Festival highlights the lighter side of LGBTQ+ research

LGBTQ+ research doesn’t always have to be about heavy subjects. UG scientists are organising an event to highlight the diversity of the field: Queer Science.

Discrimination, sexual abuse, mental health issues: research on LGBTQ+ people can often be quite grim, admits assistant professor of sociology Wouter Kiekens. His own bachelor thesis, for instance, concluded that gay and bisexual youth drink and smoke more than their heterosexual peers, as a way to cope with their stress.

But the field is not all doom and gloom, he says. ‘While these topics are crucial, we also want to highlight the diverse and positive aspects of queer life.’

Festival

With this goal in mind, the Centre of Expertise for the Study of LGBTQIA+ Issues, an interdisciplinary research group within the UG, is organising a special event. ‘Queer Science will showcase a wide range of research, from archaeology to pronoun usage’, says Kiekens.

At the free science festival, on Tuesday, June 4, at the House of Connections, there will be lectures on LGBTQ+ research. Attendees can talk with queer individuals, test their knowledge in a quiz, or even contribute to a study. Research ideas are also welcome. ‘It’s an opportunity to connect with the community and demonstrate the practical applications of our research.’

Safe space

The event is also intended as a safe space for the queer community within academia. ‘That’s very important for LGBTQ+ students who may feel isolated.’

A majority of scientists in the field identify as part of that community themselves, according to Kiekens, who is gay. To him, studying LGBTQ+ subjects was like ‘finding yourself in the literature’. ‘It was kind of like self-study in a sense. I realised that there was a psychological construct underlying these feelings that I had.’ 

You don’t have to be queer to specialise in LGBTQ+ research, he emphasises. ‘But I think if you have related personal experience, it is a little bit easier.’

Limited budget

The research group operates with minimal funding, Kiekens says. ‘We have no dedicated budget and rely on small contributions from our departments. It’s a common issue for interdisciplinary groups that fall between traditional departmental boundaries.’

Still, they hope to secure more funding and expand their activities. ‘Different disciplines often study these topics in isolation. By bringing together researchers from education, pedagogy, psychology, and sociology, we can collaborate more effectively and gain diverse perspectives. And that is valuable for both science and the LGBTQ+ community.’

Queer Science is on Tuesday, June 4, from 6-9 p.m. at the House of Connections, Grote Markt 21.

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