Understanding Aging-Out of LGBTQ Services in Chicago: A Youth Participatory Action Research Project
Felner, Jennifer K
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Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) young people often depend on community-based social service programs to meet their resource and social support needs. In Chicago, Illinois there is an informal network of LGTBQ youth-specific programming situated on Chicago’s Northside in the middle-class, white, gay enclave, Boystown. Young people – many of whom are poor and low income and of color -- come to Boystown from across the city to access these programs’ critical resources, including shelter, medical and mental health care, and space to build community with other LGBTQ youth and supportive adults. Once youth program patrons reach “adulthood” at age 25, they are often no longer eligible to access youth program resources, leaving them with few alternatives for meeting their needs. As a volunteer at a Chicago-based LGBTQ youth social service program for more than two years, I learned that aging-out was considered problematic by youth program staff and patrons alike, prompting me to facilitate a youth participatory action research (YPAR) study to explore aging-out. Using multiple qualitative methods – critical autoethnography, focus group and interview methodology – the youth researchers and I explored what it means to age-out, the policies in place at local organizations related to aging-out, and how young adults experience the aging-out process. The youth researchers were involved in all aspects of the project, including collecting and analyzing our data and disseminating our findings in the local community. This dissertation consists of three main chapters, each telling a different, but related story. In the first two main chapters, I utilize findings from the qualitative analysis of multiple data sources to detail how poor and low-income young people of color experience utilizing and aging-out of LGBTQ youth social services in the context of Boystown’s homonormative culture. In the third main chapter, using participant-observation data, I document and critically reflect on the process of engaging in YPAR to study aging-out.
SubjectYouth Participatory Action Research
LGBTQ Youth Services