CEA Week: Fostering a Learning Community to Improve the Health and Well-Being of Sexual and Gender Minority (SGM) Populations by Dylan Felt and Peter Lindeman

Hi everyone, Dylan Felt and Peter Lindeman here with the EDIT Program at Northwestern University’s Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing. Our team focuses on fostering a learning community to improve the health and wellbeing of sexual and gender minority (SGM) populations in Chicago and beyond.

Our work has taught us that evaluators have a responsibility to consider sexual orientation and gender identity in our work. We want to talk a bit about why, and to provide evaluators with the tools to do so effectively and conscientiously.

The LGBT+ community faces a number of critical health disparities. While some are well known (e.g., HIV, mental health, and substance use), there’s still more we don’t know. Just this summer, our team published one of the first papers to highlight the link between sexual minority identity and Type 2 diabetes risk factors.

Many of the disparities which affect the SGM community are driven by complex structural factors and exacerbated by minority stress and stigma, which can impact the effectiveness of an intervention. If you aren’t specifically breaking down your results to consider SGM individuals, much like you would with sex and race, you aren’t only doing a disservice to the LGBT+ folks in your program, but to the accuracy and quality of your evaluation. If a program is showing results for some participants, but SGM folks are faring worse – that’s something stakeholders need to know.

Hot Tips:

Check out our recommendations for how best to ask these questions below:

  1. What was your sex assigned at birth?
    1. Male
    2. Female
    3. Prefer not to respond
  2. What is your current gender identity?
    1. Male
    2. Female
    3. Agender
    4. Non-Binary
    5. Not Listed: ________
    6. Prefer not to respond
    7. Unsure
  3. Do you identify as transgender?
    1. Yes
    2. No
    3. Prefer not to respond
    4. Unsure
  4. What is your sexual orientation?
    1. Straight
    2. Gay/Lesbian
    3. Bisexual/Pansexual
    4. Not Listed: _______
    5. Prefer not to respond
    6. Unsure

Depending on the setting of the evaluation, you may want to be more detailed. While the suggestions above are a good starting point, you might want to add more options for sexual orientation (e.g., asexual, queer) and gender identity (e.g., gender fluid, gender queer) if you are evaluating a program at an LGBT health center. Remember – don’t be afraid to ask your program stakeholders for advice! They know their community best, and can be a great resource.

Rad Resources:

Speaking of resources: Sheila B. Robinson and Kimberly Firth Leonard’s book, Designing Quality Survey Questions, includes information about how to ask these and other demographic questions.

The Williams Institute has two great guides on this topic – the SMART Report and the GenIUSS Report. They are some of the most extensive resources available that provide best practices for asking sexual orientation and gender identity questions while conducting research and evaluation.

Want to know more?

Reach out! We’re happy to talk. You can reach Peter, Dylan, and the rest of the EDIT team at EDIT@northwestern.edu

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Chicagoland Evaluation Association (CEA) Affiliate Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from CEA members. 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@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

2 thoughts on “CEA Week: Fostering a Learning Community to Improve the Health and Well-Being of Sexual and Gender Minority (SGM) Populations by Dylan Felt and Peter Lindeman”

  1. Hello Dylan and Peter,

    I am a student in a Program Evaluations course, so I am only recently getting a feel of what goes into creating evaluations and performing evaluations as well.
    I can really appreciate the facilitation of the learning community you are providing. To my understanding there can be a lot of data that could be rendered meaningless if it does not take into account the true nature of the sample population. I am not aware of the statistics regarding the prevalence of these kinds of gender and sexual inclusive evaluation questions such as posed in your original post.
    I agree with you, that not breaking down the results is doing a great disservice to the LGBT community and the population they represent.
    Going forward in my professional career I will never forget how important inclusivity is for all people and how misrepresenting data can seriously skew your data.

  2. Hi Dylan and Peter,

    Your observations on the importance of considering sexual orientation and gender identity in evaluations resonated with me. My work in a previous role with youth who had experienced homelessness exposed me to the additional hardships faced by LGBT+ youth facing precarious housing and homelessness.

    I am aware of the argument of some that in an evaluation, participants should be treated the same and personal differentiators should not be a part of the evaluation as that would take the focus of the program’s equal service to all clients. Also there is a school of thought that feels that the evaluation results would be skewed. I agree with you wholeheartedly that results that show that some clients/participants are not benefiting to the same degree as others need to be highlighted and identified to stakeholders. The purpose of an evaluation is to assess if they clients are better off for having received services. If we do not differentiate baseline data to understand the struggles clients are facing coming into the program and during their participation, we are not truly conducting an authentic, comprehensive evaluation.

    I currently work in recruitment and admissions for graduate business programs. We have discussed expanding our choices on our application form when it comes to asking about gender identity. We have come to recognize that LGBT+ applicants (especially from international countries) may have faced or are currently facing issues and circumstances that could be prohibitive to their success and may have impacted their undergraduate academic grades. We try to take a holistic approach in our review of candidates and consider other factors that may have impacted their grades, GMAT score etc. We recently updated our form to include the following

    – I do not identify within the gender binary
    – I prefer not to disclose information concerning my gender

    I would like to see our form expanded to include a more comprehensive set of choices to more accurately reflect the realities and complexities of LGBT+ individuals. Thank you for your suggestions on how to ask these questions; I will be sure to share them with my team!

    Andrea Wright

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