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HOW QUEER PEOPLE OF COLOR USE ICTS TO COPE

My Role: Principal Investigator

Context: 2 years, team of 4

Tools: Taguette, Qualtrics

Methodologies: User Interviews, Grounded Coding, Thematic Analysis

*ICTS, Information Communication Technologies

iSchool Inclusion Institute | 2019

 

PROBLEM SPACE

Stigma has huge negative consequences for marginalized groups. Those consequences include negative mental health impacts such as depression, anxiety, and psychological distress. People with multiple stigmatized identities experience even bigger consequences elevated risk of discrimination and higher risk of health problems.

As a result,  QPoC experience stigma twice over the following:

  • Racism for being a person of color 

  • Discrimination for being LGBTQ+

We know that coping is a major way to address these consequences, so we are interested in researching a multi-marginalized group familiar with technology and look at how they use ICTs to cope with their unique stigma. 

 

PROBLEM FRAMING

Since this study is exploratory in nature and Queer People of Color are generally understudied, we started with a literature review using this to guide our search:

1. The impact of stigma in the LGBTQ and PoC communities, separately

2. How people with both of these identities are coping with this unique stigma

3. The role that ICTs play in this coping

LITERATURE REVIEW

Using Google Scholar and several University databases, we searched and read 40 articles that spanned topics of coping, stigma, and information communication technologies. Our findings for each user group include the following:

 

LGBTQ+ Community

  • Increased negative experiences 

  • Youth: Higher susceptibility of self injury, depressive symptoms, more likely to commit suicide

PoC Communities

  • Excessive amounts of psychological distress, more than non-racial minority individuals

  • Higher susceptibility of health problems and higher rates of psychiatric symptoms

  • High levels of racial discrimination with police and within the criminal justice system

 

QPoC

  • Clear distinction between having 1 marginalized identity and having multiple 

  • Identifying as both a racial and sexual/gender minority creates an elevated risk of discrimination

As a result of this literature review, we know that QPoC do use ICTs to cope and that ICTs have not been the focus of any QPoC-specific studies

 

We continued to ask these questions: 

  1. What are the common themes present in the experiences of QPoC, specifically in regard to the stigma they endure? 

  2. How do QPoC use information communication technologies to cope?

 

IMPLICATIONS & IMPACT

If we can understand what QPoC experiences and existing coping strategies already look like, then we can design better interventions and technology to support this at risk group and  lower effects of stigma.

Our main participant persona are those who identified as Queer People of Color between the ages of 18-24. 

 

SEMI-STRUCTURED INTERVIEWS

After recruiting participants using flyers posted across several campuses, including University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania State University, and Stony Brook University, we conducted interviews with our participants. We recruited about 5 participants and asked them questions such as: 

  1. Do you feel that your race is stigmatized within the LGBTQ+ community?

  2. Do you feel that your sexual identity is stigmatized within your racial community?

  3. What coping mechanisms do you use, if any?

  4. Do you feel that there are enough resources available to you online to cope?

  5. Do you find the online coping mechanisms you use to be helpful?

 

ANALYSIS & RESULTS

Using grounded coding, we categorized the themes we found using the following codes: Experiences of Stigma, Coping Strategies, and Technology Use. Examples of specific codes in each category include LGBTQ discrimination, resources to cope, and social media. We used the free coding software, Taguette, to complete our analysis.

Our main findings include:

RQ1: Racial and sexual/gender stigma manifest in many of the same ways 

  • Offline, stigma can present as discrimination, harassment, and invalidation of feelings

  • Online, stigma can present as fetishization, oversexualization, erasure, and lack of representation

 

RQ2: There are 11 different ICTs that participants mentioned repeatedly during interviews and 6 major themes that arose regarding how these ICTs are being used. The 11 different information communication technologies includes social media, online video games, streaming services, and more. They were used for reasons such as identity exploration, distraction & escapism, and seeking a community.  

DESIGN IMPLICATIONS (from participants)

User Interface

  • Design more group chats available specifically for QPoC as well as inclusive gaming feature

Algorithms

  • Increase the number of QPOC recommended in algorithms on social media and social media platforms or make specific spaces for content from QPoC

Apps

  • Create more prominent dating apps that are specialized for certain sexual orientations and gender identities 

 

REFLECTION

The lessons I learned through this project includes:

  • Recruiting as early as possible and casting a wide net is imperative to reduce attrition and maintain recruitment goals.

  • Some silence is needed in between interview questions, and pacing participants with guided assurances is important.

  • Cross coding with a research team member and discussing it will bring new insights to the analysis and results.

​The limitations of this study includes a small sample size, the lack of funding for compensation, and the limited number of in-depth questions.

FUTURE WORK

Possible future studies regarding this work could include surveys that allow for generalizability and community focus groups that allow the expert themselves to discuss the platforms they use.