Abstract: Cab Fatigue Is Real!: Building Power in Social Movements for Trans Justice through Participatory Action Research (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Cab Fatigue Is Real!: Building Power in Social Movements for Trans Justice through Participatory Action Research

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Sid Jordan, JD, PhD Student, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Ezak Perez, Executive Director, Gender Justice LA, CA
HĂ©ctor Plascencia-Juarez, Advisory Board, Gender Justice LA, CA
Cydney Brown, Student, Claremont Graduate University, CA
Background and Purpose: Transgender activists have long organized against harmful forms of inquiry, speculation, and experimentation in medical research. The recent expansion of mainstream research funding focused on gender minorities and health disparities poses dilemmas for transgender organizers in evaluating when to partner with researchers or participate in community advisory boards (CABs). Participatory action research (PAR) diverges from conventional engagement approaches by resisting knowledge extraction and investing in transformative social change. Based on our experiences as part of a trans-led PAR initiative in Los Angeles, we consider PAR practices to bend the terrain of transgender health research toward more socially just and accountable practices and outcomes.

Methods: Transmasculine Health Study Los Angeles is an ongoing trans-led PAR initiative started in 2016 by organizers at Gender Justice Los Angeles (GJLA), a trans people of color-led membership-based organization. The aim has been to confront the erasure of Transmasculine people in local public health data and address intersecting gender, racial, and economic inequities in health and health services. We have held focus groups, created a traveling portrait photography exhibit, interviewed health care providers, and conducted a county-wide survey. In 2020, a core group convened twelve PAR organizers, including health workers, service providers, artists, and educators, for self-reflection and strategic planning for the next phase of the initiative. Using agendas and notes from team meetings and five workshops, this paper reflects on both methods and outcomes from this process and situates it within the rapidly expanding field of transgender health research.

Results: Workshops included creative writing and reflection exercises, collaborative data review and analysis, political agenda-setting and power mapping, and event planning. Participants were invited to share from their personal experiences participating in research, including the PAR initiative. Many distinguished their involvement with PAR from other types of research in terms of the positionalities of the researchers, the formulation of research questions, meeting cultures, financial transparency, use of the data findings in their organizing work, and personal investment in the project. Participants envisioned several desirable practices for future research, including: multiple and low-barrier points of entry for participation; prioritizing healing work and relationship development; building participants’ and organizational capacity to take action for political change; and the diffusion of expertise over data findings. The team identified several public and community projects to expand the use of community data, including a policy advocacy platform, a community-facing data website with downloadable presenter powerpoints, a short documentary film, and community healing events. The team also devised a workshop for trans people to evaluate personal ethics for research participation.

Conclusions and Implications: During a period of rapid research expansion in the field of transgender health, PAR offers an experiential process for transgender organizers to develop personal and collective ethics related to research participation and decision-making. In this project, an intentional reflection and strategy phase opened opportunities for organizers to strengthen community use of the data and align research efforts with community organizing agendas.