Questioning sex/gender and sexuality: reflections on recruitment and stratification. Treharne, G. J. (2011). Gay and Lesbian Issues and Psychology Review, 7, 132-154.

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Questioning sex/gender and sexuality: reflections on recruitment and stratification. Treharne, G. J. (2011). Gay and Lesbian Issues and Psychology Review, 7, 132-154.
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    Gay & Lesbian Issues and Psychology Review, Vol. 7, No. 2, 2011   ISSN 1833-4512 © 2011 Author/Gay & Lesbian Issues & Psychology Interest Group of the Australian Psychological Society   QUESTIONING SEX/GENDER AND SEXUALITY: REFLECTIONSON RECRUITMENT AND STRATIFICATION GARETH J. TREHARNE  Abstract The notion of “recruitment” of participants for  psychological research exists within discursive structures of academic subculture, which in- clude standpoints on sampling, representation and generalisation. In the present article I discuss recruitment in light of some queries surrounding the conceptualisation of the sex/ gender and sexuality of participants in psycho- logical research. Participants’ sex/gender is almost universally reported in research, but the hegemonic binary is not without limits of inclusivity. Routinely requesting participants’ sexuality also creates a dilemma of labelling: it is necessary in order to be able to describe that aspect of a sample, but preconceived groupings can be reinscribed both by request- ing participants’ sexuality and by attempts to stratify recruitment. Moreover, the requesting of any grouping tacitly substantiates positivist epistemology through the seeking of (quantified) group differences. I illustrate these issues using experiential examples and insights from a series of studies into beliefs about chronic illnesses (including HIV/AIDS) that demonstrate some difficulties of attempt- ing to be inclusive by sexuality. In an endeav- our to work with the dilemma of labelling I raise a series of questions to pose when plan- ning a study. I present some pragmatic ideas for going about stratification by sex/gender and sexuality (nested within any targeted ele- ments of sampling). I outline how these con- siderations add to ongoing methodological reflections on recruitment of participants for  psychological research that is inclusive of indi- viduals with diverse sexualities. Keywords: Sampling; representation; sur-veys; qualitative research  There are two kinds of social psycholo-gists: those who believe you can grouppeople, and those who don’t (paraphrasingof a post-modernist joke; srcinal sourceunknown).[T]he greater visibility of some marginal-ised groups means that they are morereadily identifiable [than LGBT-QTFI indi-viduals] (Ellis, 2009, p. 724).[R]ealities to which we thought we wereconfined are not written in stone (Butler,2004, p. 29). Introduction: Requesting, Groupingand Representation   I open with three quotes that frame the pur-pose of this article and ground my standpoint.The first quote is a retelling of joke that cre-ates humour by highlighting a hegemonywithin psychological research: even in sayingthere is diversity, a normative category is em-phasised; the assumed utility of norms subju-gates consideration of how such norms sus-tain themselves and how alternatives areoverlooked.The second quote emphasises the relativeinvisibility of what I term LGBT-QTFI (lesbian,gay, bisexual, takatāpui 1 , queer, trans,fa’afafine 2 or intersex) issues/individuals inpsychological research. I use this expansiveabbreviation in this article as an inclusive con-  __________________________________________  1 Takatāpui is a word equivalent to lesbian/gay inTe Reo Māori, the Māori language (see e.g.,Murray, 2004). 2 Fa’afafine is a word for male-to-female trans-gender identity in the Samoan language (see e.g.,Worth, 2008).      TREHARNE: QUESTIONING SEX/GENDER AND SEXUALITY glomeration of identity labels that is some-what specific to my location in Aotearoa/NewZealand. The abbreviation will probably neverbe used again as it does not roll easily off thetongue, an allegory in itself for the ongoingneed to continually locate and rethink suchgroupings rather than trying to find one moni-ker (such as LGBTQ) that will never quite de-note all non-normativity in relation to sex/gender or sexuality. To be “out” is an activeand ongoing process of being visible for LGBT-QTFI individuals; to be inclusive of LGBT-QTFIindividuals in research requires an active andarduous process of recruitment to challengethe convenience of being non-inclusive. As apsychology-trained, university-employed, Eng-lish-speaking, White-British/European, ex-patriot, single, male, gay individual, I writefrom a specific standpoint that is informed bythat list of attributes, but which is much morethan an incomplete listing of labels canachieve. My methodological biography as auser and teacher of both quantitative andqualitative approaches is also of note. Thestudies, considerations and critiques presentedin this article are more directed at quantitativeresearch methods, but I make reference toqualitative research in order to highlight somecommon issues of stratification. At the sametime, I acknowledge that there are many po-tential differences in the nature of recruit-ment, level of involvement of participants andtype of knowledge claims produced.The third quote encapsulates what can be (re)done under post-structuralist epistemologies;concepts, categories and labels can be seen asactively constructed through the researchprocess as part of wider social practices.There are consequences of treating such con-structs as fixed in efforts to “record” them, yetall are amenable to being actively rewritten(albeit slowly, and perhaps requiring the useof a hammer and chisel). Even the term “record” sets up a model of the panopticalresearcher. Feeling unthreatened by requestsfor one’s sex/gender and sexuality and seeingthese concepts as straight-forward are cisgen-der heterosexual privileges (also intersectingwith privileges of class, ethnicity etc.; seeClarke, Ellis, Peel, & Riggs, 2010; Riggs & Choi, 2006).If participants’ sex/gender and sexuality is notrequested then it cannot be described andprevalence is assumed or discriminatorynorms of research pass relatively unnoticed. Itis therefore important to further the discussionof the routine identification and inclusion of LGBT-QTFI individuals within psychologicalresearch using either quantitative or qualita-tive approaches. This inclusivity is required not just in research on “obviously” LGBT-QTFI-related issues (Warner, 2004), if such limitscould even be set. This article charts a learn-ing curve through my own attempts to requestparticipants’ sex/gender and sexuality, andthrough my attempts to stratify samplesacross the resulting groupings as a way of enhancing inclusivity of LGBT-QTFI partici-pants in my research. I do this by providingsome reflective analysis of my own researchpractice (after Finlay, 2002; Parker, 2005),along with a discussion of ideas for planningrecruitment. Stratification always creates andis created by a tension between plans for in-clusion against realisation of the potentiallylimited and (in the worst case) exclusionaryimplications for the sample, including thoserelating to diversity by sex/gender and sexual-ity.I touch on (and define) both sex/gender andsexuality, and always in that order for consis-tency. These two concepts are inextricable.Sex/gender is a concept that may seem moreessential, knowable and immutable, but ischallenged by voices of diversity such as thoseof intersex, transsexual or transgender indi-viduals (Butler, 1990, 2004; Clarke et al.,2010). Sexuality follows from the patterns of desiring that sex/gender in its simplest formprovides, and sex/gender is performed in partby desiring (Butler, 1990, 2004). This concep-tual opening is followed by discussion of threeexperiential examples and a series of studiesinto beliefs about chronic illnesses. I use thesesources to highlight broad critiques of thepositivist approach to the categorising of sex/gender and sexuality, an approach which uses133    TREHARNE: QUESTIONING SEX/GENDER AND SEXUALITY simplified groupings in the pursuit of universalgeneralisations about members of those dif-ferent groupings, thus overlooking diversitywithin categories. I end with a series of practi-cal questions about recruitment. The mainethos of these questions is to raise discussionaround some core issues of sampling: Who issought, who is excluded, and how is represen-tation approached? Questioning “Standard” Questionsfor Requesting Sex/Gender andSexuality  At this point it is helpful (if not without prob-lems; Warner, 2004) to define the core con-cepts: sex/gender and sexuality. I use thecombined term “sex/gender” for consistency indescribing the literature in which the terms “sex” and “gender” are used interchangeablyto some extent. The difference between theseterms is problematic if a social constructionistperspective is taken on the nature of  “biological/chromosomal sex” as well as on “social/cultural gender” (see Brickell, 2006;Butler, 1990, 2004; Clarke et al., 2010). Toborrow from Butler (1990): “the distinctionbetween sex and gender turns out to be nodistinction at all” (p. 11) because social con-structionist arguments can be used to decon-struct the notion that sex is the “raw mate-rial” (p. 47) of biology that is expressed asgender after being “cooked” (p. 47) by cul-tural practices (such as home economics les-sons engaging the allegedly baking-orientedfemale brain). Whilst my use of this combinedterm “sex/gender” is rather unsatisfactory, Ihope to provide some expansion on the over-simplified dealing with sex/gender in psychol-ogy (see Clarke et al., 2010).I srcinally intended for this article to coverstratification by sexuality alone and not strati-fication by sex/gender, but this joint consid-eration became inevitable because sexualitycannot be theorised without reference to sex/gender (Butler, 1990, 2004). The researchincluded in this article relates to sampling is-sues that touch on the inclusive representa-tion by both sex/gender and sexuality. I usethe term “sexuality” in this article to refer togroupings of individuals with what might becalled “orientations” or “self-identities”, includ-ing individuals with “same-sex/gender attrac-tion” (after Butler, 2004, p. 33; see also Alma-zan et al., 2009; Sell, 2007). In the most sim-plified binary, “homosexuality” is contrastedagainst the subsequently defined term “heterosexuality” (Herek, 2010). These twobroad concepts – sex/gender and sexuality –are not simple, and nor are they taken-for-granted ways of categorising people intogroups in research and also in daily living. If these groupings function comfortably as partof identitarian normativity then research thatchallenges the simplicity of the groupings willopen up inclusion of individuals who couldotherwise be excluded or metaphorically mis-filed by inappropriately defined groupings. (Iam working with the assumption that suchgroupings have some function and should notbe thrown out completely.) Questioning the Rationale of Grouping The core notion of a “group” is also pertinentfor this article. Returning to the introductoryquote about the nature of belief in grouping, afundamental practice of social psychology is tomodel perceived group membership as “in-groups” that exist within a broader population.This leaves a residual non-group: the remain-der of the population, commonly referred toas the “out-group” (Tajfel, 1970; see alsoHegarty & Massey, 2006). The operationalisa-tion of groupings based on sex/gender andsexuality are criticised for their reliance on abasic ideal of binaries: woman–man, gay–straight (Butler, 1990, 2004; Clarke et al.,2010). A whole host of other binaries can beseen as circulating in parallel, such as single–coupled, homemaker–worker, femme–butch,bottom–top, out–closeted. All of these distinc-tions are only as simple as the core conceptsin question, only as fixed we allow them to be,and only work if shades of grey are ignored.To put it in more explicit terms: “ The existence 134    TREHARNE: QUESTIONING SEX/GENDER AND SEXUALITY  of groups as essential entities is no longer takenfor granted ” (Stein & Plummer, 1994, p. 184).It is, however, implicit in many pro-diversitydiscussions of sexuality that group member-ship is passive, factual and unquestioned, asin the following examples: “Assume that apopulation contains sets of individuals similarto each other on some variable” (Binson, Blair,Huebner, & Woods, 2007, p. 384); “peoplewho possess a particular characteristic or be-long to a particular group or cate-gory.” (Herek, 2009, p. 66). The problem, asGill (1998) put it, is that concepts such as “‘race’, gender and sexuality are treated asunproblematic independent variables” (p. 28).Only “race” gets “warning marks” in her text,but I would contend that “sex/gender” and “sexuality” are deserving of the same denota-tion and discussion (see also Riggs & Choi,2006).Why does this process of simplified groupingsmatter? It is arguably as simple as the re-quirement of clear-cut groups as the basicpremise of statistical tests of difference, asformalised by Student (1908): Is one group’smean on the normal(-ish) distribution of some(continuous) variable significantly higher orlower than that of the other group? The moststatistically “powerful” actualisation of thispremise is a sample with a 50:50 split across abinary (Cohen, 1988). Such a split hence linkswith getting equal numbers of people from thetwo groups, regardless of whether thosegroups are equal in number or recognition inthe wider population. Promoting this dispro-portional scenario may sound like naïve token-ism, but the alternative is treating a relativelysmall proportion of participants in one cate-gory as fully representative (e.g., a subsampleof 20 lesbian participants within a survey of 1, 000 women; see Clarke et al., 2010, pp. 70-72). It is not paranoia to suggest that whenone is part of a majority category that existscomfortably as a barely spoken norm then thereliance on statistical arguments is very easyto rationalise as just-the-way-it-is rather thanengaging in reflective critique of who benefitsfrom that state of play.Before I present the insights from the ap-proaches to sampling that I have used in myresearch, I will share some examples from myown experience as a participant and from so-cial networking technology to pave the way.Engagement with insights from experiencescan provide a useful way into complex psycho-logical/social phenomena (e.g., Ellis, 1998;Riggs, 2005; Sparkes, 2007) and, in this case,provide more in-roads into my argumentsabout sex/gender and sexuality. Experiential Examples of RequestingSex/Gender and Sexuality The following examples illustrate some con-cerns about common ways of requesting sex/gender and sexuality, drawing on experiencesthat many readers might find familiar. As par-ticipants we are doing more than, as Butler(2004) put it: “ stating  our gender, disclosing   our sexuality” (p. 16, emphases added); asresearchers we are actually often limiting gen-ders and reinscribing sexualities. These experi-ential examples act as a precursor to consid-eration of how stratification might proceeddespite such concerns.My first example: I was recently invited tocomplete an online survey that started by ask-ing for my sex/gender, perhaps the most com-monly asked opening question on surveys (seeClarke et al., 2010, for more on the distinctionbetween surveys and questionnaires). Twotick-box options were presented: “Female” or “Male”, and a free-text box was also includednext to the label “Other”, but no tick-box wasincluded for this option. I typed “I’d rather notsay,” in order to assert my right to only an-swer questions that I wanted to answer (andalso partially out of curiosity). I was halted byan automated response telling me the ques-tion “requires an answer” before I could con-tinue: I had to choose “Female” or “Male”; mysex/gender was not only insisted upon butalso corralled into the binary, and so I re-verted to anatomy. Whether purposeful struc-turing of the survey or a glitch in the technol-ogy, this example serves to show some of the135    TREHARNE: QUESTIONING SEX/GENDER AND SEXUALITY ways that individuals who do not conform tothe hegemonic sex/gender binary are eitherexcluded or constrained. Sexuality was notenquired about in the survey, although theintricacies of my share of various elements of my presumed nuclear family life were enumer-ated (e.g., I generally do 100% of the wash-ing up), and overall it left me with an uneasysense of dissatisfaction with participation.My second example: Facebook. Holder of lotsof data about you (“Not mine!” cry the non-users). At the time of writing this article, Face-book operationalised sex/gender as a binarywith no option to opt-out (see Figure 1: “Female” and “Male”, in that order for bothquestions; cf. my labelling described later inthis article and also Almazan et al., 2009, pp.33-34). There is no “Other”. No option existsto identify as intersex, nor transgender, norboth genders, nor anything of the user’schoosing. Anyone who identifies as transsex-ual could quite literally change their sex/gender here; a potential realm of blurring “fantasy” and “reality” that is much easierthan some legal changes (Butler, 2004). Andso things are kept simple: women and men, orgirls and boys. Facebook’s binary conceptuali-sation of gender is an important precursor totheir operationalisation of (what I presume is)sexuality: Are you “interested” in women and/or men? Were they afraid to add the adjective “sexually” or perhaps “romantically” (if boilingit down to sex is seen as too blunt)? Am I en-tirely misreading an innocent question? I won-der how many parents have had the conversa-tion about what being “interested” means withtheir child who is setting up their own Face-book profile (allowed from the age of 13 yearsor whenever they develop the insight that onecan easily give a false year of birth). I am notproblematising such parental conversations,but the vague phrasing of the operationalisa-tion is a problem, especially if it inadvertentlyor maliciously leads to homophobic (cyber-)bullying (see Chan, 2010). So, what are theresultant options for sexuality? A quadrilogy: 1) completely disinterested in women andmen (equivalent to asexual, celibate etc.);2) same-sex/gender interested (equivalent tohomosexual, lesbian, gay, takatāpui etc.);3) other-sex/gender interested (equivalent toheterosexual, straight etc.);4) interested in both sexes/genders(equivalent to bisexual etc.). I have left this passive request for sexualityunanswered. The case of Facebook, whilstpopularist in nature, exemplifies how themethod of questioning can define the diversityand inclusivity of a sample and how this wouldcarry through to stratified sampling of peoplefrom the resultant groups created by the inter-section of sex/gender and sexuality (eight inthe case of Facebook). Figure 1: The format of demographic “profile” information on Facebook (March 2011). My third example: another survey I was re-cently asked to complete; I met the inclusioncriteria (adult men) and was intrigued by howI would be asked about the topic of the study(sexual fantasies). As I progressed with com-pleting the online survey I found myself inca-pable of answering questions about masculin-ities, particularly ones from the Hypermascu-linity Inventory (Mosher & Sirkin, 1984). Thisquestionnaire involves fixed selection frompairs of items including choosing which of thefollowing statements is agreed with to agreater extent: “I only want to have sex withwomen who are in total agreement” or “I136 _________________________________________ 3 I use the age-related nouns rather than “females” and “males”, which lack species specificity (see also American Psychological Association, 2010, p. 76).
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