Funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Research Grant (2015-2020)
Project Title: Synchronizing Research, Policymaking, and Practice to Assist Sexual and Gender Minority Youth to Grow into Resilience
Motivation and Core Goal: In Canada, sexual and gender minority (SGM) youth, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer Indigenous, and intersexual youth, are a diverse population across race, ethnocultural location, and other relational differences. They compose a particularly vulnerable group that continues to be involved in a paradoxical struggle to be cared about in education and other caring institutions. This grave reality indicates the urgent need for greater synchronicity in research, policy, and practice arenas so stakeholders in Canadian education and complementary caring institutions like healthcare, social services, and justice can collectively help these youth to problem solve and build capacity, moving away from unconstructive strategies focused on stigmatizing or fixing these youth as “problems” causing social disorder. The five-year research program focuses on addressing this pressing need, with an emphasis on researching how SGM youth grow into resilience within a process that situates caring professionals as a core asset in achieving this goal.
Objectives: The four core objectives are: (1) to contribute to the emergence of queer critical theory by considering how ways of queer social and cultural theorizing need to be rearticulated as trans-spectrum, Indigenous, and racial theorizing challenge and impact moves in queer theorizing; (2) to investigate further developments and trends in education and other caring institutions in Canada with regard to policymaking and its implementation in caring practices, programs, strategies, and interventions that highlight recognition, access, and accommodation of SGM youth; (3) to investigate how SGM youth, in intersections with race and Indigeneity, grow into resilience where this growth is viewed as a dynamic ecological process enabling youth to (i) deal with stressors, risk-taking, and setbacks in personal, social, and institutional contexts (the risks component) and (ii) move forward to demonstrate positive outcomes and signs of thriving (the resilience component); and (4) to investigate knowledge levels that caring professionals in education and other caring professions have of policies and practices that affirm and accommodate the needs of SGM youth, with the goal of using this study to inform an integrated approach to inform educational and other institutional accommodation.
Methodology: In conducting research with SGM youth and caring professionals, mixed methods research (MMR) involving interviews, surveys, and arts-based methods is utilized to increase opportunities for including disenfranchised SGM youth voices on ethical grounds and to bring an array of educators and caring professionals into research designed to inform policymaking and practices focused on SGM youth, their competencies, and their access and accommodation.
Conducting this research with vulnerable SGM young people often constitutes a catch-22 engagement: This is because attending to the ethical and methodological requirements of conducting good research has the potential to set parameters that could make it difficult for certain subpopulations like street-involved and homeless youth to participate as comfortable and unfettered research participants. While it is vital to speak to and with such under-researched populations as experts on their own lives, researchers have to be cognizant and vigilant regarding what the research process might trigger for individual research participants navigating lives commonly filled with stressors and risk taking.
Significance of My Research Program: It builds on my multi-level knowledge-praxis bridging methodology to enhance knowledge about resilience as a life-enhancing ecological process and outcome enabled by policy as protection; ethical, supportive, and caring practices; and positive relationships among SGM youth and caring professionals who emphasize asset building and indicators of thriving.
This research and the above mentioned elements and issues comprise the subject of my forthcoming book titled Worthy of Accommodation: Sexual and Gender Minority Young People in Canada’s Social Institutions – Families, Schooling, Social Services, Policing/Justice, & Healthcare.