Abstract: Exploring the Identity and Resilience of Mexican Sexual and Gender Minority Youth through the Camera Lens (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Exploring the Identity and Resilience of Mexican Sexual and Gender Minority Youth through the Camera Lens

Friday, January 14, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 13, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Ignacio Lozano-Verduzco, PhD, Professor, National Pedagogic University, Mexico City, Mexico
Juan Carlos Mendoza Pérez, PhD, Professor, National Autonomous University of Mexico, EM, Mexico
Shelley L. Craig, PhD, LCSW, Professor, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Andrew Eaton, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Regina, Saskatoon, SK, Canada
Background: Sexual and Gender Minority Youth (SGMY) in Mexico remain at risk of violence and discrimination and need continued social work support, despite the presence of legal and social programs that defend “sexual diversity.” There is growing research in Mexico regarding the processes of identity construction, discrimination, and health of SGMY; however, no research has explored the role of resilience in these social processes. This project aims to conceptualize the connection between resilience and identity of SGMY.

Methods: Towards Free Expression of Identity and Desire, a qualitative study involving photo elicitation and nine focus groups (n=72), was conducted across Mexico City, Nuevo León, and Yucatán. Distinct focus groups were held for: gay and bisexual young men, lesbian and bisexual young women, and trans identified youth. Photo elicitation enriched and deepened personal narratives and group dialogue. Participants were asked to identify or take photographs that helped them describe two concepts: identity and resilience. These photographs were subsequently used during focus groups to elicit further narratives and information. Images were analyzed at the denotative level, which provides an approximation of what is seen and exists in the image. Focus groups were audiorecorded and the recordings were transcribed. Grounded theory was used for their analysis.

Results: Photographs illuminated the understanding of the aesthetic characteristics of the body: size, ratio, dimensions, colors, or what the body is in relation to others. Our analysis showed that SGMY construct their identity in relation to their community. Many photographs featured the rainbow flag or pride parades in the participant’s city of residency. These photographs depicted groups of people walking and convening with the rainbow flag, the bisexual flag or the trans flag. Another group of photographs depicted LGBTQ+ activists with the participants among them; self portraits; portraits of participants when they were children, teenagers, or toddlers; and selfies with their families or groups of friends. Photographs concerning resilience featured human bodies with injuries or in situations that can lead to physical harm; plants growing in unexpected places, such as a gray sidewalk; groups of people walking side by side or holding hands; and lastly, small animals carrying big objects, such as an ant carrying a tree branch. Focus group discussions examined identity processes and the expression of desire by youth, naming of their identities, experiences of discrimination and violence, and the main emotional coping skills used by youth.

Conclusions: As a whole, this study speaks to the importance of community, the relationships between Mexican SGMY and the people important to them, such as their family members, their friends, and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole and provides insights to facilitate relationship-building and community connection. Findings also highlight the relevance of policital action, such as pride parades, where LGBTQ+ people have the opportunity to express their needs to public agencies and the state, and how social workers can help organize and mobilize community action. The idea of community connects the concepts of identity and resilience and speaks to the particularities of the Mexican context as a collective culture.