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American Association for Public Opinion Research Annual Conference

  • Sheraton Centre Simcoe/Dufferin Rooms Toronto, ON Canada (map)

Panel: The Impact of Wording Choice, Measurement Construct, and Expanded Response Options on Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity (SOGI) Measurement 

With: Liz Coston, PhD, Assistant Professor of Sociology at VCU

Description of contribution: For the college-aged population, the inclusion of sound, reliable, valid, and meaningful questions that assess sexual orientation and gender identity on college surveys are not only necessary for accurately measuring the size of the LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and otherwise not-heterosexual, not-cisgender) population, but are also an important first step in informing college-wide policies, programming, initiatives, and human/social services. Using data from a large, ongoing longitudinal study of the behavioral and emotional health of college students at a public university in the mid-Atlantic states (N = 10,310), this project examines not only the change in sexual orientation identification for students over time (data is collected each fall and spring, following a student’s first semester; data collection began in 2011), but also the impact of altering the sexual orientation question to be more expansive, inclusive, and diverse (e.g. moving from three singular categories to best practices-based seven check-all that apply categories). Findings indicate that students’ sexual orientation not only shifts during the course of their time in college due to changing understandings of their own identities, but also shifts dramatically when there are more diverse and nuanced options to check off (e.g. from “bisexual” to “pansexual” and “queer”). What’s more, including a comprehensive gender identity question (as opposed to a binary sex assigned at birth question) allows for the necessary collection of information on trans, gender nonconforming, and non-binary student outcomes and needs, which were previously rendered invisible.