LGBT TIG Week: LGBTQ sex ed can work!: Lessons and tips from evaluating an LGBTQ sex ed program by Ash Philliber

Hi everyone. I’m Ash Philliber (they/them), a Senior Research Associate at Philliber Research and Evaluation. Recently, I was lucky enough to work with Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands on the randomized control evaluation of IN·clued: Inclusive Health Care – Youth and Providers Empowered. This program is an educational intervention designed to reduce unintended pregnancies and STDs among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.

Lesson Learned:

LGBTQ sex ed can work! 12 months after the program, compared to the control group, IN·clued participants demonstrated significantly: Lower likelihood of having recent vaginal sex involving a penis without condoms; Greater likelihood of having been to a doctor or clinic for (and received) contraception or birth control; Greater self-efficacy to advocate for own sexual health needs; and Greater knowledge of sexual health!

Cartoon drawing of a unicorn with a t-shirt that says "No one knows I'm a big gay unicorn."

As a queer nonbinary evaluator who has been working on a project for the good of the LGBTQ community, I’d like to share a few tips I hope will help us all better serve our LGBTQ participants.

Hot Tip:

There is no one way to ask inclusive questions. These questions are specific to:

  • Location – Words commonly understood or accepted in Los Angeles are likely different than those in rural Alaska. For instance, cisgender may not be a common word or queer may be offensive.
  • Population – Words vary by demographics. While homosexual may be used by older men, this may be offensive or seen as too medical for younger groups.
  • Purpose – Ask what you need to know. Think about if you need to know sex or gender or what aspects of sex or gender are needed. Do you need to know sexual orientation? Each of these can be a very sensitive question and should only be added with thought and consideration.

Hot Tip:

Community involvement is key. This is true for all equity-based research, regardless of the population focus. Involving the community lets you know what makes them unique – what idioms are common, what messengers are trusted, what languages and words you need to use.

Hot Tip:

Adapt, adapt, adapt. Language is not static. It is constantly changing, growing, expanding. We, as evaluators, must change, grow, and expand with it. A survey that was perfect a year ago may already be outdated now.

Why does this matter? We want to do the best job possible, particularly for underserved groups such as the LGBTQ community. That includes collecting the most accurate data possible. If a question does not reflect the participant, or worse yet, insults the participant, they may provide inaccurate data, skip the question, or stop completing the survey all together. Gathering accurate data allows us to discover when great programs, like IN·clued, are effective, creating a world where there is evidence-based LGBTQ sex ed!

Learn more about this evaluation here in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

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@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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