Gender creative kids: how social action research can help tackle the some of the challenges faced by...
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Gender creative kids: how social action research can help tackle the some of the challenges faced by gender nonconforming children and their families. Annie Pullen Sansfaçon, Université de Montréal Dave Ward, De Montfort University Audrey Anne Dumais -Michaud, Université de Montréal

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Annie Pullen Sansfaçon, Université de Montréal Dave Ward, De Montfort University

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Annie pullen sansfa on universit de montr al dave ward de montfort university

Gender creative kids: how social action research can help tackle the some of the challenges faced by gender nonconforming children and their families

Annie Pullen Sansfaçon, Université de Montréal

Dave Ward, De Montfort University

Audrey Anne Dumais-Michaud, Université de Montréal

Marie-JoëlleRobichaud, Université de Montréal

Andrea Clegg, Concordia University

Kimberley Ens Manning, Concordia University

Elizabeth J. Meyer, Concordia University / California Polytechnic State University

Social Work Social Development 2012: Action and Impact

11th July 2012, Stockholm


Introduction

Introduction

  • Despite the fact that national and international media and research reports are highlighting an increasing number of young children who do not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth, gender independence in children remains a topic people talk little about

  • Expressions of gender independence, whether by a child, teen, or adult, however, challenge a society that is organized largely on the basis of a binary understanding of identity, that is one that belongs to either “male” or “female”.

  • This paper aims to examine and reflect upon a research project that worked with families of gender independent / gender creative / non conforming children at the same time as attempting to produce rich research knowledge.


Aim of the project

Aim of the project

  • The project has two distinct aims – research and practice:

  • to provide parents of gender independent children with a safe space to discuss their experience, identify challenges at personal, social and political levels, and frame solutions for action according to their own identified aimed outcome.

  • to gain an understanding of issues, challenges and opportunities parents of gender independantchildren’ experience while negotiating the social and community environments in which their children grow.


Gender independent kids the context

Gender independent Kids: the context

  • Taboo in many part of the world

  • Anywhere from 2.3% to 8.3% (Moller et al 2009: 118-119) to 14.6% (Roberts et al 2012) of children engage in varying degrees of cross-gender dress and behaviour, some of whom will self-identify along the LGBT spectrum by the time they hit adolescence (Knafo et al, 2005).

  • Many well-meaning parents will tolerate cross-dressing in their home but will not allow it in public.

  • The vast majority of gender independent children are “non-apparent” (Hellen 2009)

  • Those who are “coming out”: social isolation, challenges to find social support networks and establish friendships (Ng 2012) – result : Oppression

  • This oppression is further aggravated by other forms of oppression such as age, class, sex, culture, religion or disability (Mullaly 2010, Saketopoulou 2011).

  • Understanding parents’ experience : crucial because the support of parents is recognized as key to the health and wellbeing of gender independent and other LGBTQ youth (Moller et al 2008; Ryan et al, 2010)


Research gender independence and oppression

Research, gender independence and oppression

  • Research can be an effective tool to challenge oppression, but can also have a perverse effect, that is to be oppressive to the group which being investigated (Beresford and Evans,1999).

  • Because of the level of oppression experienced by this group (Stryer 2007), the team was concerned to develop a research program that would become both an anti-oppressive and empowering forum for intervention and knowledge production. To achieve these, Social Action Research was chosen and embedded in all parts of the project


Social action research

Social Action Research

  • Social Action Research (SAR) is closely associated with Self-directed Groupwork(seeMullender & Ward 1991, Mullender and al. Forthcoming)

  • Allows for powerfulcombination of researchand practice

  • starts from the issues, ideas and understanding of participants, rather than from an expert’s definition of their needs.

  • SAR emphasizes that a key responsibility of researchers, just as for practitioners, is to facilitate a participatory and sustainable process of learning, development and change.

  • To achieve these, Self Directed Groupwork follows a process systematically asking the questions ‘What?’, ‘Why?’, ‘How?’, before ‘Taking Action’ and ‘Reflecting’ on the process and consequences. Asking the question ‘Why?’, is crucial to the process.


Description of the project

Description of the project

  • Funding (Social Science and Humanity Research Council of Canada) and ethical clearance

  • Recruitment (local NGOs, world of mouth, informally through hospitals)

  • Format: 15 weeks project, bi-monthly 2-hours meetings co-facilitated by graduate students, in local community organization, open- membership, possibility of child care.

  • The data recorded through open notes. At all times, participants have access to the data being collected and are invited to comment and reflect on the main findings and the way it should shape the way forward.

  • Additional notes concerning the group process, the group dynamics and any other useful observations with regard to the group were recorded between the meetings.


Annie pullen sansfa on universit de montr al dave ward de montfort university

Reflecting on the application of the Social Action methodology: identifying some of the constraints to anti-oppressive social work research

  • Participants are content with their experiences and have developed a broader and critical perspective on the issues they and their children confront, articulate pathways towards change and begin to take action on these.

  • Participants show little interest in participating in the research component

  • difficulty for the group to taking over for themselves

    • maximum number of meetings we could fund - specific barrier to the group taking over their action?

    • status, role, knowledge, culture, and people in the groups often affect power (Fleming 2005). Status of the co-facilitators - two young(er) postgraduate women without children working with a group of (older) parents who have a gender independent child.

  • to comply with Ethics’ Committee requirements

    • formal consent form to sign at the beginning of the group - development of a power relationship within the group by representing a formalization of the relationship between the research team and the participants?


Conclusion

Conclusion

  • The methodology definitely help meeting the aims:

    • Produce rich data (content and processes)

    • The application of SAR may help groups who experience oppression to develop an alternative understanding of the issues they face at the same time as contributing to knowledge development through research.

      Funding has definitely provided the necessary seeds for starting the project, BUT in this case, the unavoidable institutional research requirements set obstacles to the process fulfilling its emancipatory potential.

  • Is the formalized research funding in its own way an element of the very structure of oppression the group is challenging?

  • There is a challenge to research funders and ethics committees to think again about whether the taken for granted structures currently in place are part of the problem or part of the solution, and whether there is scope for review and reform.


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