LGBT TIG Week: Emily A. Greytak on So….You Want to Identify LGBTQ People in Your Evaluation? Ask These 4 Questions First

I’m Emily Greytak, the Director of Research at GLSEN, a national organization addressing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) issues in K-12 education. At GLSEN, we are particularly interested in the experiences of LGBTQ people, but also know that it’s important to identify LGBTQ individuals in even more general evaluation research – whether just as basic descriptive information about the sample, or to examine potential differential experiences.

Lessons Learned: When considering the best ways to identify LGBTQ people in your evaluations, here are four key questions to ask before selecting your measures:

  • What do you want to assess? The LGBTQ population includes identities based on both sexual orientation (LGBQ) and gender identity (T). Sometimes you might want to assess both; other times, one might be more salient. For example, if you want to know about gender differences in use of a resource, sexual orientation may not as necessary to assess whereas gender identity would be. Within each of these broader constructs, there are different elements. For example, do you want to know about sexual identity, same-gender sexual behavior, and/or same-gender sexual attraction – if you are examining an intervention designed to affect sexual activity, then behavior might be the most key.
  • What is your sample? Are you targeting an LGBTQ-specific population or a more general population? The specificity of your measures and variety of your response options might differ. What about age? Language comprehension and vernacular could vary greatly. For example, with youth populations, the identity label “queer” might be fairly commonplace, whereas with older generations, this might still be predominantly considered a slur and could its inclusion could put off respondents.
  • What are your measurement options? Can you include select all options for sexual identity or gender? Can you include definitions for those who need them? Can you use multiple items to identify a construct (e.g. assessing transgender status by asking current gender along with assigned sex)?
  • What can do you with it? Consider your capacity for analysis – e.g., do you have expertise and resources to assess write-in responses? Once you are able to identify LGBTQ people in your sample, what do you plan to do with it? For example, if you aren’t able to examine differences between transgender males and females, perhaps a simpler transgender status item is sufficient (as opposed a measure that allows for gender-specific responses).

Once you answer these questions, then you can move on to selecting your specific measures. Use the Rad Resources for guidance and best practices.

Rad Resources:

Best Practices for Asking About Sexual Orientation

Best Practices for Asking Questions to Identify Transgender and Other Gender Minority Respondents

Making Your Evaluation Inclusive: A Practical Guide for Evaluation Research with LGBTQ People

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating LGBT 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 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

2 thoughts on “LGBT TIG Week: Emily A. Greytak on So….You Want to Identify LGBTQ People in Your Evaluation? Ask These 4 Questions First”

  1. Hi Emily Greytak,

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom, I hope many of us here will find it helpful. I am a recent new AEA member and noticed on our membership signup form that the gender demographic item only had two options. As a cis-gender male I had an easy choice, but I do not believe that all of our members may have had the same experience. What changes would you suggest to AEA’s new membership form and who would be the best person to contact? Thank you again for sharing your knowledge and perspective.


    1. Thanks for your question, Mike! That is a great observation. I agree that having a gender question with a forced binary choice is not the best. Ideally, it would have select all (as some folks identify as both male and female) and also allow for folks to also identify another way – either via a write-in or a “I identify my gender another way” check box. Including a transgender option is a possibility as well, as long as they allow for multi-checks so that people can choose “male” and/or “female” along with their transgender identity, if they so choose. Part of the recommendation depends on how they are using the information and what they really want to know.

      This is an issue that I will recommend that the LGBT TIG take up and possibly offer some recommendations or at very least begin a dialogue with AEA about it. My sense is that AEA will probably be receptive to the feedback and input. Thanks so much for bringing this to our collective attentions!


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