At the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services (iSMSS), we conduct timely and often pressing research focused on helping sexual and gender minority (SGM) youth to mediate life in family, school, healthcare, and other environments.
iSMSS research fits the theme area "transforming research in education", which is acknowledged as the Faculty of Education’s strength. We conduct innovative research that advances recognition and accommodation of SGM individuals through evidence-based approaches to policymaking, educational and community programming, and educating professionals to engage in caring practices.
Research foci include:
inclusive lifelong learning;
SGM issues in education, health, and culture;
critical youth studies;
resilience as a non-linear, asset-creating process; and
policymaking and its implementation in caring practices in schools, healthcare, government, and other environments.
In sum, iSMSS research is intended to advance inclusive policymaking as a protective basis for framing and engaging in ethical and informed educational, healthcare, other institutional, and community/cultural practices. This includes enhancing SGM-inclusive education as a strategic sociocultural, political, and pedagogical project.
Background to iSMSS Studies
The Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services plays a central role in coordinating research focused on current needs in educational policy and practice and, through its interdisciplinary framework, needs that intersect with the broader individual, social, and cultural concerns of LGBTQ2S+ individuals. Such research would logically focus on social, cultural, civic, legal, legislative, ethical, and political issues. We work to engage faculty, undergraduate, and graduate students as researchers enhancing the understanding of issues that face members of LGBTQ2S+ communities, as well as their rights and privileges in terms of citizenship and personhood. Academic studies (research and teaching) and advocacy are inextricably linked, and so whatever we are working on we strive to create a dynamic equilibrium between the two main spheres we work in.
In 2015 Canadians celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of the implementation of equality provisions enshrined in Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.The Supreme Court of Canada declared sexual orientation to be a character of person analogous to other characteristics listed in Section 15 in the decision for Egan v. Canada, in 1995. This section protects individuals against discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, and other characters of person. Building on this move forward, in 1998 in Vriend v. Alberta, the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed equal rights for gay and lesbian citizens of Canada. Moreover, in 2005 the Government of Canada legalized same-sex marriage, making Canada only the fourth country in the world to do so. These key decisions, along with many other legal and legislative advances, aim to create a Canada where LGBTQ2S+ persons are equal and protected. Such progress must be reflected in Canadian universities, as key institutions for transmitting knowledge and values in culture and society.
Canadian culture and society still has a long way to go in accepting and accommodating LGBTQ2S+ Canadians, who remain at-risk in many sociocultural spaces in their everyday lives. Many LGBTQ2S+ people still experience obvious and pervasive discrimination in Edmonton, across the province, and the country. In 2015 the number of hate crimes targeting sexual orientation were down 9% from 2014, but they still accounted for 11% of the overall number of hate crimes in Canada. Sadly, hate-motivated incidents victimizing LGBTQ2S+ individuals as well as anti-gay public communication are also pervasive on the University of Alberta campus. There are provisions in the Criminal Code of Canada to address hate crimes, unfortunately though people who commit such atrocities are not often persecuted for such actions. The Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services aims to use research on such systemic issues, and seek long-term solutions through this research and public education.
Stories of the risks, stereotyping, and marginalization that Canadian LGBTQ+ students and educators have faced across educational sectors are well documented. In public schooling in particular, stories of the symbolic and physical violence that these students have endured have been recorded in narratives about confusion, depression, substance abuse, alienation, poor attendance, dropping out, gay bashing, and suicide. Increasingly though, we hear stories of resilience involving LGBTQ2S+ students and educators as social activists, cultural workers, and survivors. Beyond the concerns, fears, and even moral apprehensions that culture, society, and various educational interest groups may have, it is becoming quite clear that queer or gay people are here to stay, and that Canadian education has to become more responsive and responsible in meeting the needs of queer students and educators. There is an urgent need better educational policies and practices that attend to sex, sexual, and gender differences as a vital focus in inclusive education that is synchronized to the tide of positive legal and legislative changes recognizing, respecting, and accommodating the rights of LGBTQ2S+ Canadians.