People & Research: Meg Jones focuses on gender and sexuality in educational contexts

The AGORA Research Centre brings together a wide diversity of researchers and research groups interested in current issues of social justice and equality in education. Here we will present their research. This time, we introduce Meg Jones, a doctoral candidate in Education at the University of Rhode Island and a Fulbright U.S. Student Program grantee in Finland at the University of Helsinki.

What are your research topics?

My research focuses on issues of gender and sexuality in educational contexts. Specifically, I study the inclusion of queer and trans topics and peoples in preservice teacher education, and the impact queer and trans inclusive preservice teacher education can have on young people with minoritized identities of sexuality and/or gender (MIoSG, see Vaccaro et al., 2015). I use queer theory to disrupt and decenter cisheteronormative pedagogy and ask critical questions that push past stances of tolerance or acceptance and towards addressing systemic issues that continue to position queer and trans people as ‘other’ or deviant. In my work, I often encounter comments about gender and sexuality not belonging in schools, especially in early childhood classrooms. My response is that gender and sexuality are already in schools and classrooms, just in cisheteronormative ways. Queer and trans students and educators regularly see representations of cisheteronormative identities and relationships in their classrooms. Rarely do we see and celebrate queer and trans lives in schools. 

How does your research re­late to is­sues of so­cial justice and equal­ity?

Research on queer and trans inclusion in education has broad implications in social justice and equality and/or equity work. When we disrupt notions of ‘normal’, we can start to address the experiences of marginalized identities broadly. We see how queer and trans experiences vary across cultural and geopolitical spaces. This holds true for many people who are marginalized in society. Safety is relative to space and time, and it is always in question. My hope is that this work illuminates the complexities of a society that is considered a model of equality in global educational discourse while simultaneously being a society that perpetuates normative and hegemonic viewpoints. 

Tell something about your latest/​​​​​current research?

I recently published an article, Embodied literacies of sexuality and gender of college students (Jones et al., 2021), which looks at how college STEM students with MIoSG take up and use language and literacy practices to develop and express their identities related to sexuality and gender. The findings in this article come from a larger grounded theory study which examines the complexities and interwoven experiences of college STEM students with MIoSG (Vaccaro et al., 2021). This research is part of the work I do with a larger multi-institutional and multidisciplinary team in the U.S.. A majority of the research team members identify within the queer and trans communities and we work to produce research that is critical of higher education and empowering for participants. We also use duoethnography to be critical of our own identities and practices as queer researchers doing queer research. Our chapter, Who are we to do this research?: Duoethnographic reflections on the insider/outsider aradox in queer research (Jones et al., in press), was recently accepted for publication in the forthcoming edited volume, Queerness as doing in higher education: Narrating the insider/outsider paradox as LGBTQ+ scholars and practitioners (Duran et al, in press). 

As part of my current work,  I am completing research for my dissertation which looks at queer and trans inclusion in Finnish teacher education and educational research. My goal is to produce multiple publications, in collaboration with AGORA colleagues, that address pragmatic and theoretical issues related to queer and trans inclusion in Finnish education, illustrate methodological considerations when doing queer research as a queer identified researcher, and uphold and affirm the experiences of queer and trans participants in the research. 

What kind of discussions would you wish to initiate with your research?

I hope my work initiates not only conversations about queer and trans issues in education, but also questions about how we do research and what role power has in the research process. In most of my work, I tend to think about power. I hope to disrupt the boundaries of researcher/participant and what is considered expertise and knowledge. My goal is to both contribute to the academic discourse through traditional publication outlets but also to share this work in spaces that are not considered ‘high value’ in current academic practice. It is too common a practice to take from communities when we do research; data is seen as a commodity and currency. Throughout my research process I work to address these issues of power and access and hope to serve as a reminder to other scholars to do the same in their own work. 

Recent publications 

Jones, M. C., Vaccaro, A., Friedensen, R., Forsythe, D., Forester, R., Miller, R.A., & Kimball, E. W. (in press). Who are we to do this research?: Duoethnographic reflections on the insider/outsider paradox in queer research. In A. Duran, T.J. Jourian, R. A. Miller & J. Cisneros (Eds.), Queerness as doing in higher education: Narrating the insider/outsider paradox as LGBTQ+ scholars and practitioners. Routledge.

Jones, M. C. (in press). Reflections on the current state of queer and trans education: A call to action for literacy educators and researchers. Journal of Language & Literacy Education: Scholars Speak Out. 

Forsythe, D., Vaccaro, A., Jones, M. C., Friedenson, R., Miller, R. A., Kimball, E., & Forester, R. (in press). Negotiated involvement in STEM organizations by students with minoritized identities of sexuality and gender (MIoSG). Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering. 

Jones, M. C., Vaccaro, A., Miller, R. A., Forester, R., Friedensen, R., Kimball, E. W., & Forsythe, D. (2021). Embodied literacies of sexuality and gender of college students. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 17(2). 

Jones, M. (2020). Intersections of law & education: The right to be out, a book review. Journal LGBT Youth. 

Other References

Vaccaro, A., Miller, R. A., Kimball, E. W., Forester, R., & Friedensen, R. (2021). Historicizing minoritized identities of sexuality and gender in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields: A grounded theory model. Journal of College Student Development, 62(3), 293-309. 

Vaccaro, A., Russell, E. I. and Koob, R. M. (2015), Students with minoritized identities of sexuality and gender in campus contexts: An emergent model. New Directions for Student Services, (152), 25-39. 

Published 31.3.2022