When we first decided to focus on coming out stories, the idea of creating a survey came soon after. We thought that many people may not be comfortable sharing the experience in an interview, as they may not want to share certain details or risk being outed. A survey allows for a much higher degree of anonymity. It also allowed us to collect many more stories from many different people, not just our classmates and immediate circle of friends. Having more experiences to share on this blog displays how unique coming out is for everyone who does so. Being able to read such varying methods and outcomes of this process may help people who are in the closet or those working on coming out themselves.
We shared the survey in a variety of ways: texting it to our friends, posting it on social media, and sending it to GSA-type groups at different schools.
Google Forms seemed like the best platform, as it allows for a wide variety of question and answer types. It also keeps track of the responses in a very convenient way, and you can export the data into an excel spreadsheet.
For the introduction, it was important to share the purpose of out project so that participants would know what they are getting involved in. We also wanted to make it clear that they can leave out any identifying information or uncomfortable details.
Initially, we had two options for how to collect participants’ narratives: a series of structured questions or an open-ended prompt. Some ideas for the questions were as follows: “Did you come out to most people in your life or was it more slowly, over time?” “If you are out to your family, please share however much of their reaction you feel comfortable with.” However, after further discussion, we decided that these types of questions would restrict the narratives too much. A certain topic can be very important to one person and completely insignificant to another. An open response structure also encourages them to only share what they are comfortable with. Otherwise, they may feel pressured to include something they would rather not because they do not want to leave a question blank.
None of the survey questions are required. This allows participants to only share what they are comfortable with as well as remain anonymous. We understand that coming out is often a negative or even traumatic experience, and we would never make anyone share something they would rather keep to themselves.
Also, we did not make any of the questions multiple choice, even in the demographics sections. There are so many identities (sexualities, genders, races) that we could not make a comprehensive list of choices. If we were to create a finite list of options, one of them would have to be “other.” This would only serve to alienate those whose identity is not listed.
Collecting demographic information helped our analysis. We could look for how region, gender, sexuality, age, and race/culture affect people’s coming out experience.
At the end, we included an option to be interviewed. This allows us to collect in-depth accounts from people whose stories we would not normally get to hear.