Queer Data – A Tangential from “Difficult Heritage and the Complexities of Indigenous Data”

A/N: Getting this out late due to the holidays.

In regards to data, it seems that the Native American epistemologies align with that of the queer community.

I’m someone who is deeply involved with minority data. My project, Map Lemon, specifically has found itself gathering data on trans people. And immediately, we faced backlash just for gathering the data to begin with. A lot of these come out of fear from the queer community: “this could be misused”, “could this ‘out’ trans people?”, “you can’t try to box non-binary people in for data”. While, as a queer person myself, I understand these fears and they have a real basis, I must continue to gather and analyze this data simply because it exists. I didn’t start Map Lemon intending to find stylometric differences between transgender people and cis people, but the data spoke by itself simply by gathering standard gender demographics. I cannot ignore incidental findings once they’ve been discovered. And with that, the data has actually come out in favor of the current LGBT+ political climate. With that said, I also believe that queer people must collect our own data, as a form of rewriting the history of those who have attempted to erase our existence through academia. Perhaps some of the initial backlash to this data I hold was because I was assumed to not be queer?

I’m pleased the tide is changing as my data proves to support the current philosophies of the queer community, and I’m conscious of the need to respect these fears existent within this community, however what I want is this fear to produce tools or methods that can adequately represent, say, non-binary identities, rather than shying away from data collection entirely. I also understand that I’m in a position of privilege as a queer person who has made it this far into academia to gather and present this data in a helpful way, and want to create a body of work that accurately represents as many of us as I can fit in!

1 thought on “Queer Data – A Tangential from “Difficult Heritage and the Complexities of Indigenous Data”

  1. Elizabeth Szypulski (She/her)

    Thank you for sharing this reflection on your work. I’m reminded of the concept from our readings of consent to share data/information/private rituals in Indigenous communities — I was really struck by the idea that the consent to let researchers in couldn’t just be given by one member of the community, and that the consent could be revoked later by a larger community group (as in the case of photographs of sacred rituals). It’s interesting to see how diverse and less-geographically-bound communities deal with similar questions, though as you pointed out, the fact that the data is already out there is important to consider, too. I’m curious about how ethics around this will continue to evolve.

Comments are closed.