LGBT TIG Week: A Deeper Love: LGBTQ2S-Centered Anti-Oppressive, Equitable Evaluation in Practice by Michael Petillo & Rory Neuner

Please Note: This post was originally published during last year’s LGBT TIG Week.

Hello! We’re Michael Petillo (he/they) with CES Partnership, LLC, and Rory Neuner (she/her) with the Barr Foundation. In today’s Pride Week post, we’re excited to explore what an anti-oppression evaluation practice means, and how it can empower LGBTQ2S people (among others, too!). 

We are on indigenous land. Indigenous peoples have continually lives across the 7 continents since time immemorial, regardless of the names/border currently used to claim theses often unceded lands. Relationships and place-belonging are complex and culturally-specific. Land acknowledgements can encourage coalition and solidarity by those who now occupy and benefit from these lands. Use this to reflect, commit and act.
Anti-Oppression & LGBTQ2S  

Oppression is understood as the disempowerment, marginalization, and/or silencing of certain people/communities by systems or people in positions of power. Those with privilege and power ultimately benefit from oppression. Conversely, anti-oppression is an ongoing practice of challenging/disrupting social, economic, and political inequalities. Note the emphasis on ongoing – it’s a journey, not a destination!

Oppression can be subtle/seem invisible – rooted in Western European, colonial, patriarchal, capitalist structures. It happens at multiple, interconnected levels: ideological, institutional, interpersonal, and internalized. Need examples? Federal and state laws around marriage equality or who can use what public restroom are institutional illustrations. Heteronormative cis-centric ideologies inform these oppressive tactics, which negatively affect LGBTQ2S people – at home, work, school, and in communities. One of the most heartbreaking examples is how oppression adversely impacts LGBTQ2S youth. Being a teenager is tough enough – can het/cis folks imagine adding this layer to teenage life?!

Anti-oppression evaluation is active, ongoing (that word again!), and goes beyond “do no harm.” It‘s a commitment to unsettled witnessing, systems-level institutional inequity interrogation, social justice empowerment, and decolonizing methodologies.

An Equity Framework

Want to engage an anti-oppression evaluation practice? The Equitable Evaluation Framework (EEF) offers one path. EEF challenges ideological and institutional narratives while reimagining evaluation as grounded in three principles:

  1. Be in service of equity (in production, consumption, and management)
  2. Answer critical questions about how:
    1. Historical and structural decisions contribute to current conditions
    2. Strategic choices impact underlying systemic drivers of inequity
    3. Cultural contexts interact with both structural conditions and change initiatives
  3. Align evaluation design and implementation with equity values, which are multiculturally valid and oriented toward participant ownership.

While EEF focuses racial and economic equity within a US-based nonprofit and philanthropic foundation context, it is translatable across many other sectors and institutions. It emphasizes community complexity, multicultural contexts, individual/organizational learning, community ownership, and shifting away from limiting/oppressive narratives.    

Rethink LGBTQ2S Equity

Equity initiatives should embrace LGBTQ2S intersectional identities to allow for a radical reimagining/queering of institutions aligned through community building. Otherwise, we can miss critical intracommunity contexts. For example, QTPOC community needs and experiences are unique from white LGBTQ beyond pride affinity groups. The umbrella identity “Two Spirit” encompasses many Indigenous identities/cultures/expressions. One equity model won’t work for everyone, for a myriad of cultural and community-specific reasons. But we can rethink evaluation as anti-oppression practice, or “deepen our love.”

Consider where we can:
  • Challenge institutional/organizational exclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity diversity, from policy through to practice
  • Divest from oppressive structures/orthodoxies/methodologies as a field
  • Center LGBTQ2S and QTPOC participant involvement/ownership and value community knowledge/expertise in the process
  • Expand our equity work to include multilayered intersectional axes of race, ethnicity, culture, gender identity, and sexual orientation

Rad Anti-Oppression, Equity-Based Resources:


The American Evaluation Association is hosting LGBT Issues TIG Week with our colleagues in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Issues Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from our LGBT TIG 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. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

3 thoughts on “LGBT TIG Week: A Deeper Love: LGBTQ2S-Centered Anti-Oppressive, Equitable Evaluation in Practice by Michael Petillo & Rory Neuner”

  1. Chelsey Minter

    Hi there,
    Thank you for sharing this blog post again this year, as I would never have seen it otherwise (I am new to the world of evaluation, having been recently introduced through a course in a Masters of Education program).
    The work you write about can be useful in all levels of program evaluation, and I intend to use the EEF as a resource as I continue my evaluation journey. As a member of the queer community, I was pulled in to read this article as it intersects multiple aspects of my life, as a teacher, a parent, a community member, and a rugby player/director on the board at my local rugby club.
    I am inadvertently finding connections between what you have written and linked in your rad readings section and my rugby club – we are in the midst of a program shakeout and beginning a new path towards being a just and equitable club for all programs. Your section that calls us to look at where we can challenge, divest, center, and expand our evaluations with the lens of anti-oppression and anti-oppressive work is going to be focal at our next board meeting. Often rugby and rugby clubs have been ‘old boys clubs’ with an unspoken barrier for queer folx to join and find safety in belonging, there is an ongoing (there’s that word again 😉 ) shift within clubs across Canada to harness the power of Safe Sport practices and promote rugby to people of all backgrounds.
    As an educator, I can use anti-oppressive evaluation to grow my practice into one that shines light on those who have historically and categorically had their lights dimmed and been systemically viewed and cared for as less than. We have done work in the Social Justice 12 classes to return the light to POC and to 2SLGBTQ+ folk who have much to share and have worked far harder than cis/het white folks have had to. Turning history books up on themselves, we have looked critically at the photos selected and the perspectives used to tell the story – your invitation to evaluate with an anti-oppressive angle will deepen our ability to think about not just the photos selected, but the systems in place that led the people in charge of choosing to choose those particular photos.
    I am left thinking about how “One equity model won’t work for everyone, for a myriad of cultural and community-specific reasons” and will be working to incorporate this type of evaluative practice when planning for my future classes.
    Thank you,
    Chelsey (she/they)
    Masters of Education student at Queens University, Canada.

  2. Thanks for an incredibly interesting article. I am completing my Master of Education. Through this course I was asked to find an article of interest and engage with the piece.

    I was immediately drawn to this post as a person who identifies as queer. Firstly, I was drawn to you identifying that oppression can be subtle and unnoticed such as laws around marriage equality or who can use what public restroom. Currently at the school I work at, I have been advocating for a gender-neutral bathroom. There are students who do not feel as though they have a safe space to use the toilet. There is no space at our school, so we need to turn one of our staff bathrooms into a private gender-neutral bathroom. As you pointed out, this demonstrates the heteronormative cis-centric ideologies that affect LGBTQ2S at school. How can you perform at school and feel safe and secure when you cannot feel comfortable using the toilet? It has been very eye-opening for me to see the lack of support or acknowledgement of the lack of resources available to students who do not align with the gender binary.

    You go on to explain the Equitable Evaluation Framework (EEF). It demands that reimagines evaluation in three principles including: being in service of equity, how do historic and structural decisions contribute to the current conditions. You mention that EEF focuses on racial and economic equity but that it can be translatable across many other institutions. As it emphasizes community complexity and multiciliary contexts I believe that it can and should be used within the frameworks of a school community. This would allow for a deeper understanding of the diverse needs that exist within a school and how well the school community is servicing the students. If EEF was utilized I would be curious to know in what other areas education is lacking in its ability to support all youth.

  3. Hi Michael and Rory – I was moved by your article and was instantly drawn to it when I saw the ‘we are on Indigenous Land’ quote.  I am the Aboriginal Graduate coordinator at my high school in Surrey, BC. and so much of the work I do with my students is centered on anti-oppression and equity.  Your reminder that “anti-oppression is an ongoing practice of challenging/disrupting social, economic, and political inequalities. Note the emphasis on ongoing – it’s a journey, not a destination!” was a helpful and poignant one.
    Sadly, the LGBTQS community does suffer the same form of oppression and ‘less-than’ mind-set that many of the Indigenous members of our community still are faced with.
    Your reminder and guidelines for offering an anti-oppression evaluation practice was welcomed!  I will most definitely include your three principles of re-examining evaluation practice in my own practice.
    Be in service of equity (in production, consumption, and management)
    Answer critical questions about how:
    Historical and structural decisions contribute to current conditions
    Strategic choices impact underlying systemic drivers of inequity
    Cultural contexts interact with both structural conditions and change initiatives
    Align evaluation design and implementation with equity values, which are multiculturally valid and oriented toward participant ownership.
    I feel you have tapped into a subject that has been largely overlooked in the evaluation program community.  I have read and learned a lot about bias and privacy but have read very little about anti-oppressive and equitable evaluation practice.  Thanks for your article.

    Best,
    Christian

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