The experiences of sexual and gender minority youth in Wyoming: A Photovoice project

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This aim of this research study is to better understand the lived experiences of sexual and gender minority (SGM) youth (16-24) in Wyoming using Photovoice methodology. Photovoice was created as a tool of critical consciousness and inquiry that allows participants to actively co-construct knowledge and to speak often unheard truths to power. It is absolutely critical to social justice work that oppressed and marginalized people be treated as the experts on their own lives, and to teach others about their experiences rather than have that story told by others. Little qualitative or participatory research exists that specifically explores the experiences, perspectives, needs, and strengths of SGM youth in Wyoming, in rural America, or in states considered politically conservative. These gaps in knowledge result in a lack of understanding of both the risks and the resilience of youth who identify outside of gender and sexual norms, which in turn impacts the availability and quality of social services, a major concern for social work in our state. This is of particular concern In Wyoming, due to the recognized shortage of mental health providers in general coupled with the knowledge that SGM youth experience greater mental distress, suicidality, substance abuse, and other negative outcomes associated with oppression and discrimination compared to heterosexual and cisgender peers. Additionally, the voices of SGM people in general, and youth in particular, are often not heard by state policymakers despite the importance of policy for shaping the lives of citizens. This study seeks to shed light on the lived experiences and perspectives of SGM youth and to leverage that knowledge to improve services and policies impacting the population in Wyoming, using an intersectional lens, and guided by the following research questions:

1. How do SGM youth living in Wyoming perceive themselves, their needs and their strengths?

2. How do these experiences differ when examined through an intersectional lens?

3. What barriers to safety and wellbeing do SGM youth face in Wyoming?

4. How can social service providers and policymakers act to better meet the needs of SGM youth in Wyoming?


Project funded in part by the UW Social Justice Research Center

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