LGBT Week: Käri Greene on Issues of Gender and Sexuality in Evaluation

My name is Käri Greene and I’m a Senior Research Analyst at an intergovernmental agency for the Oregon Public Health Division and Multnomah County Health Department, as well as a co-Chair for the LGBT Issues TIG. Our TIG explores areas of sexuality, gender and identity as they relate to evaluation theory, practice, and use, specifically focusing on issues related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues.

Many evaluations might not deal explicitly with LGBT issues; however, gender and sexuality are concepts present in much of our evaluation practice. Gender or ‘sex’ is a standard demographic variable, and sexual orientation is being included more frequently in evaluations. But the concepts of sexual orientation, sexual behavior, and gender identity can be dynamic and complex.

In public health evaluations, someone served by a program might identify as a lesbian woman, but she may have been born and raised as a boy and not identify as transgender. A man served at the local public health clinic might be having sex with other men, but not identify as gay or bisexual. Being clear about what we need to know about program stakeholders is essential to answering evaluation questions.

Lessons Learned – Question assumptions and ask the right questions for your evaluation and those served by the program: Sexual orientation does not automatically define a person’s sexual behavior, and gender identity does not always fit neatly into a two-by-two table.

Feeling confused about how to deal with gender and sexuality? That’s good – that means you’re questioning assumptions! The field is evolving and even after a century of research on sexuality and gender, few researchers agree on terminology, dimensions and categorical classifications of sexuality. But fear not, we’ll have more to say on this subject throughout the week…

Hot Tip: Consider how you currently assess gender. It might be important to ask multiple items to get at gender – one that asks current gender identity (“Do you consider yourself to be male, female, transgender, or something else?”) and one that asks birth gender (“What sex were you assigned at birth – male, female, or intersex?”).

Hot Tip: Consider expanding your existing response categories for sexual orientation. Younger clients might consider themselves “queer” but not the more traditional categories of lesbian, gay, or bisexual.

Rad Resource: The Sexual Minority Assessment Research Team (SMART), a multidisciplinary and multi-institutional collaboration, created a helpful document on best practices for asking about sexual orientation.

Rad Resource: The Human Rights Campaign has a helpful, simple list of terms on gender identity.

Rad Resource: The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has resources, including a media reference guide, that can be helpful when communicating and reporting about issues of sexuality and gender.

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: Käri Greene on Issues of Gender and Sexuality in Evaluation”

  1. A couple of years ago, we conducted a survey for a client and included gender choices of male / female and transgender with an option to choose one.

    We received feedback from the LGBTQ Policy / Advocacy group in our state that made us rethink how we might do that again in the future. The response is below: “I was really pleased to see you included transgender in your survey, but it wanted to let you know that in the future really should be separate from the gender question. Many trans people identify as male or female. We have 5 women on our board, and 3 men. One of the women is transgender.”

    Thanks to AEA and the LGBT TIG for raising, exploring and providing resources and thinking about these important and developing/changing issues.

  2. All I can say is finally…and thank you! Considering that most of the evaluation world still doesn’t recognize that racial and ethnic identity are similarly socially constructed, fluid, dynamic, performed–not as neat as we have historically been led to believe (let alone how all these different aspects of identity intersect)–I have not been hopeful about when it would start to question prevailing assumptions about gender and sexuality–yes, even in evaluations and programs that “have nothing to do with that.”

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