Mixing It Up: Contemporary Gender and Sexuality Research Methods
Moore, Lisa Jean, Riggs, Damien W., International Journal of Multiple Research Approaches
Mixing: The blending of heterogeneous parts, the combining of different ingredients, the intermin- gling of bits and pieces. The process of mixing forms and creating something that did not exist before - a new whole, a novel approach, an unconsidered perspec- tive, or a startling finding. In the case of social science research, the mixing of methods is often encouraged or suggested but rarely undertaken. Perhaps because it is so difficult to find the right balance of qualitative and quantitative research approaches to elucidate the sub- ject matter - or perhaps it is because researchers have become balkanized and either refuse to acknowledge the value of alternative perspectives or do not have the training to undertake a new methodology.
A notable outlier to the reluctance to embrace and execute blending research methods, Gender and Sexuality Studies lends itself well to juicy, slippery, and messy boundary transgressions. Gender and Sexuality Studies is characterized by the critical examination of binary categorization, for example, male/female and gay/straight. These scholars work to challenge the taken-for-granted normative dichotomous thinking that often does not reflect lived experiences. Instead of seeing the world as either/or, the world is open to both/and whereby lived experiences of genders and sex- ualities are multiple. Being open to multiple interpre- tive stances, it is apparent that these researchers must consider the bounty and pitfalls of all methodological approaches. The intermingling of methods is well rep- resented by this collection of essays for the special issue of International Journal of Multiple Research Approaches (ISBN 978-1-921980-23-7).
The first paper in the issue, by Ansara and Hegarty (2013, pp. 160-177), introduces a focus on cisgender- ism to examine assumptions within academic critiques of masculine generics. Ansara and Hegarty suggest that an over emphasis upon such critiques (in an attempt at reducing sexist bias in academic writing) has resulted in the reinforcing of cisgenderism, such that people are presumed to conform to one of only two natally- assigned sexes that are seen as related to two distinct gender identities. Such instances of cisgenderism, as Ansara and Hegarty deftly demonstrate, have significant implications for people whose gender does not conform to the binary categories of man and woman, such as exclusion from adequate medical care, avoiding medical care due to past experiences of cisgenderism, and being forcibly treated according to one's natally-assigned sex, rather than on the basis of one's current gender identity (which may exist beyond the binary or male or female).
The second article in the issue, by McCabe and col- leagues (2013, pp. 178-188), reports on the develop- ment of a project aimed at potentially updating Kinsey's ground-breaking research on North American's experi- ences of self and sexuality. Utilizing both cognitive interviews and computer-based surveys, McCabe and colleagues demonstrate the importance of engaging participants to ensure that the topics to be addressed are adequately understood by potential participants. The findings indicate the complexity surrounding how we understand sexuality in the context of relation- ships, and the need to develop approaches to research that ensure both the potential for diverse experiences being identified, whilst also producing findings that are interpretable (i.e., they measure what they say they are measuring).
In the next article, Manohar (2013, pp. 189-203) wrestles with debates within qualitative research con- cerning the benefits and disadvantages of being an 'insider' to the population one is undertaking research with. Manohar outlines how her position as a Tamil woman living in the US interviewing other Tamil women living in the US is problematized by her partic- ipants in terms of her 'authenticity' as a Tamil woman. Manohar's careful and insightful analysis demonstrates importantly that not only did her participants resist the assumption of a 'shared location' that some research- ers may assume, but that they also challenged the legitimacy of the research itself on this basis. …