1st LGBTQI+ Lives Scotland Advisory Group Meeting: Process and practice of ‘doing’ intersectionality

Prof Yvette Taylor & Dr Matson Lawrence

On Monday 28th January 2019, we hosted the first meeting of the LGBTQI+ Lives Scotland Research Advisory Group: cakes were bought, tea was made, and biscuits were shared! Colleagues with expertise spanning a wide range of areas – including academic research, youth and community work, education, employment, health, sport, social policy, disability, race/ethnicity, faith, migration, and the Scottish political system – joined us at the School of Education, University of Strathclyde, to meet one another and to find out more about the LGBTQI+ Lives Scotland research.

What is the Advisory Group?

The research in Scotland is informed by an interdisciplinary advisory group comprised of researchers, organisations and LGBTQI+ people with intersectional expertise on LGBTQI+ lives, rights and (in)equalities. Such expertise stretches beyond the equalities legislation frame of ‘protected characteristics’ as a listing of, for example, ‘Gender’, ‘Disability’ and ‘Religion’, as discrete boxed categories, and felt instead as vocal and vibrant voices. It is this stretching that we hope to practice in future meetings at Strathclyde, where the Advisory Group will meet several times during the lifetime of the project.

The role of the Advisory Group is to share insight, expertise and feedback on aspects of the research, and to assist with raising the profile of the LGBTQI+ Lives Scotland study with their networks across Scotland. Advisory Group members will also be invited to attend and participate in engagement, knowledge-exchange and dissemination events related to the project.

For full details about the Advisory Group and its members, click here to check out their page on the LGBTQI+ Lives Scotland website.

Intersectional Processes: What Happens?

For our first Advisory Group meeting, the research team – Yvette and Matson – provided an overview of the CILIA-LGBTQI+ research and, as part of this, the LGBTQI+ Lives Scotland research we are undertaking. The CILIA-LGBTQI+ titling of the project is long – and rather awkward to repeat in conversations around a table – where different shorthands have been used to condense and indeed extend notions of ‘community’. Nonetheless, what matters – difference within and between labels, acronyms, experiences, politics – was articulated beyond the terms alone.

More practically, members reviewed the new project website and social media accounts, and provided feedback to us. We discussed our plans for recruiting participants for interviews, and explained the ethical approval process for research, having recently submitted our ethics application to the School of Education Ethics Committee here at Strathclyde. Members asked a range of questions about the research and our plans for interviews, including ethical considerations, intersectionality and participant recruitment, data collection arrangements, and ensuring access for a broad range of participants.

Such questions – and presences – raise questions about the process and practice of ‘intersectionality’ beyond the dry academic page, and as a constant effort in considering who is and is not in the room, or at the table.  Some advisors hesitated whether they could be ‘of use’ or ‘find them’, the cohorts of LGBTQI+ interviewees we’d identified; in part this represents a separation of services, knowledges and groups themselves still often seen and engaged with as ‘LGBTQI+’ or ‘BAME’, or ‘young/old’ and so on.  Just a week before the project meeting, Prof. Kimberlé Crenshaw, a key lead in intersectional thinking, was aggressively interrupted while delivering a guest lecture at LSE. Such moments represent the continued contestation of feminist politics and presences, and the struggle of naming and doing intersectionality.

What Happens Next…

The Advisory Group will next meet in a year’s time, once we have finished the empirical data collection with LGBTQI+ people across Scotland, when they will continue to contribute their considerable expertise on the lives, rights and realities of LGBTQI+ people. In the meantime, the Advisory Group will be supporting the LGBTQI+ Lives Scotland research by sharing the call for participants among their networks and by participating in events connected with the project.

The question of ‘what’ and ‘who’ in LGBTQI+ research often leads to a pondering of ‘where?’ Where to locate non-heterosexual, non-cisgender and intersex lives, beyond urban centres,  beyond commercialised ‘scene spaces’, and beyond the mainstream ‘LGBT sector’? How to we make sure we are not just reproducing our own spaces and voices? Can the taking up of space – stretching beyond the central Glasgow-Edinburgh belt – also pose problems, and potentials, in finding interviewees?

To find out more about the LGBTQI+ Lives Scotland research and wider CILIA-LGBTQI+ study, visit the ‘About’ section of our website.

If you’re interested in taking part in the LGBTQI+ Lives Scotland research, check out the ‘Take Part’ page of our website –  we will begin recruiting participants for interviews from March/April 2019 onwards, so watch this space!

Prof Yvette Taylor & Dr Matson Lawrence

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