications of Discovering Its Possible Genetic Origin" (with Jane P. Sheldon, Elizabeth M. Petty, Merle Feldbaum, and and Toby E. Jayaratne). Journal of Homosexuality 52 (2007): 111-150.

Considers whether or not proving that homosexuality is genetic may influence support for lesbian and gay people. Challenges the notion that “born this way” formulations of sexual identity always result in more accepting attitudes toward lesbians and gay men.