LGBTQ Week: Representation and Affirming Spaces for Young Aspiring Researchers by Scout Black

Hi there! I’m Scout Black, Research Associate at Smith & Lehmann Consulting. For today’s post, I’m tackling the importance of LGBTQ representation and affirmation in research and evaluation, and especially how that impacts young people.

A good deal of my time is spent planning and facilitating our Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) interns and research assistants, who are all between the ages of 15 and 19, and I have the wonderful opportunity to mentor and provide guidance to these amazing teens as they conduct research to inform the youth-serving project we are evaluating. In my work, I interact with many young people of many varying identities, including those within the LGBTQ community. It’s very important to me that I create a safe space for them to learn and grow and be accepted for who they are, while also representing to them that as an LGBTQ person myself, people in our community can excel in research and evaluation fields and be out and accepted by our employers. By both setting up a safe, affirming environment for budding researchers and evaluators, where their identities are validated and accepted, and by providing visible representation of an LGBTQ person in the field, young people can see themselves represented and envision themselves as future researchers.

Hot Tips:

  • Make your Equal Employment Opportunity language inclusive. By seeing that their potential employer explicitly does not discriminate against applicants based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, young researchers can feel safe being themselves in their workplace.
  • Make pronoun introductions routine. During group meetings, focus groups, or any other scenario that involves introductions (e.g. name, job title, etc.), ask people to share their pronouns. This sets the stage for inclusion and shows youth and young adult researchers/participants that their identities are respected and celebrated.
  • Be vocal on issues of inclusion and diversity. If disparaging comments are being made about people with marginalized identities, address them head-on. Silence speaks volumes.
  • Be yourself. If you’re out, be out. If you’re not comfortable being out, that’s okay too – there’s no one way to be an LGBTQ person. Youth and young adult researchers seeing that they can be themselves in this field can build, diversify, and strengthen the profession.

I hope to see our profession grow and flourish with young talent of varying identities, and hope that these tips may help you in your interactions with budding LGBTQ youth/young adult researchers.


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.

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