Visualizing experience: using creative research methods with members of sexual and gender communities

Barker, Meg; Richards, Christina and Bowes-Catton, Helen (2012). Visualizing experience: using creative research methods with members of sexual and gender communities. In: Phellas, Constantinos N. ed. Researching Non-Heterosexual Sexualities. Farnham: Ashgate, pp. 57–80.



This chapter argues that visual methods may be particularly appropriate for the study of non- heteronormative sexualities and genders, particularly the more marginal identities and practices which have tended to be pathologised in, and excluded from, past research. We focus here on three of these: bisexuality (attraction to more than one gender, or regardless of gender), trans (moving away from the gender which was assigned at birth), and polyamory (having multiple sexual and/or intimate relationships). Of course trans people may be heterosexual, or indeed of any sexuality, but have tended to be marginalised in many of the same ways as people from non-heterosexual sexualities, and are consequently included in this chapter for that reason. First we briefly overview the history of qualitative research on non-heterosexual sexualities and trans, arguing that qualitative methods, per se, do not prevent researchers from forming limiting understandings and problematic generalisations about such groups. Then we present an alternative to conventional interview/focus group discussion research involving the use of visual methods. We summarise key reasons why this may be particularly appropriate to the exploration of those in marginalised sexualities, genders and relationship forms, and then present three examples, based in our own research, of the ways in which such research provided data which confounded simple celebratory or critical conclusions about people in these communities. Finally, we summarise some methodological considerations which are of value to those considering the use of visual methods in their own research.

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