LGBT Issues TIG Week: Perspectives from Emerging LGBTQ+ Evaluators: On Advocacy, Love, and Making a Difference by Esrea Perez-Bill

Hello! My name is Esrea PerezBill (She/her/They/them) with the EDIT Program at Northwestern University. I am an emerging LGBTQ+ evaluator who works alongside other emerging LGBTQ+ evaluators who were interviewed for this piece.

Who is the Expert?

Expertise has often been contextualized by power. It’s imperative to critique the traditional idea of expertise, and those who have been regarded as experts – how this label has served whiteness, capitalism, and cis-heteropatriarchy. It’s crucial to interrogate how the evaluation field has upheld harmful ideas of expertise, and to dually uplift emerging LGBTQ+ evaluators as experts in their own regard. This piece spotlights the voices and experiences of emerging LGBTQ+ evaluators.

Quote provided by an emerging LGBTQ+ Evaluator for this piece
How did you end up in evaluation?

Some evaluators came from formal evaluation education backgrounds, while others stumbled into it from their prior LGBTQ+ community-engaged work. One evaluator put it this way: “I was affiliated with the community and wanted to immerse myself deeper in community work.”

What does LGBTQ+ Evaluation mean to you?

“It is both the form, process, and content of evaluation – what we do, how we do it, and why – it is evaluation work in which all parts of itself strives to embody ideals of praxis and transformative change for LGBTQ+ communities,” one evaluator says. Our embodiment of LGBTQ+ Evaluation is also “a way to make sure we are walking the talk,” as another evaluator puts it. What is most special about asking LGBTQ+ Evaluators what their evaluation practice means to them, is that it is defined by the individual, bounded by community. This evaluator stresses that LGBTQ+ Evaluation is the valuing of LGBTQ+ populations – conducting evaluations that serve LGBTQ+ communities’ health and well-being – and, they write: “it also means sharing.”

How does your identity as an LGBTQ+ Evaluator inform your evaluation work?

Lived experience plays an important role in informing our praxis as LGBTQ+ Evaluators. Here is what these LGBTQ+ Evaluators want us to know about how their identities inform their evaluation work.

One evaluator teaches us about advocacy:

“My identity as an LGBTQ+ Evaluator informs me to respect diversity, and to advocate for social and health equity, and most importantly, for people who matter to you, who you care and love. It also informs me to be thoughtful and responsible for my daily work in terms of use and interpretation of data.”

This evaluator teaches us about love:

“My identity provides me compassion and empathy, understanding and knowledge for others with similar real life experiences and relatable journeys.”

Another evaluator reminds us that we can make a difference:

“I think it motivates me to push harder for work which makes a tangible difference, and not get comfortable just doing the work for the sake of the work itself, or a paycheck. I want evaluation to be a tool that helps LGBTQ+ people thrive, and who I am and the communities I inhabit motivates me in that way.”

Emerging LGBTQ+ Evaluators were asked to summarize the future of evaluation.

Lessons Learned as LGBTQ+ Evaluators

  • Our social, political, and historical realities contextualize evaluation: “The uniqueness of every interaction [is a lesson I’ve learned], and that everything cannot be evaluated using the same lens.”
  • Evaluation is a tool for critical inquiry: “One thing that sticks out is that if we have no one to ‘question answers,’ we have no idea how effective interventions are, so evaluation is an important piece.”
  • Lastly, being present with one another: “Listen and learn more.”

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.

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