Hatton, Jean (2020) Voices of lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer women youth work practitioners: The use of self in youth work contexts. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This thesis takes a feminist approach to researching the use of self with fifteen cisgendered professional youth and community workers who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or queer (LGBQ). It examined their understanding of their journeys towards their current sexual identities and how they used these identities and other aspects of their self in their youth work. The core values of youth work require professionals to develop reciprocal and authentic relationships as they work alongside young people in young people’s journeys towards adulthood. This study, focussing on the experiences of these LGBQ youth workers, examined how the self was used on a daily basis within their professional contexts. Rich data was gathered through semi-structured in-depth interviews with these fifteen women who all worked in the north of England.

A template approach to thematic analysis (drawing on King & Horrocks, 2010) was used to draw out five key themes from stories told by these women youth workers. These included: first the resilience of these women through their own childhood and adolescence as they came to an awareness of their LGBQ sexuality. The second: the usefulness of understanding the experiences and current identities of these youth workers from an intersectional approach as each women’s experiences was a unique combination of a range of socioeconomic and cultural factors with their LGBQ identity such as social class, ethnicity, religion and age. The third theme was the impact of colleagues and partner agencies as the youth workers negotiated how to share important information regarding their LGBQ sexuality and other personal matters with young people. The fourth theme: the importance of their continual and critical reflections on the fluid boundaries between the personal and professional lives as they developed useful and transformational relationships with young people. The final theme the challenge of working in a context where change continually impacts on their working situation.

Many of these themes will be useful for trainers and managers of youth and community workers. Some themes developed knowledge already in the field whilst other themes were new insights for youth and community work educators, managers. The new themes include bringing a focus to LGBQ issues within the youth work literature; a focus on intersectional theory in understanding how youth workers name their selves (as discussed in Hatton & Monro, 2019) and understanding how LGBQ youth workers apply boundaries and ethics in their day-to-day work.

It is hoped that the findings from this research will assist in supporting all youth workers as they use their self, their myriad different and varied identities, in their professional role. This is a role which is important in supporting young people in their journeys from adolescence to adulthood and in supporting young people to be much needed catalysts for change in the early 21st century.

Jean Hatton final thesis.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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