UC Irvine Reclaiming Indigenous Language in Blue Ridge Unified School District Paper Think of the school(s) and/or school district(s) you attended when you

UC Irvine Reclaiming Indigenous Language in Blue Ridge Unified School District Paper Think of the school(s) and/or school district(s) you attended when you were a K-12 student. (Alternatively, youcould also think of your experiences in post K-12 schools: i.e. community college and/or four-year university).Based on the topics of this course, what programs would you like to see in your school(s) and/or school district(s), or your college/university that will:a) teach about diversity, equity, inclusion, and b) promote equitable access to educational opportunities for all students? Copyright of Journal of Latinos & Education is the property of Taylor & Francis Ltd and its content may not be
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Countering the Norm, (Re)authoring
Our Lives: The Promise Counterstorytelling
Holds as a Research Methodology With
LGBTQ Youth and Beyond
International Journal of Qualitative Methods
Volume 17: 1–11
ª The Author(s) 2018
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1609406918800646
M. Alex Wagaman1 , Rae Caballero Obejero1, and James S. Gregory1
Counterstorytelling, a methodology that is rooted in critical race theory, is undergirded by principles that are beneficial to
understanding the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer-identified (LGBTQ) young people from an
intersectional perspective. Counterstorytelling holds promise as a method that creates opportunities for individual transformation and resistance to dominant narratives among young people facing systemic oppression. This article outlines the design and
implementation of a counterstorytelling study with LGBTQ youth and reflects on the value and associated challenges of counterstorytelling as a participatory research method.
community-based research, critical theory, emancipatory research methods in qualitative inquiry, narrative
What Is Already Known?
This article builds on existing knowledge about the use of
counterstorytelling as a qualitative methodology. It is known
that counterstorytelling contributes to insight about the ways in
which populations of young people who face societal marginalization make sense of the dominant narratives about their
lives, as well as the ways in which they create their own counternarratives as a form of resistance.
What This Paper Adds?
This article extends the application of counterstorytelling as a
qualitative research methodology to explore its value in understanding the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and
queer-identified (LGBTQ) young people at the intersections of
multiple identities. In particular, the article outlines the design
of such a study, identifying lessons learned from a specific
study conducted with LGBTQ youth in the United States.
Much of the existing counterstorytelling literature is missing
depth in its description of the method.
“Words have the power to encourage and inspire, but also to
demean and dehumanize. I know now that epithets are meant to
game us into not being ourselves, to encourage us to perform lies,
and to be silent about our truths.”
(Mock, 2014, p. 31)
Youth and young adults who experience forms of marginalization and oppression are often silenced by existing dominant
narratives that are reproduced, rather than questioned, through
traditional research methods. Methods that limit our ability to
call into question taken-for-granted assumptions and social
narratives silence the lived experiences that counter those narratives. Without the ability to counter existing narratives, the
ability to create meaningful social change is limited. A method
for stepping into spaces of silence and asking what lies there,
instead of assuming that the untold stories reflect what we
already know, has the power to increase the depth of our understanding of marginalized groups of youth, including lesbian,
gay, bisexual, transgender and queer-identified (LGBTQ)
youth. Counterstorytelling as a methodology offers us a framework for employing such a method.
Counterstorytelling is a qualitative research methodology
grounded in principles of critical race theory and intended as
a process for telling the lived experiences of people who are
School of Social Work, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond,
Corresponding Author:
M. Alex Wagaman, School of Social Work, Virginia Commonwealth University,
PO Box 842027, Richmond, VA 23284, USA.
Email: mawagaman@vcu.edu
Creative Commons Non Commercial CC BY-NC: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License
(http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission
provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).
silenced and made invisible by existing dominant narratives
(Delgado, 1989; Solórzano & Yosso, 2001, 2002). Through
counterstorytelling, taken-for-granted assumptions and dominant norms are made visible (Solórzano & Yosso, 2001). Story
reclamation can be used as a form of resistance that calls into
question the existing practices of narrative reproduction (Costa
et al., 2012). This article describes an exploration of the theoretical and methodological parallels between counterstorytelling and the concept of queer world-making (Duong, 2012) that
has emerged from queer theory.
Queer world-making is a process of utopian thinking and
being that engages in resistance to that which is normative
(Warner, 2002). The term “queer,” as it is used in queer theory,
is “ . . . conceptually elastic, unrestrained, and open-ended”
(Yep, 2003, p. 35), which theoretically opens up all possibilities for a future world (Jagose, 1996). In the case of LGBTQþ
people, it is a process of envisioning a world in which heterosexuality is not normalized in every aspect of society (Halperin,
1995; Kumashiro, 2002). And for some, queer world-making
involves the practice of living into that envisioned world
through such behaviors as identity assertion, language use, and
more (Jagose, 1996).
While counterstorytelling has been primarily used as a
methodology to centralize race in the experiences and narratives of people of color, it also has value as a methodology to
centralize other aspects of identity through an intersectional
lens (Solórzano & Yosso, 2002). This article explores the application of counterstorytelling—putting theory into practice—to
gauge the impact and value of counterstorytelling as a methodology that supports the interruption of dominant social narratives for LGBTQ youth.
The authors designed and implemented a counterstorytelling study with LGBTQ young people. What follows is a
description of the design and implementation of this study,
including the guiding principles that served as a design framework. Included are reflections on the challenges and value of
applying this methodology in research with LGBTQ youth and
other populations of youth who experience marginalization and
systemic oppression.
The landscape for LGBTQ youth in the United States is shifting
socially and politically. In recent years, we have witnessed
increased rights related to marriage and family and dramatically increased transgender visibility. Youth have been at the
forefront of movements to increase safety and inclusion in
schools (Russell, Muraco, Subramaniam, & Laub, 2009) and
ensure that LGBTQ advocacy efforts consider the intersectional experiences of LGBTQ-identified people (Wagaman,
2015). Despite these changes, LGBTQ youth still face a number of systemic barriers to achieving their full potential in
adulthood. Research has consistently documented the impact
of discrimination and marginalization faced by LGBTQ youth
on their well-being (Saewyc, 2011). It is this impact—high risk
of suicide (Liu & Mustanski, 2012), homelessness (Durso &
International Journal of Qualitative Methods
Gates, 2012), mental health concerns (Almeida, Johnson,
Corliss, Molnar, & Azrael, 2009)—that is most reflected in the
dominant social narrative about LGBTQ youth (Goltz, 2013;
Hillier & Harrison, 2004). For LGBTQ youth, dominant narratives “inform cultural and societal values about gender and
sexual identities that render some expressions normative and
others illegitimate” (Owens, 2010, p. 43). Such narratives also
create a social expectation for how LGBTQ youth should
respond to their environments. For example, a U.S.-based
media campaign launched by Dan Savage sent the message
to LGBTQ youth that “It Gets Better,” suggesting that LGBTQ
youth experience bullying and suicidality and that if they can
“hang on” until adulthood, then things will turn around and be
better for them (Savage & Miller, 2011). While this narrative
resonated with many LGBTQ youth, the response from youth
who created a countercampaign called “Make It Better” suggests that the narrative of waiting until adulthood for things to
be better did not resonate with young people who felt compelled to engage in change efforts (Majkowski, 2011). This
broader narrative of risk and suicide for LGBTQ youth establishes a social expectation for how youth should generally
respond to a hostile environment.
Compounding the risks associated with experiences of discrimination, rigid social categories such as gender rely on binaries that limit a full expression of identity among youth
(Markman, 2011). Similarly, many of the systems and supports
that are in place to nurture and guide youth into adulthood
unfairly monitor or sanction LGBTQ youth, including schools
(Kosciw, Greytak, Palmer, & Boesen, 2014) and the juvenile
justice system (Himmelstein & Brückner, 2011; Majd, Marsamer, & Reyes, 2009). These systems are often guided by
research that has limited our understanding of the breadth and
depth of experiences within this diverse population and replicated the oppressive role that other institutions and systems
play in the lives of LGBTQ youth.
Rather than re-creating knowledge that encourages
responses requiring LGBTQ youth to adapt to or cope with
existing oppressive structures, alternative research methods are
required in order to access knowledge that reflects the reality of
their experiences in all of its complexity (Burrell & Morgan,
1979; Lincoln, Lynham, & Guba, 2011; O’Connor & Netting,
2009) and interrupts the dominant narrative(s) of risk that limit
our ability to imagine a world defined by those who exist
outside of accepted structures of gender and sexuality (Duong,
2012; Owens, 2010).
LGBTQ Youth and Narratives
Ungar and Teram (2000) found that youth facing risk use personal narratives to construct identities that are outside of the
social discourses that define them. Storytelling has been used
with LGBTQ youth as a tool for empowerment (Llera &
Katsirebas, 2010). LGBTQ youth are aware of the dominant
narratives that exist about them and able to reject the aspects of
these narratives they do not perceive as helpful (Hillier &
Harrison, 2004; McEntarfer & McVee, 2014). As such,
Wagaman et al.
storytelling may be a useful tool to understand resilience and
resistance strategies among LGBTQ youth.
Queer theorists have identified the concept of “queer worldmaking” as a process that occurs through the everyday expressions of LGBTQ-identified people as they push the boundaries
of the gender binary or claim their sexual and gender identities
in places where they are silenced or encouraged to be invisible
(Duong, 2012). Duong (2012) posits that LGBTQ young people are using their lives to create a world in which queerness is
no longer in the margins. Rather than waiting for the world to
change around them, they are creating the kind of world they
want to see in the future. In this way, their lives are shaping a
new narrative—as they simultaneously resist the narrative that
has been established for them. Counterstorytelling is a methodology that creates an opportunity for LGBTQ youth to put
their narratives—both those that they live and those that they
envision—in conversation with existing dominant narratives
that stifle them.
Counterstorytelling and LGBTQ Youth
Counterstorytelling is a methodology that has promise for use
with LGBTQ youth, given the shifting nature of the environmental context, intersectional experiences, and dominant narratives that frame LGBTQ youth through a risk framework
taking for granted the existence of a status quo that normalizes
a hostile environment (Solorzano & Yosso, 2001). The process
of counterstorytelling seeks to “listen less for stories of healing
and recovery and more for stories of resistance and opposition”
(Costa et al., 2012, p. 96). By creating the spaces for youth to
tell a different story about themselves and to contextualize it
within the dominant narratives, youth can begin to identify
ways that they have power to create change in the institutions
that impact them (Solorzano & Yosso, 2002).
Current Study
Counterstorytelling has not been used often in research with
LGBTQ young people. Little is known about its application
and implementation with this population. This article will
outline the development and implementation of a 6-week counterstorytelling study with a diverse group of nine LGBTQidentified youth. Participants were intentionally recruited to
equalize power related to racial and gender identities. Study
participants attended six 2-hr, counterstorytelling focus groups
once each week during which time they participated in a series
of activities that included naming the dominant narratives in
their lives, countering those narratives, telling individual stories, and identifying outlets to present their stories. Prior to
detailing the study design, it is important to understand the
principles that provided the design framework. These principles were identified through the underlying theoretical framework of critical race theory, queer theory, intersectionality, and
participatory action research (PAR) philosophy.
Guiding Principles
The following guiding principles were established to serve as a
framework for the design of the study. The first principle is that
there is value in creating and occupying shared space (Delgado,
1989). We knew that some voices and experiences had been
privileged in the dominant narratives about queer youth over
others and that it would be important to create a space where
youth could come together from various identities and experiences. The second guiding principle was that we would honor
one another’s truths, which is an acknowledgment that we were
approaching this from a paradigm that acknowledges there are
multiple truths (Burrell & Morgan, 1979). This principle was
important because we wanted to design a study that did not aim
to distill the stories or identify value in some stories over others. The third guiding principle was that we would work to keep
privileged voices from dominating. This guiding principle was
particularly important as we thought about the inclusion of
participants at the intersections of identities around ability,
race, and class in addition to sexual orientation and gender
identity. Finally, the fourth guiding principle was to avoid
“othering.” “Othering” occurs when a preestablished norm is
used to compare people against thereby emphasizing those who
differ from it rather than calling the norm itself into question.
“Othering” can occur when the master or dominant narrative is
established as the norm, which puts all other narratives into a
deficit framework (Solorzano & Yosso, 2001).
PAR, which is a methodology and philosophy grounded in
the belief that traditional research participants are the experts in
their lives and experiences (Barbera, 2008), was used to inform
the development of this study as well. PAR and counterstorytelling are aligned theoretically (Brydon-Miller, Kral, Maguire,
Noffke, & Sabhlok, 2011) and given the limited use of counterstorytelling with queer youth in the literature, and the fact that
counterstorytelling as a method has been used in a variety of
ways (Griffin, Ward, & Phillips, 2014; Munoz & Maldonado,
2012), it was imperative in this study that the participants also
serve in an active role around shaping and designing the
research methods and the “space” within which the study took
place. As such, PAR principles and methods were threaded
throughout the emergent design of this study. More specifically, the youth participatory action research (YPAR) principles as defined by Rodriguez and Brown (2009) helped to
frame the implementation of this study. Those principles
include inquiry-based, participatory, and transformative. It is
important to note here that this was not a PAR or YPAR study.
Rather, the principles were used to inform aspects of the study
design and implementation to enhance (1) relevance of the
study to the lives and concerns of the young people involved,
(2) participation in creating the pedagogical and methodological space, and (3) the potential for transformation at an individual, group, or community level (Rodriguez & Brown, 2009).
The ways in which these principles were applied will be highlighted in the study description.
The principles as outlined above were used to design a counterstorytelling study that took place between April and May
2014. When we were uncertain about decision-making related to
design and process, we went back to these principles and the
guiding theories. The details of the design are described below.
Researcher Reflexivity
Given the decision-making power that was held by the
researchers who designed and implemented the study, it is
important to understand the lens through which decisions were
made. The primary researcher is a middle-aged, White, cisgender woman who is a PhD-educated faculty member at a university. Her experience in social work practice is largely in the
area of youth and community organizing, which informs her
approach to academic research. The second researcher is a
Filipino, transgender man who was within the same age range
as the target age for the participants at the time of the study. He
was studying social work at the time that the study was being
conducted. The researchers engaged in reflexive meetings
before and after each focus group session and engaged in
reflexive journaling throughout the study.
Study Design
The counterstorytelling study received institutional review
board approval through the university. The time parameters
that were established for the study included weekly focus
group meetings for 6 weeks. Each meeting was 2 hrs in length
and was audio-recorded. Participants were paid a cash incentive at the end of each focus group that they attended, and a
meal was provided.
Based on the guiding principles, we knew that attention
would need to be paid to both the “space” that was created for
this study to occur within and the data collection protocol that
was used to carry out the study. By “space,” we are referring to
the physical space as well as the environment that was created
through the representation of people involved in the study, and
the guidelines we established for how those involved would
engage with one another. By data collection protocol, we mean
the activities, questions, and procedures used to guide how the
time was spent in the study for the purposes of generating and
collecting data. The protocol was preplanned but had emergent
qualities as will be described below, which reflected a participatory nature. The study space and data collection protocol are
not clearly delineated—they are, in fact, fairly interconnected.
However, we will describe each component separately below.
Within each, we will give examples of the ways in which the
guiding principles were incorporated into the design.
Recruitment and participant selection. An important aspect of the
intentional creation of a space was the participant recruitment
and selection process. An outreach and recruitment plan was
developed with the goal of reaching a diverse group of LGBTQ
youth ages 18–24. Young people who expressed interest in the
study participated in a screening process during which they
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