Sean Massey is a renaissance man. During his eight years as a Binghamton resident, he has stood out in his roles as a professor at Binghamton University, a local restaurant owner, a LGBTQ activist, a city councilman and an author of published research.
Massey moved to Binghamton from Texas in 2004 to begin his career as an academic at Binghamton University. He is currently a research associate professor in the women’s studies department, and teaches courses including “Intro to Women’s Studies,” “Psychology of Gender,” “Research Methods for the Study of Sexuality and Gender,” and “LGBTQ Youth.”
In 2007, Massey and his partner Loren Couch opened Tranquil Bar & Bistro, a local restaurant located at 36 Pine St. Tranquil is a popular Downtown hotspot and a regular participant in Binghamton’s biannual Restaurant Week.
As the chief manager of Tranquil, Couch handles most major decisions at the restaurant, while Massey manages bookkeeping and gives his “creative insight from time to time,” he said.
“Loren … basically needed to find his place in this community,” Massey said. “One of the things he always wanted to do was to run his own business, so we decided that we would invest in one in this community.”
Massey said they were led to the restaurant business, of course, by their love of food.
“Ultimately, we were pretty big foodies,” Massey said. “We really loved good food. We wanted to create a place that offered both great cuisine and a warm and inciting atmosphere, similar to ones found in New York City and Europe.”
Tranquil is a small restaurant with exposed brick walls that are typically decorated with local artwork. The menu rotates seasonally, but typically features French and modern American cuisine. Dishes range from $10 to $26.
Student reviews of the restaurant are typically positive.
“The atmosphere was very relaxing and romantic in a chic kind of way,” said Jessie Rubin, a junior majoring in English. “It had a very young environment and the menu was unique and delicious.”
Ariella Fineman, a senior majoring in human development, also enjoyed the restaurant.
“It’s a delicious restaurant,” she said. “It is a little taste of New York. From the food to the ambiance, you feel like you are no longer in Binghamton.”
Massey said that even though he focuses more on his career as a professor, he finds himself at Tranquil often.
“One of the great things about Tranquil is that it’s a great meeting place for all kinds of people,” Massey said. “Tranquil Bar is a place for everybody. It’s a place where you can have a romantic dinner, and a place for students and the community to just hang out.”
Couch also noted that the restaurant enjoys support from students.
“We do serve a good amount of students,” Couch said. “They seem to be more graduate students than undergraduates. We often wonder if it’s because of transportation more than anything else.”
Competition among restaurants is more difficult in a small city, especially in Binghamton where there is a large number of high-quality restaurants within close proximity of each other, according to Massey.
“Running a restaurant is a very different enterprise,” Massey said. “It’s quite a challenge. There are a lot of good restaurants in Binghamton, and they are growing. Although the competition is fierce, I do think that this community can support a large number of great restaurants. But it can always improve.”
In addition to his career in the local restaurant industry, Massey also served on the Binghamton City Council, the legislative branch of the city government, from 2008-12.
He represented the fifth district, which covers the southwest side of the city, and was the chair of the City Council’s planning committee. During his time on the Council, he sponsored several pieces of legislation during his term, including Binghamton’s Human Rights law, the creation of the Binghamton Human Rights Commission and a law that legalized skateboarding in the city.
He also worked with the Westside Neighborhood Project to put together a package of zoning reforms related to student renters in Binghamton.
“I was always interested in public service and I was approached by the working families party to run for the council in the district,” Massey said. “City Council seemed like a great opportunity to do work in public service. It felt like a natural thing to do work in public service. One of the things that inspired me was the potential I found in Binghamton as a city. I wanted to help work towards the realization of that potential.”
Massey became inspired to become an academic when he was an activist in New York City.
“I was part of both the LGBT movement in New York City, as well as part of the AIDS movement in response to the AIDS epidemic,” Massey said. “I also worked at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), the nation’s first and largest AIDS organization. I worked here for about two years in their research department while I was in graduate school.”
His research now focuses on various measures of prejudice.
“We have a society that has made a great deal of progress in this area, but we still have these very troubling examples of youth being bullied, victims of anti-gay violence, like the case of Matthew Shepard, where they are near death or murdered,” he said. “We confront more everyday kinds of prejudice, and we need to better understand the ways that prejudice operates, what’s its source, how we combat it in order to improve all our lives.”
Currently, one of his biggest research projects is within the women’s studies department at Binghamton University. Massey is part of a team that received a BU Academic Program and Faculty Development Fund award to organize an interdisciplinary research group for the study of sexuality.
“The group’s purpose is to encourage and support sexuality research on campus,” Massey said. “One of the big projects we are doing is contrasting hookup behavior and casual sex with longer-term intimate relationship among college students.”
Massey is the co-editor of a book titled, “Beyond Progress and Marginalization LGTQ Youth in Educational Contexts,” in addition to authoring several articles published in peer-reviewed journals, focusing on the psychology of prejudice, same-sex parenting, as well as critical studies of research methodology.