What I’m up to

Every four weeks I write a mini literature review for my supervisors, they read through it, give me some written feedback, and then we discuss it. It’s been really helpful for getting me to write and research in the way expected in public health (which I had no clue about). Mostly the mini lit reviews have been about me working out what topic I want to focus on, coming to common understandings of topics with my supervisors, and finding away to justify my focus and my definitions. But I am really excited at the moment because I am getting to focus on theory and methods, and starting to think about what I am going to do for my field work.

Most people might think the field work would be the bit that I am super excited about, but if I am honest I think I am enjoying both the theory and the methods in equal measure. Once upon a time, I started out as a philosophy student at the University of Edinburgh, and I feel like that only indulged my love of reading pretty abstract theory. Over last week I read a selection of articles on intersectionality (not a particularly abstract theory to be honest but super important), including starting (but not yet finishing) Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge’s 2016 book ‘Intersectionality’ and also reading a bit of ‘Feminist, Queer, Crip’ by Alison Kafer. In some ways these are books that I have been desperate to read for a long time, and the fact I am getting to now feels like a relief. Intersectionality is a key theme in my research as I am a strong believer in dispelling the myth of a homogenous LGBT+ experience, finding the right, academic way of expressing and explaining this is a bit of a sigh of relief. But in some ways it feels like a total indulgence. As I said I love reading theory: reading texts that are such a joy, and theorising a concept that I have used day-to-day in more community-based or activist work as a queer and feminist person, but have very limited academic understanding of, just feels like I am letting myself have too much fun.

I have sort of promised myself that I can read this couple of books, which will allow me to think about how I will embed intersectional practice (I know it is conventional to use the word ‘praxis’, but I am still confused exactly what the difference is) in my research methods. Then I will go onto do some reading on methods and how I will actually go about my research.

Currently my research questions are still a work in progress but I think they are going to be something along the lines of:

1. Why do LGBT+ young people have heightened rates of suicidal thoughts and behaviours when compared to their cisgender, heterosexual peers?

2. Does social connectedness, isolation, and broadly a sense of community influence those suicidal thoughts and behaviours, and if so how?

When I proposed the topic I had envisaged doing an interview with my participants, then keeping in touch with them via an interactive online diary project for about 6 weeks, and then interviewing them again. This is still on the cards for me, but I need to locate some literature to work out whether this is the best method possible. I have read some stuff (the technical term) on feminist/non-hierarchical interviewing, but I want to read more about activist and participatory research. If it is at all possible I would love to get together a youth reference group with a range of experiences of suicidal thoughts and behaviours to chat to, as I think that through these conversations we could develop methods that would be informed by, and therefore best fit, LGBT+ young people. But again I need to locate and read these methods and as I don’t have a background in it that is definitely on the job list for the coming week. So the tasks for this week are:

1. Finishing the books I am reading

2. Find research particularly on activist and participatory research methods

3. Read it!

Also I have my annual report at the back of my mind, due June 30th, I’m sure I’ll write a post on that soon, but suffices to say it’s pretty scary… Wish me luck!

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