LGBT TIG Week: Terry L. Brown on Transgressing Gender

My name is Terry L. Brown, and I am a doctoral candidate in the College of Education at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois. Transgressing gender is the practice of blurring socio-constructed gender boundaries as a strategic response to heteronormative practice. Heteronormative, also referred to as gender normative, practice seeks efficiencies through standardizing and regulating sameness while simultaneously diminishing difference.  Disruptions to heteronormative cultural ways offer opportunities to re-think traditional policy and programmatic response structures and frameworks. Individuals across the gender spectrum often drive change laterally, across social, political, technological, legal and economic systems, in such a way that leads to the expansion of opportunities for those traditionally excluded.

Rad Resources – The Basics: Gender 101  (Some starting points)

Hot Tip 1:  Binary categories have long exceeded their usefulness in collecting data on sexual orientation and gender. To this end,

a)  Likert-type scales are useful for capturing nuanced data when gender positionalities are often situational and can even change dynamically from questions to question.

b)  Allow for multiple items to be selected.

c)  Employ case study to capture transformational outcomes for those who identify as LGBT.

Hot Tip 2:  Gender assumptions can be found embedded among the nouns, pronouns, adjectives and verbs we use in writing, resulting in participants hitting exit before survey completion.

a)  Make sure to go outside traditional feedback loops, to review any evaluation materials before implementation.

b)  Challenge traditional academic models of “best practice” for processes that reinforce gender preferences.

c)  Use inclusive language: “we” as opposed to he/she when preparing reports.

d)  Examine metaphors and other linguistic devices for reproducing gender- normative patterns.

Hot Tip 3:  Gender assumptions are implicit understandings which often take the form of stereotypes around masculinity and femininity. Be generous in your use of comment boxes, even in demographics items, as a method for allowing:

a)  Respondents to provide feedback on word choice, or to point out embedded assumptions;

b)  To reduce conceptual blind spots and emerge unknown positionalities;

c)  To break the urge of evaluators to neatly label and categorize; and

d)  To bring out rich data and capture human diversity.

Lessons Learned – Some common heteronormative assumptions:

  • Lesbians dislike men
  • All trans-folk consider themselves part of the LGBT community
  • Marriage = 1 man and 1 woman
  • A stay at home caregiver  = a woman
  • LGBT are non-spiritual and/or non-religious
  • All women, lesbian or otherwise, want to have children
  • Men are born leaders
  • People who identify as LGBT are making a choice
  • Men who identify as gay are effeminate

Rad Resources:  Explore: Heterosexuality Questionnaire;  Straight Privilege

aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. We’re celebrating LGBT Evaluation week with our colleagues in AEA’s LGBT Topical Interest Group. 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. 

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