BEST PRACTICES FOR USING CBPR METHODS WITH TNB COMMUNITIES
Given the unique needs of each community and the complexity of conducting CBPR projects, there is no handbook which can tell you exactly how to plan and implement your CBPR study. Hacker (2013), however, presents nine broad steps for engaging in CBPR methods. These steps are not intended to be exhaustive, mutually exclusive, or linear. However, amidst the messiness of CBPR, attending to these steps can help you plan and implement your study and disseminate your findings for social action. This section discusses these steps, with special attention to engaging TNB individuals and communities.
Define the community
The first step of any CBPR project is to define the community with which you hope to work. There should be clear boundaries defining the make-up of the community and of the problem which you will investigate (Hacker, 2013). These boundaries may be geographic (e.g., a neighborhood) or may be characteristics which the community shares (e.g., a common gender identity). This may seem simple as you may already have a community in mind. However, it is important to consider that every community has subgroups within the community. Are you interested in working with members of all of these subgroups? Or would your exploration be richer if you focused on a group within the community? CBPR researchers must attend to how intersections of identities can create unique experiences. For example, Latinx members of your community of interest may have completely different experiences and needs than White or African American members.
The question of defining your community of interest is especially important when we consider the tremendous diversity within TNB communities. This diversity includes a variety of gender identities, races, sexual orientations, socio-economic statuses, abilities, and other forms of difference. As a research team, it is extremely important to consider who is affected by the issue which you hope to investigate. For example, if you are examining how family conflict around gender identity impacts TNB people, you may want to include all different kinds of gender identities. Family conflict is a phenomenon which impacts TNB people across race, class, sexual orientation. Therefore, it may make sense to include transfeminine, transmasculine, and nonbinary people in your defined community. Conversely, if you are interested in investigating how intimate partner violence impacts TNB people in your community, it may be helpful to be more specific in defining a subgroup among TNB people. Intimate partner violence may manifest very differently for TNB people with different identities and you may find it helpful to narrow your investigation to a specific subgroup such as transfeminine people. As a research team, it will be important to discuss how you collectively define the community in question and the language you will use to describe the study to community members. For example, if your project is focused on nonbinary people, how will you collectively understand and define nonbinary identities? You must be thoughtful and intentional when defining your community and the problem or phenomenon under investigation.
Engage the community
Next, you will want to engage with the community with which you hope to partner, because it is crucial for community members to be engaged at every level of the research process (Satcher, 2005). Do your homework. Read about the experiences of TNB people in your community through local media or social media. Acquaint yourself with the resources in your community and the people they serve. What is the current climate like for TNB people? After learning about the situation in your local community, you can start reaching out to agencies and community leaders. Ask for the opportunity to sit down and have an informational interview with leaders of your local LGBTQ community center or media outlets. Ask them what they perceive to be the most pressing needs for TNB people. Have an open mind and be prepared to shed your own assumptions about TNB people and their needs (Hacker, 2013). Practice cultural humility and be reflective about your own identities and perspective (Hacker, 2013; Tervalon &c Murray-Garcia, 1998). The most effective CBPR projects arise when the researcher approaches the community with openness and is not already committed to a specific research topic or question. When approaching community agencies, be mindful of with whom you are speaking. Do they hold power within the agency and therefore represent one perspective on the problem? Are they TNB people, or are they cisgender people who work with TNB people? Work on having conversations with diverse representatives to broaden your view and perspective of the issues being examined by your research project.
It may take you a long time to build relationships with partners in your community of interest. You may find it helpful to become more involved in the community outside of your research role, volunteering your time or attending community events. You may also contact people through social media in order to include community members who are not connected to an agency or program. From these conversations, build your research team. Ask people if they are interested in participating in a CBPR project, explaining their potential role, and benefits of participating. As you build your research team, you may consider offering community members different levels of involvement. Some members may become part of your community advisory board, whom you check in with regularly for accountability and guidance. Others may join your research team and take on more responsibility. It is important to be transparent and upfront with potential community partners about what you are hoping to achieve with the project and how you imagine their role looking.