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Qualitative Social Work


Given that promoting social justice is one of the central organizing principles of social work, it comes as no surprise that participatory action research has gained much attention among social work researchers. While much has been written about promising practices of participatory action research with various marginalized communities, there remains a dearth of participatory action research literature that focuses on trans* people, a population often under attack in current socio-political climates. In this paper, we report on a participatory action research project, in which a trans* artist worked closely with trans* youth participants (n = 5) to assist them through a creative project. Using a queer theoretical lens and drawing from the concept of “queer world-making,” the participants recast cultural representations about what it means to be trans* in their chosen artistic medium. This paper suggests that art can serve as a transformative research practice with trans* youth. Our findings suggest that the rhetorical binary of trans* vulnerability and resilience does not adequately represent lived experience. We make this argument by demonstrating the following processes through which youths engaged art in this participatory action research project: (1) countering normative discourses of what it means to be trans*, (2) promoting self- reflection and expression, and (3) facilitating “queer counterpublics.” In so doing, we make an argument for art as a qualitative research process that holds much promise in uncovering and challenging the normative discourse and developing a much more complex and nuanced understanding of what it means to be trans* youth.


arts-based research, Participatory action research, qualitative research, trans youth





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