Abstract: Towards an Integrative Self: A Digital Photo Elicitation Study of Intersectional Sexual and Gender Minority Youth in Canada Using Constructivist Grounded Theory (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Towards an Integrative Self: A Digital Photo Elicitation Study of Intersectional Sexual and Gender Minority Youth in Canada Using Constructivist Grounded Theory

Friday, January 14, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 13, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Shelley Craig, PhD, Professor, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Andrew Eaton, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Regina, Saskatoon, SK, Canada
Alexa Kirkland, MSW, Social Worker, University of Toronto, ON, Canada
Rachael Pascoe, MSW, RSW, PhD Student, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Shelley Craig, MSW, Social Worker, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Background: Sexual and gender minority youth (SGMY) experience unique challenges related to identity and disclosure, face elevated risks of harm and poor health outcomes compared to their peers, and cope and build resilience in vibrant ways. Qualitative research has not fulsomely explored the risk, resilience, and identity intersections that impact SGMY wellbeing, especially for the most vulnerable.

Methods: This digital photo elicitation study, titled QueerVIEW, utilized a constructivist grounded theory framework to explore the intersectional identity experiences of SGMY in Ontario, Canada. SGMY (aged 14-29) from understudied priority populations consisting of youth identifying as trans and gender diverse (TGD), newcomers, or experiencing homelessness, or child welfare involvement were recruited through social media. Following an online eligibility screening survey, participants submitted fifteen digital photos that included representations of: a) who they were their online and offline lives; b) how others may perceive them online and offline; c) barriers and challenges to self-expression; and d) faciltators of strength and self-expression. Participants then attended individual interviews via Zoom that followed a semi-structured protocol that integrated their photos and included questions on participants’ personal meanings of intersectionality and resilience, perceptions of online and offline lives, and how they navigate adversity. The ‘share screen’ feature was used by the interviewers to display participant photos and ask probing questions about participants’ narratives and emotions about the image. Interviews were video recorded via Zoom, and the recordings were transcribed. Constructivist grounded theory was employed by a coding team of seven interdisciplinary students and community members for multimodal analysis of photos, interview video, and interview transcript. Triangulation, an audit trail, and member checking were employed to support the trustworthiness of the data.

Results: From the priority populations, participants (n=30; Mean age=21.37) identified as TGD (40%), newcomers (60%), had experienced homelessness (40%) or child welfare involvement (27%) with over half (53%) identifying with two or more high risk groups. A model showing how participants work towards an integrative self emerged as SGMY described various offline and online processes that contributed to how they were becoming authentic and “whole” versions of themselves. These processes assisted youth in embracing their diverse identities in ways that promote their integrative self. The model contains themes of reflecting and knowing, discrimination and intersectional challenges, connecting, performing, curating, coping, (re)defining and (re)creating, and growing and being. Sub-themes of the impact of family dynamic and values, mental health and trauma, and the cathartic benefit from advocacy and leadership offered additional insight. Participant images were captured in a digital gallery as a resilience enhancement product. Visuals (stills, clips, model) will be shared to illustrate results.

Conclusion: The use of digital photo elicitation methods through this study that prioritized participation from SGMY with multiply marginalized experiences and identities resulted in a complex and in-depth understanding of the ways they navigate their online and offline environments and actively work toward a more authentic and integrated sense of self. SGMY’s vibrant contributions highlighted their intersectional resilience that can provide guidance for social work research and practice.