LGBT sexualities in social care research

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People who transgress expected norms regarding gender and sexuality have always attracted attention from social scientists. Early sexuality research, in which sexualities that differed from the statistical norm were presented as perversion, travesty, sickness and sin, has, for the most part, yielded to a contemporary focus that explores the lived experiences and realities of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. This body of work has been underpinned by sometimes competing social and political objectives and, as such, has employed a variety of research methods and methodologies.

Some recent research has focused on the adult social care arena – the ways in which the needs of LGBT people are acknowledged, recognised and addressed in social care contexts. It is from this particular perspective that this review is written. The review charts the development of sexualities research and provides an overview of associated methodological approaches and perspectives, particularly those that have a specific adult social care focus. A range of examples from the various approaches is provided.

The review includes a critical appraisal of the strengths and limitations of the various approaches. It addresses a range of methodological challenges associated with research with LGBT people, including the ethical context of research with vulnerable populations, the concept of ‘insider status’ and some of the problems associated with the use of uncritical definitions and measurements of sexual minorities and how these may be addressed in research that aims to be inclusive without running the risk of tokenism.

The aim of the review is to enable researchers, particularly those working in the field of adult social care, to recognize and acknowledge the diversity of human experience in their own work, the ultimate objective being to improve social care practice.

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