26 SES 09 A, LGBTIQAA+ Research And The Exploration Of Diversity And Gender In Educational Leadership
For this research we explore the subjectivity of a particular cohort of educational leadership researchers who identify as an LGBTIQAA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans*, Intersex, Queer, Asexual, Ally) individual. We especially focus on participants’ subjective experiences - reflecting a range of career stages spanning doctoral student to professoriate levels and researching in Western/ Global North contexts - as they reflexively consider their trajectories and experiences in the pursuit of research at the juncture of educational leadership and quuer (LGBTQIAA+) issues [e.g. curriculum leadership; leadership preparation that includes topics on queer students and teachers] (or research adopting queer theoretical framings) specifically. Importantly, they also consider the extent of inclusion of these issues in research dedicated to social justice, equity and diversity agendas. We demonstrate the long commented on silence on this issue, having conducted a cursory review of the field's paucity of research on it, coined by Capper (2018) as a 'blemish' on the field of educational leadership. We set this against a backdrop of the state of these research agendas and other relevant contemporary policy issues (drawing on North American, European and Antipodian literatures), and then advance a conceptualization of a queer subjectivity.
Participants interview data illustrate that while positive changes are evident for those pursuing the research we describe, nonetheless particular dilemma, caveats and tolls of pursuing this research are clearly experienced by participants within this particular field of research, relevant to those within and outside the cohort of participants focused on in this chapter, including striaght allies. These data shed an insight on the silence and inactivity in the field. With implications for understanding researchers at the margins of educational leadership research more broadly, we argue that this chapter - although by no means generalizable - provides a rich illustration of the power of subjectivity to contribute to better understanding of our identities as researchers and their influence on our research (in)activity and professional responsibilities and tensions. Based on this, we conclude the chapter with an invitation for collective action on queer(er) issues in educational leadership.
To contend with the difficulty and sensitivity of researching sexuality (Coleman, 2012), we deemed a qualitative approach most suitable and conducted in-depth interviews with participants (n=7). Our questions asked participants to share their (i) motivations for; (ii) subjective experiences of; (iii) identity shifts in; (iv) internal struggles while pursuing research at the juncture of educational leadership and queer issues. To ensure research was conducted sensitivity, we debriefed with each other regularly and monitored participants during interviews “to assess the emotional impact and response” (Fahie, 2014, p. 29). As Hodson and colleagues (2018) outline, there are risks in studying LGBTQIAA+ identities in relation to work, includiing that we do not sufficiently reflect “the full rainbow of LGBTQ+ experiences or subjectivities” (Hodson et al., 2018, p. 284). To be as expansive as possible, we wished to include lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* and straight ally participants in our study, spanning a range of career stages and international contexts. We employed purposeful, and subsequently, snowball sampling to ensure ‘information-rich cases… knowledge and experience… the ability to communicate experiences in a… reflective manner’ (Palinkas et al., 2015, p. 2). To facilitate interviews, we used synchronous online video interviews (Lo Iacono, Symonds, & Brown, 2016) with five participants, which provided for a varied and international group in the United States and Canada. According to Deakin and Wakefield (2014), the advantages of this approach to interviewing extend to the conduct of sensitive research; the distance imposed by video interviewing, they contend, allows a dimension of space for participants and for responses that avoided the hyper personal often provoked by face-to-face interviews. Two participants were interviewed on the telephone. Once interviews were complete, we transcribed the data and each conducted a thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke, 2006) independently before reconvening to discuss these as coauthors. We acknowledge the limitation in our presentation of participants’ voices of the multiple other facets of their identities. Nonetheless, in accordance with our theoretical positioning in this chapter, we deliberately focus on their queerness not as an essential category but rather its social construction by the participants and those with whom they (have) interact(ed). Furthermore, we explore how this construction shapes (and is shaped by), destabilizes (and is destabilized by) and reshapes (and is reshaped by) participants’ subjectivities. We therefore attempt to understand and portray the “multiple and complex” (Capper, 2018, p. 203) influences on these identities, which we subsequently present and discuss.
Our findings go beyond the observable silence we (again) document in the field of educational leadership research on queer issues (LGBTQIAA+ issues or queer theoretical framings of research) at the outset of this chapter, adding to this observations on contemporary shifting global policy contexts. Interview data from a small cohort of researchers who have/ do conduct research (including research-informed teaching) at this juncture help, from the perspective of subjectivity, to understand why the aforementioned silence and dearth of research may exist and what can be done to begin to overcome this. This is of particular significance to those educational leadership scholars positioned at the interfaces of equity, social justice and diversity, and others at the 'margins' of educational leadership research. Based on the analysis conducted and drawing on the theory employed, we then detail the tensions and dilemmas experienced - as well as the opportunities seized - by our participants. We also highlight the significance that conducting this research would have to influence research to further inform leadership preparation and development activities. Furthermore, we make practical suggestions based on participants' observations on how to augment research activity from doctoral to departmental levels. We also elaborate on participants' desire for collective action (i.e. action, extending to research, beyond tokenism and lip-service) on the long-neglected research at the juncture of school leadership and LGBTQI+/queer issues, rendering the subjective experiences by the cohort of participants we interviewed relevant to all educational leadership researchers, particularly those who are (or wish to become more active) allies in the conduct of this very much required research.
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