Michelle Esther Obrien Photo

Michelle O' Brien


Michelle Esther O’Brien is a mother, writer and communist militant living in Brooklyn. She coordinates the NYC Trans Oral History Project, an online archive of over 150 interviews with trans New Yorkers. For work, O’Brien is currently running a series of 35 community-based events at the New York Public Library to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. She is a doctor candidate, writing a dissertation at NYU on how capitalism and class shaped NYC LGBTQ social movements since the rise of municipal austerity. Her writing is forthcoming in Social Movement Studies, Commune Magazine, Invert Journal, Endnotes, and in the collection Transgender Marxism from Pluto Press. Previously, O’Brien worked in HIV and AIDS services as a social worker and organizer, including in NYC at Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Rivington House, New York Harm Reduction Educators, and in Philadelphia at ActionAIDS.


Curriculum vitae

Address Phone

NYU Department of Sociology (347) 265-9307

295 Lafayette Street, 4th Floor Email

New York, New York 10012 [email protected]


Current Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Sociology, New York University (NYU).

Dissertation: “Queer Lives and Class Politics in New York City, 1978-2015.” Committee: Jeff Goodwin (Chair), Gianpaolo Baiocchi, Steven Lukes, Jeff Manza. Expected defense Spring 2020.

2013 Masters of Arts, Sociology, NYU.

2011 Masters of Social Work, Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, City University of New York (CUNY) Organizational Management and Leadership Method. Dean’s Award, Graduated with honors

2000 BA in Women’s & Gender Studies Macalester College, St. Paul, MN
Honors Paper completed with commendation “Dreaming Our Desire Insurgent promise in queer artistic practice.”
Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa.

Research Interests

Social Movements, Political Economy, Political Sociology, Sexualities, LGBTQ Studies, Gender, Urban History, Welfare State, Public Sociology, Socially Engaged Research

Awards and Honors

2017-2018 American Association of University Women, American Dissertation Fellow

2016-2017 Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award, New York University Department of Sociology.


Forthcoming “The Influence of Donors on Cross-Class Social Movements: Gay Marriage and Trans Rights Campaigns in New York State.” Accepted to Social Movement Studies. Published online at https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14742837.2019.1598354

Publications (cont.)

Forthcoming “Trans Work: Employment Trajectories, Labor Discipline, and Gender Freedom.” Accepted as a chapter in collected volume. Transgender Marxism, edited by Jules Joanne Gleeson and Elle O’Rourke. Pluto Press.

Forthcoming Book review of Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics by Kim Phillips-Fein. (New York, NY: Metropolitan Books, 2017). Accepted to Historical Materialism.

Forthcoming “To Free Straight Society: Stonewall and Black Insurrection.” Accepted to Invert Journal.

Forthcoming “To Abolish the Family: The Working-Class Family and Gender Liberation in Capitalist Development.” Accepted to Endnotes.

Forthcoming “Junky Communism: Harm Reduction and Revolutionary Solidarity.” Accepted to Commune Magazine.

2018 Paula England, Jessie Ford and Michelle O'Brien. "Gender and Sexualities." In Social Problems: The Sociology Project, ed. Jeff Manza and Patrick Sharkey, pp. 108-41. New York: Pearson.

2017 “Queer in the Eras of Capital,” book review of Warped: Gay Normality and Queer Anticapitalism by Peter Drucker. (Chicago, IL: Haymarket, 2014), H-Net Humanities and Social Sciences Online, H-Socialisms List. http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=46200

2016 “Learning from Trans Prison Abolitionists,” book review of Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex, Expanded Second Edition. Edited by Eric A. Stanley & Nat Smith, forward by Cece McDonalds. (Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2011/2015), H-Net Humanities and Social Sciences Online, H-Socialisms List. http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=45475

2017 “Epilogue,” Revolutionary Feminism: Communist Interventions, vol. 3, Second Edition. New York, NY: Communist Research Cluster.

2015 Lead editor of Revolutionary Feminism: Communist Interventions, vol. 3, edited volume of left feminist theoretical debates. Oakland, CA: Communist Research Cluster.

2013 “Tracing this Body: Transsexuality, pharmaceuticals & capitalism,” in Transgender Studies Reader 2, edited by Susan Stryker and Aren Z. Aizura. NY, NY: Routledge.

2003 “Stayin’ Alive: Trans survival and struggle on the streets of Philadelphia,” in That’s Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation, edited by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore. Berkeley, CA: Soft Skull Press.

2003 “Gender Skirmishes on the Edges: Notes on gender identity, self-determination and anticolonial struggle,” published on Colours of Resistance. (No longer available.) Reposted on Anarcha Library. http://anarchalibrary.blogspot.com/2010/09/gender-skirmishes-on-edges-notes-on.html

2003 “Whose Ally?: Thinking critically about anti-oppression ally organizing,” Published on Colours of Resistance. http://www.coloursofresistance.org/370/whose-ally-thinking-critically-about-anti-oppression-ally-organizing-part-1/


2018 Teaching Assistant, Terrorism and Political Violence in the Modern World (SOC-UA 474), NYU

2017 Adjunct Instructor, Sociology of Gender and Sexuality (SOC-UA 21), NYU

2013-2017 Teaching Assistant, Sociological Theory (SOC-UA 111), NYU (5 semesters)

2016 Teaching Assistant, Race and Ethnicity (SOC-UA 135), NYU

2013-2014 Adjunct Instructor, Sexual Diversity in Society (SOC-UA 511), NYU (2 semesters)

2014 Adjunct Instructor, Urban Sociology (SOC 234), Lehman College, CUNY

2013 Teaching Assistant, Power Politics and Society (SOC-UA 471), NYU

2012 Teaching Assistant, Sociological Research Methods (SOC-UA 301), NYU (2 semesters)

Academic Conference Presentations

2018 “Queer and Trans Rights in Workplace Organizing Struggles,” Historical Materialism, London, U.K.

2018 “To Abolish the Family: Communist Struggle and the Working-Class Family in Capitalist Development,” Historical Materialism, London, U.K.

2018 “Structural Dependency on Movement Donors: Gay Marriage and Trans Rights in New York State,” American Sociological Association, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

2018 “Trans and Queer Politics in NYC Retail Worker Organizing,” American Sociological Association Sexualities Pre-Conference, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

2018 “Self-Expression and Class Position in Trans Employment,” Eastern Sociological Society, Annual Meeting. Baltimore, Maryland.

2017 “Queer Movements and Class Politics in New York City,” Historical Materialism, London, U.K.

2017 “AIDS and Austerity: Gay Men’s Health Crisis and the Causes of Nonprofit Proliferation.” Presented at “Neoliberal Governance and Biomedical Battlefields,” Regular Session Panel. American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Montreal, Canada.

2017 “Anticipating the Global City: Elite Planning in the 1960s Redevelopment of Lower Manhattan,” Section Roundtable on Urban Planning. American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Montreal, Canada.

Visiting Lecturing

2018 “To Free Straight Society: The Gay Liberation Front’s Relationship to Global Insurrection,” The Juilliard School, Writing Center.

2017 Panelist, “Trans Oral History and the Politics of Trans Employment,” at CLAGS: The Center for LGBTQ Studies, City University of New York Graduate Center.

2008 Visiting Presenter, course on Community Organizing at the City College of CUNY.

2003 Visiting lecturer, “Feminism and Trans Politics Reimagining self-determination,” Reed College. Portland, OR.

2003 Visiting lecturer, “Tracing this Body Transgender bodies, pharmaceuticals and transnational capital,” Haverford College (Haverford, PA) and Hampshire College (Hampshire, MA).

2003 Visiting lecturer, “Reading Trans-Health/Reading Race War,” Vassar College, (Poughkeepsie, NY) and Swarthmore College (Swarthmore, PA).

2002 Guest lecturer, “Queer Theory and Movements” to Sexual Minorities HSED 645, a MSW course, Widener University Center for Education. Wayne, PA.

Social Welfare Professional Positions

2010-2011 Queers for Economic Justice, NY, NY. (Internship)

2010 Campaign Manager, Housing Here and Now, NY, NY.

2008-2009 Executive Director, Housing Here and Now, NY, NY.

2007-2008 Rivington House, NY, NY. (Internship)

2005-2007 Community Organizer, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, NY, NY.

2004-2005 Transitional Case Manager, Access to Treatment Program, NY Harm
Reduction Educators, NY, NY.

2003-2004 Prevention Case Manager, Transgender Specialist, Action AIDS, Philadelphia.

2003 Intensive Case Manager, Transgender Specialist, Action AIDS, Philadelphia.

Community Leadership

2018-Present Stonewall Project Coordinator, New York Public Library, NY, NY. Coordinating 30+ events at NYPL branch libraries for the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.

2017-Present Community Oral History Coordinator of the New York City Trans Oral History Project, New York Public Library, NY, NY.

2008 Board of Directors, Third Wave Foundation, NY, NY.

2004-2006 Board of Directors, Sylvia Rivera Law Project, NY, NY.

2003-2004 Co-Chair, Sexual and Gender Minorities Subcommittee of the Mayor’s
Taskforce on Homelessness, Philadelphia, PA.

1995-1996 Executive Board, Community Alliance of Lane County, Eugene, OR.

Social Welfare and Community Action Presentations and Workshops

2017 Panelist, “Using Oral History to Theorize Trans Employment Struggles” NYC Trans Oral History Project and CLAGS The Center for LGBTQ Studies, CUNY Graduate Center, NY, NY.

2010 & 2011 Presenter, International Women’s Day, Raha Iranian Feminist Collective, NY.

2010 Collaborated in planning two workshops at the United States Social Forum in Detroit, MI “Radical and Revolutionary Approaches to Reform Struggles,” with the New York Study Group. “Revolution on the Daily,” with Revolutionary Work in Our Time.

2009 Co-presenter, “Organizing to Build Power”, Young Democratic Socialist Conference, NY, NY.

2009 Co-facilitator, “Making Demands and Building Alternatives,” workshop at the Strategic Dialogue of Revolutionary Work in Our Time, Chicago, MI.

2009 Housing Justice Award Recipient and Speaker, City-Wide Taskforce on Housing Court. NY, NY.

2009 Guest presenter, “Rent regulation and organizing” with City-Wide Taskforce on Housing Court. NY, NY.

2008 Panelist on housing justice, “Thank You Advocates” as part of the Redlines Housing Crisis Learning Center exhibition at the Queens Museum of Art, Queens, NY.

2008 Presenter, “Housing Movement’s Next Steps”, mass membership meeting of Housing Here and Now, NY, NY.

2007 Facilitated four weekly organizing and leadership development groups with low- income people of color living with HIV and AIDS.

2003 Presenter, “Basics of HIV/AIDS Risk Reduction,” for introductory first-year courses at Drexel University. Philadelphia, PA.

2003 Presenter, “Transgender Identity,” for public health course at Temple Univeristy. Philadelphia, PA.

2003 Trainer, “Transgender Care for Outreach Workers,” workshop at the Youth Health Empowerment Project. Philadelphia, PA.

2003 Co-presenter, “HIV/AIDS in Transgender Communities,” workshop at Renaissance Support Group. Philadelphia, PA.

2003 Co-trainer, “Down To Basics Basics of Trans Issues for Social Service and Health Providers,” workshop at Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. Philadelphia, PA.

2003 Presenter, “Living Trans,” workshop as a part of International Women’s Day at Central High School. Philadelphia, PA.

2003 Workshop facilitated as part of college speaking tour, including “Strategy and Accountability in Organizing,” at Reed College, Portland, OR, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore PA and Hampshire College, Hampshire, MA; “Down to Basics An intro on trans politics,” at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY and Haverford College, Haverford, PA.

Conference Planning Committees

2008 Many Stories, Many Strategies Making Money Make Change. National conference of progressive young people with wealth on class privilege and social change philanthropy.

2003 Healthy Bodies, Healthy Lives, Healthy Communities, 3rd Annual Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. Regional conference on transgender health for transgender people, social service and healthcare providers. Philadelphia, PA.

2003 Our Bodies, Ourselves Too, 2nd Annual Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. Philadelphia, PA

1999 “La Madrugada Prometida Developing Resistance to Global Capital,” Regional conference supporting movements against economic globalization. St. Paul, MN.