LGBT TIG Week: Joe E Heimlich on LGBT Cultural Competence

Welcome to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Evaluation Topical Interest Group (LGBT TIG) week on aea365! My name is Joe E. Heimlich. I’m a professor with Ohio State University Extension where I work with informal learning institutions and organizations to build capacity. This week, I’m in my role as coordinator for the LBGT TIG’s blog week.

During the American Evaluation Association annual conference, through discussions in sessions and at the TIG meeting, the question kept arising: What does it mean to be culturally competent as the concept relates to gay, lesbian and transgender issues? We realize that for many, the assumption is that competence means asking if someone is LGBT and, if they’re really cutting edge, including QQI (queer, questioning, and intersex). But for those who are represented by any of these letters of gender identity and beyond, the hetero-normative assumptions in what is asked and how it is asked go far beyond the label used.

This week, the LBGT TIG is pleased to host a week of blogs meant to challenge some of the underlying assumptions of cultural competence and those who identify as gender other.

What does this mean? Think how challenging it is to answer a question about head of household when the underlying assumption is heteronormative households. Consider the frustration when trying to fill in the box about “family composition” when the boxes don’t work (Yes I have a daughter. No I’m not her father biologically or legally.). The list goes on of ways in which the questions asked are suggesting the respondent does not fit.

This week, we’ll take a few steps toward cultural competency around LGBTQQI. First, Terry Brown will challenge us about the construct of gender and identity. Kari Geene and Emily Greytak are next with their important work around the difficulty of asking about transgender identity. Efrain posts his blog which provides some thought-provoking insights into how gender identity informs all aspects of an individual’s life. David Fetterman then gives us insight into the amazing work he and his team have been doing in applying LGBT awareness into medical education. Finally, Robert Hoke wraps up the week with a charge to the field.

Our goal this week is to begin moving gender in evaluation from being about putting people in boxes, to an understanding that gender identity IS identity. To understand the individual, we must include a central part of who they are in our work.

Hot Tip: There is no one “gay” or “lesbian” or LGBT culture. There is tremendous diversity within gender groupings, and understanding that a study of LGBTQQI requires more than sex and sexual orientation. Queer theory provides an entry for understanding the complexity that is queer theory and a good place for an introduction is Sex, Gender and Development: Challenging Heteronormativity (free for download).

Rad Resource – Gender Spectrum: A great introductory site on gender.

aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. We’re celebrating LGBT Evaluation week with our colleagues in AEA’s LGBT Topical Interest Group. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice.

2 thoughts on “LGBT TIG Week: Joe E Heimlich on LGBT Cultural Competence”

  1. Joe

    Thanks for coordinating this important blog in evaluation. I think the topics are right on target and I look forward to contributing as well this week.

    You also mentioned that you focus on “informal learning institutions and organizations to build capacity”. If you have a moment to expand on that topic I would appreciate it. (My focus on empowerment evaluation is designed to build capacity and we work at helping groups create informal (and formal) learning organizations – with the aim of helping them build evaluation capacity).

    Take care and I look forward to this week of postings.

    – David

    1. I work with zoos, nature centers, science museums, parks, botanical gardens, museums (of all sorts) and even some performing arts organizations. My work is around building capacity and in working toward mission so do my evaluation and research work around how people learn in this spaces– and focus on conative learning more than cognitive or affective.

      Several years ago a colleague and I co-edited a journal issue dedicated to LGBT and museums. That work opened my eyes to tremendous gap between what is assumed and what is. I did a pilot study (would love to do it nationally) and found that the “demographic target audience” of highly educated gays and lesbians were not supporters of the arts, cultural, and scientific institutions in the ways expected and that study led me to increasingly include LGBTQQI in the studies I do, both in how we ask, the assumptions underlying all the questions in an evaluation, and my own biases as a gay man who is highly engaged in these institutions. So this work is both personal and important.

      I’d love to talk more with people whose foci are about building capacity in communities and organizations through the non-profits!

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