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LGBT Week: Joe Heimlich on Why Ask Questions?

Greetings! I’m Joe Heimlich, a Professor at The Ohio State University with Extension, the School of Environment & Natural Resources, and the Environmental Science Graduate Program. I’m also a Senior Research Associate with the Institute for Learning Innovation. This year, along with John Daws, I’m Program co-Chair for the AEA LGBT Issues TIG.

Hot Tip: One of the most ethical decisions we make as evaluators, is determining what we want to know about a person. Age, income, race, ethnicity, educational level…all carry with them ethical questions about use, need, confidentiality and more. Often, there are just reasons for deciding to ask LGBTQQI questions. (That unpronounceable acronym stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and intersex. Often it’s shortened to LGBT.)

There are two major conditions shaping the decision to include – or to omit intentionally – questions on sexual or gender identity, and neither relates to LGBT politics:

  1. When such data would further our understanding of the effect or the impact of a program, treatment, or event. The rule of thumb I use is that if I am making assumptions using sex (Male or Female, as biological indicators) that involve gender role issues, then I need to include gender identity as a factor. This is especially true given research findings that in many situations, gay men are more like straight women in some decision and interaction processes. My favorite example is the question of dark versus milk chocolate preference. And yes, in groups straight men do eat milk more than dark chocolate, but the straight women and the gay men eat dark more than milk. Nature? Nurture? That we don’t know suggests to me that we should ask more and assume less.
  2. When asking for such data would benefit the individual and/or their engagement in the evaluation process. We all like to be included, and the chance to “see” oneself is important. In my recent interviews of same-sex couples about museum membership, one example kept coming up: The museums’ membership forms did not allow for gay and lesbian households to self-identify. The unfriendliest forms had two lines to enter names, labeled Male and Female. Other forms allowed for two names to be entered, but did not allow them to indicate what relationship existed between the two. If our evaluations are designed to allow people ‘s voices to be heard, there may be times when we need to let them know we want to hear their full voice, which means including all of who they are.

Rad Resource: A leading edge is the American Psychological Association’s Division 44, Society for the Psychological Study of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues. This is the group that first identified 11 genders.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating LGBT Evaluation Week with our colleagues in the LGBT AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our LGBT members and you may wish to consider subscribing to our weekly headlines and resources list where we’ll be highlighting LGBT resources. 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.

3 thoughts on “LGBT Week: Joe Heimlich on Why Ask Questions?”

  1. Thank you for the excellent webinar. I am conducting a project evaluation in which there are a specific number of participants (ie.30), not the general population. How would you list the gender question on surveys? The only reason I need to know gender is to disaggregate results, not because I want to know anything about their gender or sexuality. Should I list Male/Female, or Male/Female/Other, or ??

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention LGBT Week: Joe Heimlich on Why Ask Questions? | AEA365 -- Topsy.com

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