Methods. Data from three types of focus group compositions (N=95) explored the influence of group contexts on how social categories/positionalities and related patterns of privilege-oppression were understood and enacted. Three groups were inter-categorical (members differed on many positionalities with some identifying as cisgender and heterosexual). Seven represented two types of intra-categorical compositions: in two all members shared several positionalities (2SLGBTQI Black male older adults); in five, everyone identified as 2SLGBTQI but differed on other positionalities (age, race/ethnicity, religion, class, dis/ability). A survey and experiential activity were completed individually before groups began to introduce the categories and assist participants to explore their experiences in different environments. Some facilitation techniques focused directly on impacts of categories, while others problematized those categories. Using grounded theory, transcriptions were analyzed by several coders using open and axial coding.
Results. Data depict how participants described themselves and their experiences in different environments before and after they are asked to identify their key positionalities within the three types of groups. Intra-categorical groups with shared multiple positionalities allowed participants to focus directly on the interfaces of these (e.g., how being Black and an older adult affects how they have defined and navigated being 2SLGBTQI+ over their life). Groups with shared 2SLGBTQI+ positionalities but differed on other positionalities promoted exploration of diverse experiences among 2SLGBTQI+ people in different settings. Participants in inter-categorical groups focused heavily on navigating positionality boundaries. Those with privileged positionalities were more likely to discuss these after they were asked to identify explicitly their positionalities.
Conclusions and implications. 2SLGBTQI+ participants interact and describe themselves and their environments very differently in intra and inter-categorical groups, and in response to methods that increase or decrease salience of particular positionalities. In intra-categorical groups, participants are more able to explore similarities and differences among 2SLGBTQI+ people and complex consequences of power. We end with principles and questions to consider with focus groups to illuminate power dynamics and consequences associated with different mixes of positionalities among 2SLGBTQI+ people.