Best of aea365 week: Käri Greene on Issues of Gender and Sexuality in Evaluation

My name is Käri Greene and I’m a Senior Research Analyst at Program Design & Evaluation Services, an intergovernmental agency for the Oregon Public Health Division and Multnomah County Health Department, as well as a co-Chair for the LGBT Issues TIG. Hold on…what was that jumble of letters at the end of the sentence? Well, our TIG explores areas of sexuality, gender and identity as they relate to evaluation theory, practice, and use, specifically focusing on issues related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues.

Many evaluations might not deal explicitly with LGBT issues; however, gender and sexuality are concepts present in much of our evaluation practice. Gender or ‘sex’ is a standard demographic variable collected in nearly all evaluation studies, and sexual orientation is being included more frequently in evaluations. But the concepts of sexual orientation, sexual behavior, and gender identity can be dynamic and complex.

In public health evaluations, someone served by a program might identify as a lesbian woman, but she may have been born and raised as a boy and not identify as transgender. A man served at the local public health clinic might be having sex with other men, but not identify as gay or bisexual. Being clear about what we need to know about the clients served in our programs is essential to answering our evaluation questions.

2015 Update
The key thing to keep in mind when dealing with issues of sexuality and gender is to question assumptions and ask the right questions for your evaluation and those served by the program. Sexual orientation does not automatically define a person’s sexual behavior, and gender identity does not always fit neatly into a two-by-two table.

Feeling even more confused about how to deal with gender and sexuality? That’s good – that means you’re questioning assumptions! But it can be frustrating. The field is evolving and even after a century of research on sexuality and gender, few researchers agree on terminology, dimensions and categorical classifications of sexuality. But fear not, we’ll have more to say on this subject throughout the week…

Hot Tip: Consider how you currently assess gender. It might be important to ask multiple items to get at gender – one that asks current gender identity (“Do you consider yourself to be male, female, transgender, or something else?”) and one that asks birth gender (“What sex were you assigned at birth – male, female, or intersex?”).

Hot Tip: Consider expanding your existing response categories for sexual identity. Younger clients might consider themselves “queer” as opposed to the more traditional categories of lesbian, gay, or bisexual.

2015 Updates
Rad Resource: The Williams Institute “Best Practices for Asking Questions to Identify Transgender & Other Gender Minority Respondents on Population-Based Surveys

Rad Resource: The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has resources, including a media reference guide, that can be helpful when communicating and reporting about issues of sexuality and gender.

Rad Resource:Do Ask, Do Tell” article by Cahill et al. on the acceptability of asking patients sexual orientation and gender identity in clinical settings.

This post is a modified version of a previously published aea365 post in an occasional series, “Best of aea365.” 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. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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