Laurier researches LGBTQ teens

Assistant professor of community psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University Robb Travers and graduate students Katie Cook and Alix Holtby have embarked on a research project entitled Teens Resisting Urban Trans- and Homophobia (TRUTH).

Travers and his team, which consisted of students (both Laurier and non-Laurier) and a community member, set out to study the social conditions for lesbian, gay, bi, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) teens in Kitchener-Waterloo.

As a part of the TRUTH research project, local LGBTQ teens were asked to take between five and seven pictures over a period of about five days. Following this, the teens gathered for a discussion group.

According to Cook, a second-year student in the community psychology master’s program, the group discussed everything from “experiences of harassment and not feeling safe to experiences of not feeling support from their community.”

Cook said that through these discussion groups the project is making the “invisible visible [by] working with people who are the subject of photographs; [people who] nobody ever talks to or asks their feelings.”

“The point of [TRUTH] is to make people’s stories visible by talking about them with people who actually have the same experiences and asking them to tell their story,” said Cook.

The TRUTH research project looked at about 180 photos from the everyday life of LGBTQ teens in the area. Travers and his team are still in the stage of preliminary investigation because of the complexity of the issues presented in the pictures.

The project was inspired by some unexpected findings from a similar survey done in Toronto by Travers and some colleagues from York University, the University of Toronto and Planned Parenthood earlier this year.

Results of the Toronto study included evidence of increased risky sexual behavior and an increase of teen pregnancy in non-heterosexuals. Although the same groups of people were studied in both the Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo studies, Cook stated that “our findings were not the same.”