Curators’ note: Identity is such a crucial component in LGBTQ evaluation. With that in mind, we’re rerunning this article from 2020 to highlight a unique take on identity as a “Best of AEA365” feature.
Hello! We are Andrew Hartman, Brian Hoessler, Carolyn Camman and Vincent Tom – 2SLGBTQ evaluators from upper Turtle Island located throughout Western Canada. We’ve been exploring how our identities inform how we navigate our evaluation work as part of a submission for an upcoming journal issue on 2SLGBTQ evaluators and evaluation. Existing as queer has taught us how to enter and safely navigate new contexts while considering and viewing spaces from different viewpoints. We hope sharing some of our reflections informs you on bringing this approach into your praxis.
Identity shapes how we enter and conduct ourselves within spaces, subconsciously and consciously. Any evaluator can learn to be consciously aware of and attentive to the dimensions and implications of one’s identity, but as queer folx we had to learn to navigate our identities due to dominant cis-heteronormativity, which can be invisible to those not directly affected.
The subjectivity of identity is often diminished compared to positivist standpoints that uphold unpositioned objectivity as a core value. However, the value of decontextualized objectivity is being questioned within and outside of evaluation. Indigenous journalist Candis Callison critiqued objectivity as ‘the view from nowhere’, an impossible position whose pursuit results in harm. Similar critiques have been raised repeatedly within evaluation. Indigenous evaluator Nicole Bowman instructs us on the importance of telling our origin stories. Cyndi Suarez, senior editor of the Nonprofit Quarterly, points out that ‘decontextualizing is a dominant power strategy’. As evaluators, our role is to help put things into context. How can we do that without putting ourselves in context?
Our queer approach to evaluation embraces living our truths and allowing our wholeness to emerge. This requires understanding our histories, intersections, and relations to community. As evaluators we cannot simply remove ourselves from our contexts, only dissociate from them. A queer approach thus embraces complexity and context to allow for more rigorous evaluations.
- Reflect on your identities – What are my identities? How do they inform, strengthen, and hinder my approach to evaluation?
- Get curious and question everything – How do I hold myself? How do I show up? How do others perceive me? How do these answers shape my interactions?
- Explore your roots – Where do I come from? And how does my journey and history shape me? What strengths do my roots provide me?
- Moray, P. Episode 39: Your trans ancestors and elders hold your activist tender heart. Bespoken Bones Podcast. November 28, 2018. https://bespokenbones.com/episode-39-your-trans-ancestors-and-elders-hold-your-activist-tender-heart/
- Bowman-Farrell NR. Nation-to-Nation Evaluation: Governance, Tribal Sovereignty, and Systems Thinking through Culturally Responsive Indigenous Evaluations. Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation. 2019;34(2). doi:10.3138/cjpe.67977
- Asakura, K. (2017), Paving Pathways Through the Pain: A Grounded Theory of Resilience Among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer Youth. J Res Adolesc, 27: 521-536. doi:10.1111/jora.12291
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