Susan Kistler on Sharing Your Ideas on Including Gender and Identity to Win a Copy of Finding Out

I’m Susan Kistler, the American Evaluation Association’s Executive Director, and I contribute each Saturday’s aea365 post. In last week’s post, I told you how to win a copy of Evaluation Strategies for Communicating and Reporting by suggesting your favorite (or a hated) data visualization via the aea365 comments.

Hot Tip: We received lots of great entries. Check out the comments from that post to get ideas for the dos and don’ts of data visualization, and to see who won!

This week, I’ve enjoyed learning from the folks in the LGBT TIG here on aea365 as well as via Joe Heimlich’s fantastic webinar this past Thursday on considerations when including questions of gender and sexuality as part of evaluation. If you are an AEA member, you can see the recording of the webinar, free in the AEA webinars archive.

Last week’s drawing went so well, and our LGBT TIG leaders were enthusiastic and inclined, that we’re trying another this week.

Cool Trick: Sponsored by our colleagues in the LGBT TIG, enter this week’s aea365 drawing! To enter, all you have to do, by midnight on Thursday, February 24, in any time zone, is to add a note to the comments section of this post that gives your take on when is a time that you should, or should not, include sexuality or gender identify in an evaluation?

We’re not looking for a right answer, but rather your thoughts on the question.

As with our previous drawing, you don’t have to be a member of AEA (but if you aren’t, wouldn’t you like to join?) to enter or win. If you are receiving this via email, just click on the post’s title to return to this post on the aea365 website and scroll down and add a comment.

One entry per person please (although you are welcome to comment on each other’s suggestions all you wish)! We will randomly select a winner from all those who add an on-topic comment. The winner will receive a copy of Finding Out: An Introduction to LGBT Studies generously donated by our colleagues at SAGE publications.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating LGBT Week with our colleagues in the LGBT Evaluation 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.

7 thoughts on “Susan Kistler on Sharing Your Ideas on Including Gender and Identity to Win a Copy of Finding Out”

  1. This is a good question. This response is pretty specific to surveys, not so much evaluation. We piloted a school climate survey of LGBT high school students and their allies last month and had the sexual identity and gender identity question at the end of the survey (around 20 items). The students said that the survey didn’t seem to ask questions of the allies (straight students). So in our revision, we moved the sexual identity and gender identity questions to the beginning. We’re thinking that by identifying themselves earlier in the survey might allow the respondents to see that all students (GLBT and straight) can answer questions about harassment, safety, and adult interventions. I agree with the other commenters that we all have a sexuality and that we’re all marked in someway by sexual identifications. In the case of this survey, the straight students felt they were not marked sufficiently, I guess.

  2. I agree with Vidhya’s comment that our sexuality and gender identities are always a part of us and therefore are always a part of our evaluations, whether we recognize and explore them or not.

    I also think that sexuality and gender identity are such complex, shifting and interconnected concepts that they can never fully be captured in an evaluation, no matter how inclusive the “categories”.

    I have noticed, for example, that having asked about gender identity with clients in our Transgender Health clinic, that we had quite a broad range of responses, depending on personal identity and what point clients are at in their journey. Keeping the options open on this questions has taught us much already about how important it is to understand what gender means to each individual person. It also helps us not to make assumptions about what the goals and needs of our clients are.

  3. Sudharshan Seshadri

    Rather discussing about the inclusion or isolation of gender/identity issues while conducting evaluation, we could probably churn into the fact that both have to be defined from the contextual purpose of the evaluation. Meaning that gender and identity in a particular evaluation has that leveraging effect on the purpose of the evaluation. Apparently, a conditional cash transfer program assessing the power of women in a unprivileged house-hold needs to have that distinction in gender and identity for critiquing/analyzing the purpose of even creating that distinction in first place. So as evaluators, this distinction is crucial in inquiring on the approach to the evaluation, rather than driving the format of the intervention altogether.

  4. I was going to say something very similar to Edie Cook. We cannot necessarily know a priori whether gender/ sexuality is a salient issue in any particular situation or dynamic. It may seem more obvious in some situations/ dynamics, but as with as with all aspects of identity, it is always there: everyone’s gender and sexual identities are part of them as they move through the world (not just the gender and sexual identities of sexual minorities). It is worth noting that even (especially?) in the seemingly obvious ones, we must be careful about inadvertently re-victimizing individuals who may have experienced trauma based on their gender or sexual identity by asking such questions directly or inappropriately.

    Unfortunately for those who want a checklist for everything, there isn’t one when it comes to this and similar issues involving identity and power. It requires critical reflection and discussion with stakeholders.

  5. Be careful of the perspective that there are special circumstances where sexuality or gender identity should or should not be included. Simply the idea that there are types of evaluations when we “should or should not” implies that we can pre-identify situations where it is not appropriate. By categorizing sexuality, or culture, or ability to participate fully, into “certain types” of evaluations, or worse, “certain populations”, we risk failing to include these important and central considerations in “regular” evaluation work. Instead, I think that there are points in the evaluation process where evaluators should routinely consider sexuality and gender, culture, ability to participate fully, and power dynamics, and not just in the “planning” of the evaluation. These considerations should be upfront when implementing data collection, when interpreting results, and when disseminating information.

  6. Laura Gagliardone

    I think that investigating sexuality or gender identity is appropriate (1) when the evaluation focuses on gender issues, children and/or women’ abuses, social and human development or (2) when gender issues are a specific program/project component affecting the overall performance of the activities. Knowing people’ sexuality and gender identity helps at understanding more their emic perspective and probably conducting a better analysis but the investigation requires sensitivity and empathy. In fact, people usually start talking more about themselves if they feel comfortable and trust the evaluator.

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