Posted by Brenna Traynor on Jun 3, 2022

Whether you want to conduct an experience gap study with LGBTQIA+ populations or make sure they’re included in your general research recruitment efforts, there are inclusive research practices you need to consider and implement throughout the research lifecycle. 

AnswerLab’s LGBTQIA+ Employee Resource Group (ERG) is working on original research efforts and building resources and best practices for reaching and conducting research with this population. As we kick off Pride Month, we’re sharing our best practices and tips to help you take the next step in your research journey.

Note: This list is not intended to be perfect or comprehensive. Please approach these best practices with critical thinking and empathy. It is not the be-all and end-all of how to conduct research with care for your participants. It’s a starting point for your team to build on.

Diving into the term LGBTQIA+

“LGBTQIA+” is a common abbreviation used to encompass a range of sexual and gender identities: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Pansexual, Transgender, Genderqueer, Queer, Non-binary, Intersex, Agender, and Asexual community. The word “queer” is often used as an umbrella term that embraces a matrix of sexual preferences, orientations, and habits of the not-exclusively cisgender, heterosexual, and monogamous majority.

Why Inclusive Research is Critical

Representative samples are vital to the success of research and to making better products. As UX research professionals, it’s important for us to understand and communicate with stakeholders that quality research insights rely on:

    • Identifying participants within the population of interest
    • Developing processes and language that all participants can engage and be comfortable with throughout the research process (e.g., recruitment screeners, research scripts/surveys, language within prototypes)
    • Staffing research studies appropriately so participants see themselves represented within the research team
    • Auditing research materials to ensure they’re appropriate for the audience
    • Normalizing pronoun inclusion (e.g., using pronouns in communications with clients)

Best Practices for LGBTQIA+ UX Research

Over time, we’ve developed a set of initial best practices for engaging with the LGBTQIA+ population during research.

  1. Having an LGBTQIA+ researcher helps boost participation

    Whenever you’re conducting research with a particular group, especially if they are marginalized, it is best practice to consult with a team member whose identity aligns with that of the group. Ideally, they will be participant- (and team-) facing and are willing to be out and open with participants.

    This helps participants feel comfortable and not like they are being “studied.” Considering a participant consented to and is compensated for their participation, they still may feel they are being “taxed” or “used” for monetary gain by companies. Having a community member on the team demonstrates a real commitment to equity and inclusion.

    A member of the LGBTQIA+ community should review screeners, surveys, moderation guides, reports, and any other documents on a project with LGBTQIA+ participants. This helps ensure documents are empathetic and that offensive lines of questioning or language are avoided. It’s best to find a willing volunteer who has the bandwidth and emotional availability to do this work–do not require this of an LGBTQIA+ employee. It’s not always easy to dive into something so personal, so project leaders should be mindful not to make it a mandatory ask and approach this step of the process with patience and understanding.

  2. Use your pronouns to make people feel welcome

    Properly using people’s pronouns is a way to make them feel comfortable, welcomed, and respected. We recommend proactively sharing your own pronouns when possible to build an inclusive work environment. This might be during meetings, in research sessions, and anywhere else you meet with others, both virtual and in person.

    Encouraging everyone to do this normalizes sharing pronouns and creates an environment where individuals are less likely to experience otherizing (e.g., misgendering) in the workplace. Remember, just because someone appears to be a particular gender does not mean that gender aligns with their identity.

    Some tips for introducing pronouns:
    1. Include your pronouns when you introduce yourself in a meeting and ask for attendees’ preferred pronouns, e.g., “Hi, I am Brenna, and I use she/they pronouns. I am the lead researcher on this project. Would you like to share your pronouns with me?”
    2. Publicize your pronouns on the digital tools you use frequently (e.g., Slack profile, Zoom display name, email signature, etc.)
  3. Create accommodating timelines and provide comprehensive tech support

    Keep in mind that LGBTQIA+ folks are more likely to have experienced trauma than the non-LGBTQIA+ population. This is not to say it is a given that all participants have definitely experienced trauma, nor that having experienced trauma will affect study participation. But, knowing this and keeping it in mind will help you be empathetic and understanding during research projects with underrepresented communities.

    You may wish to account for this by doing some of the following:
    1. Including a statement at the beginning of all research sessions letting participants know they can decline to answer questions or stop/pause a session at any time for any reason
    2. Creating longer timelines to allow for extensions and makeup sessions
    3. Scoping for stronger tech support
    4. Offering a contact phone number for calls/texts or email address
  4. Put in extra effort to recruit individuals who represent the audience

    Don’t exclude members of the LBGTQIA+ community if they are hard to recruit! Sometimes you’ll need to put in a little extra effort and be creative about how to find people to participate. This might include reaching out to your company’s ERG for help or working with LGBTQIA+ community organizations to see if they have available resources or suggestions. Be careful you aren’t coming off as wanting to “use” people from the LGBTQIA+ community, but that you are seeking their input to better understand their needs and create safer, better online spaces and experiences.

    When screening participants, allow participants to self-identify. Don’t read out the options for gender or sexual orientation. If you’re using a recruiter, work with them to ensure they know how to request information about identity in their screeners. We’ve developed a few example screener questions we find encapsulate the most options:

    Example of screener questions:

    What is your gender?
    • Cisgender woman
    • Transgender woman
    • Cisgender man
    • Transgender man
    • Nonbinary
    • Gender neutral
    • Pangender
    • Genderqueer
    • Agender
    • Transfeminine / Transfemme
    • Transmasculine / Transmasc
    • Other: ________
    • Prefer not to say SCREENOUT, must be comfortable sharing

What is your sexual orientation? How do you identify? 

    • Gay
    • Lesbian
    • Bisexual
    • Pansexual
    • Queer
    • Other: ________
    • Prefer not to say SCREENOUT, must be comfortable sharing

An example recruitment grid for an LGBTQIA+ focused study shows how you can ensure you recruit a range of LGBTQIA+ participants. 

 

Straight

Gay

Lesbian

Bisexual or Pansexual

Queer

 

Cis Woman or Cis Man

SCREEN OUT

Min n=5/ Max 7

Min n=5/ Max 7

Min n=2/ Max 4

Min n=2/ Max 4

Max 20

Nonbinary, Gender Neutral, Pangender, Genderqueer, Intersex

Recruit a mix of sexual orientation

Min 5

Trans-

feminine

Minimum 2-3 - recruit a mix of sexual orientation

Min 5 Trans folks

Trans-

masculine

Minimum 2-3 - recruit a mix of sexual orientation

 

Want to learn more about inclusive research practices? Download our Guide to Inclusive Recruiting for more tips and strategies like these. 

Written by

Brenna Traynor

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