Research has the potential to impact policy, programs and healthcare services, and so making sure communities are represented authentically in that research is an important component to ensuring their needs are met. However, there are many ways in which research is conducted that can be harmful to LGBTQ people and their families. In addition to our research at QueeringParenthood and the Postpartum Wellbeing Study, we've also been working to find new ways in which our communities can feel respected and represented throughout the research process.
In addition to LGBTQ Families and service providers, our findings have interesting implications for researchers as well. Most importantly, we hope that those who are interested to LGBTQ research pay particular attention to the ways in which bisexuality is operationalized, and to the assumptions underlying this operationalization. We see from our findings that ISM women identify in a number of different ways, and so it's methodologically important to collect data that captures this diversity. This means accounting for things like sexual identity and sexual behavior alongside any key contextual issues such as connection to LGBTQ communities and outness.
We also see that these identity characteristics also have interesting implications for sampling techniques. In our pilot study (Flanders, Gibson, Goldberg & Ross, 2015) we found that most sexual minority participants recruited through convenience sampling were partnered with women and identified as lesbian or queer, while most participants recruited through consecutive sampling were partnered with men and identified in a variety of different ways. This suggests that researchers might want to reflect on the ways in which their population is defined and whether their sampling strategy will capture what they are trying to capture.
We also recognize that there are still questions left unanswered in our study by virtue of sample size and participant homogeneity. Many of our participants had similar social demographics; generally speaking, many of them self-identified as white, middle-class and reside in urban settings—this means that there are other important experiences that are not be accounted for in our data set. While this is not new to LGBTQ research, it does highlight the need for more large-scale studies with samples that are representative of the population, not only to address the gap in scientific knowledge we have on sexual minority and queer families, but to amplify statistical robustness and increase the generalization of findings.
If you're interested in learning more on how mixed-methods research and the challenges of conducting research on communities that you're a part of, check out our Community Resources!