Autoethnogaphy, Gender, and Sexuality

What a full session, so much so that the circle that the social worker facilitator wanted us to form into has now become an elongated, oddly-shaped sphere (per se).

Gita Mehrotra and Elizabeth Circo were speaking about a mixed methods health project about lesbian and bisexual women of color. Interesting how the two social worker authors self-identified in different ways, which for me raises issue of confusion over self-identification and development issues. The authors looked at many different research pardigms about the use of self in reserach. Interesting that they were not approved to do a dialogical interview, so chose to do this part of the research with one another. They gained a lot of insights into the methodological and epistemological issues. The authors handed out printed copies of their slides, in part because this is how they were required to present their work in their institutions.

One of the authors spoke about how some of their interviewees felt comfortable about speaking with them about their research, as there were some shared experiences. I have found this as well with some of my work, namely as I reported in my paper that I presented at the Networked Learning Conference earlier this month in Aalborg, Denmark.

They engaged in autoethnography with one another. This seems to be a theme I am noticin.g both here in the conference as well as within the literature. Wonder if anybody is doing research on this? They are now reading sections of their autoethnogaphy sections. Interesting repetition of a family goal: “Assimilate, work hard, and do not draw attention to yourself.” One of the authors finished her reading in tears, to a round of applause by the tightly-packed room. Not sure why the tears, though others seem to have nearly shared them. The other author is with a little more force, and humor, with a number of people (again) nodding and laughing with a sense of, “Yes, we get it; we get you, we get your struggles.” People cannot get a hold on their physical health, as they cannot get a hold on their mental self. Hmm, have heard this theme before here at this conference as well.

The authors then spoke about some of their challenges with doing this research, with the one that stuck with me the most was how they researched their communties, and how they ended up knowing the members in their small communities much more than those members knew them. Very interesting implications for their practice.

Kimberly Dree Hudson is now presenting her work by reading her paper. Interesting concept of ambiguity, and how the intersections with it and elements of relationships, racial / ethnic / sexual, among other realities, that seem to be something beyond clear expression and organization. What is the experience or strategy (of power and privilege) of when people who “pass” choose to or not to come out (of the closet). Really interesting aspects of class and culture that support or do not support clearly addressing these issues.

Looking around the room, this is one of the more diverse group of session members that I have seen here. I see people who are clearly definable, as well as those who are not quite as easily categorizable. In many ways, this seems consistent with the queer approaches to autoethnography itself; there is an amount of fluidity in self-identification and development of the self with the complexities of cultural and traditional expectations.

I love the question that the speaker just shared that she gets asked — “What are you?” That comes saddled with issues of race, sexuality, and a plethora of other issues and experiences that are filled with concepts of privilege and positionality.What a vibrancy when these issues begin to be raised, especially within American Higher Education. Hiding. Hidden. Exclusion. People of color. Intersectional passages. Fear who to love or be intimate with. Quite reflective.

Brandon Hensley is now speaking, and he spoke about his autoethnographical experiences of transitioning from Catholic elementary school to a larger public middle school. Interesting how he is reliving memories of when he struggled, alone, as the butt of bullying and the like when he was younger. Never know if now, as he is a handsome and confident your researcher. Good lesson, in that one cannot always know (ok, one can rarely know) the challenges that we have experienced earlier in our lives (with earlier being a vague term) and which have formed aspects of our identity.

He just used the term reifies. Exmple of a term that sticks in my mind via my challenge understanding the concept within the communities of practice literature.

Hmm, Judith Butler reference. I really need to read more of her work.

Horrible story of bullying and how he recounts of the crowd of students as they were going to his getting beaten up and issues of “being proud” and taking the beatinng “like a man.” Really advanced example Brandon is doing with autoethnography — he recounts his stories and then weaves between them issues of theory, reflection, and research. Really clear work of body-building and how its compensation for issues of male inadequacy and how his internal pain and suffering was structured to build muscles and a focus of constructing control.

Now, his inner identity issues as he ontinues to work out recall the same issues of hypermasculinity and physical ideals. Interesting that his compensation for the challenges as a youth, he has now become all the aspects of ideal that society reaffirms and rewards. He made himself act masculine, assertive, and unattached. Now that he is not working out to avoid fights any longer, he is now questionning of why is he working out so much. This reflection on embodied lived experiences is fascinating, especially when considering how the outward result is the very hegemonic masculine continuation of the issue that the other authors all resisted.

Bradley Gangnon is now speaking about his work in China, and how his challenges within the educational system. He expressed various examples of how positive classroom experiences helped him come to a better understanding of himeselg as a gay man and a gay academic. He was always out in his classroom, until he went to China. He was an activist more in name and not in action, and read queer theory though did not actively connect the activism with practice. Fascinating recount of a session in China.

Alas, Brad did not have time to finish his work as the timing was a bit off in the session. Too bad, as I wanted to here were he was going to end up with his work.

This was so very unfortunate that there was not time for any discussion of any of these papers — these were among the more personal accounts I heard in today’s sessions, and to not have the opportunity to discuss, process, and ground the experience with those in the room who seemed to relate with elements of all their work is a truly missed opportunity.