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Researching on LGBTIQ+ Folks? This is what we have to say...

Opinion piece by Clayton Mercieca, community manager for Allied Rainbow Communities

Year on year, ARC receives a number of requests by graduate and post-graduate degree students requesting our help to act as a gatekeeper and disseminate their information/recruitment letter with the hope of recruiting LGBTIQ+ folks to participate in their research.

It is certainly positive that students take an interest in LGBTIQ issues and wanting to delve further in the topic, many times by digging into very personal stories of LGBTIQ people. We also appreciate very much the efforts of academic bodies that compile these studies into symposia and publications to further propagate this knowledge for the wellbeing of society.

Upon being asked to disseminate the recruitment letter, which we often do so by posting on our social media channels and on this website, there is an expectation by the researcher that participants will come forward in numbers, often to find themselves disappointed that the turnout is low to nil.

For this reason we want to share our insights why this is happening and ways how to improve your recruitment success.

There is a thing called Research Fatigue: The LGBTIQ community in Malta that is 'out there' is significantly small, let alone the people who are willing and enthusiastic to participate in LGBTIQ research. At best, people may opt to participate in 1 or 2 studies in a particular year but any more than that results in fatigue. When studies are specifically focused on a particular gender identity (e.g. non-binary / trans) or a sexual orientation (e.g lesbians or bisexual women), the participation pool gets even more limited that makes it very hard to obtain participants unless you have a personal connection with your target group. Which leads us to the next question

What is your connection to LGBTIQ communities? Our feeling is that students who want to research on this topic are trying to understand a bit themselves more, or have a connection by having a family relative or a friend who is queer.

This leads the researcher to have big ambitions on deepening their understanding of a topic that is often under researched. When it comes to undergraduate level students, we recommend looking into research areas where plenty of literature is already available and where the primary research aspect does not delve into personal stories of queer people as much but perhaps look into:

  • attitudes of a particular cohort (e.g university students, policy makers, staff members, etc),

  • Civil Society Representatives

  • policy papers; and

  • services or the lack of them.

If you feel strongly about researching LGBTIQ people on a particular topic, we strongly advise you create a connection with the people you plan on interviewing. This can be done by attending events that are generally attended by LGBTIQ folks, which would gradually lead you to create a network of trusted individuals.

This process of earning trust is not a matter of days or weeks but months of showing up and making yourself known. More so specifically, if you plan on researching a vulnerable cohort like Trans & Non-Binary Individuals, we believe that unless the researcher has a personal connection to the topic, it is unlikely that trans people will come forward to trust you with their personal stories.

We hope you find these insights useful to plan your upcoming research work. Good Luck and do get in touch with us if you wish to discuss a particular topic before submitting a research proposal.

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