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 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.

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

  1. Carol (she/her)

    Dear Ash Philliber,

    I recently read your post on AEA365 entitled ‘LGBTQ sex ed can work!: Lessons and tips from evaluating an LGBTQ sex ed program’. As a high school educator and training evaluator, I appreciated your choice of research area and the ideas and ‘Hot Tips’ you brought to the table for this post.

    I noticed how much of the advice you garnered from your research aligned so nicely with the OECD Program Evaluation Standards. For example, the tip about community involvement connects well with the Utility Standard U1. I do wonder, however, how you would define the ‘community’ within such research?

    As you mentioned earlier in the post, language is key and context specific to this research and I would imagine the community focus is also context specific. Given this is research targeted at Youth empowerment and education, did the challenges of state laws and age of students studied impact your choice of location for researching? How can you see this data being extrapolated to other places and spaces?

    I found your final point about the fluid nature of language very relevant not only in your context of LGBTQ research, but also in many other areas where ignorance of context and language can isolate or even offend. I think of Indigenous and First People’s specifically given my location in the central Okanagan valley in BC, Canada. This is an important message to hear, and I wonder how you ensure inclusivity and appropriate language usage in your research? Does it go back to community involvement?

    Thanks again for your interesting post.

  2. Anthony Del Pino

    I totally agree with your position that it is important to infuse the representation of the LGBTQ+ into all levels of the curriculum. I am passionate about increasing awareness and familiarity around the challenges that exist for marginalized communities. I find it is often difficult to decide upon the entry point for younger students. For students who are in primary grades, the idea of sexual attraction is rather foriegn and awkward for them to discuss. Although I agree it is important to expose the students to perspectives that are different from their own, it can be difficult for them to really understand the nature of what we are talking about with sexual attraction. My question is when addressing these topics with younger demographics, how should educators best approach these unfamiliar topics, when students are too young to have really been exposed to sexuality. I think it is important to make students more aware and normalized to the idea of diverse relationships, but do you think this is inappropriate when students are at an age that they have not really contemplated sexual attraction to any gender? As has been seen in many places, especially in the United states, often when this content or subject matter is integrated into the curriculum there is parental push back on the grounds of worrying that their children will become confused or influenced to be a certain way before they are ready. When do you think is the appropriate age to approach these topics and how do you approach these issues when presenting to younger audiences?

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