April 10, 2024

Beyond the binary: Piecing together research on gender diversity

Emilie Lui's student research project explores gender diversity and identity through an immigrant lens
Emilie Lui, a young student with dark hair that has pink on the ends, stands in a busy hallway with blurred people walking around her. They are facing forward and have their hands in their pockets.
Emilie Lui Elyse Bouvier

How does it feel to ask a research question that few, if any, have asked before you? For third-year psychology student Emilie Lui, she quickly realized that the research they started in the summer of 2023 was something a lot of people weren't looking at. 

"The idea that I was able to contribute to new knowledge and to uplift community voices that aren't being heard, that was really meaningful," says Lui (she/they).

During her participation in the Program for Undergraduate Research Experience (PURE), Lui started research on the experiences of gender diverse immigrant youth and identity development. They quickly realized there were big gaps in the research.

"I noticed that it was something that seemed to be not as represented and I cared a lot about that."

The term gender diverse is relatively new. It's a broad term that describes gender expression and identities that go beyond the binary framework. For Lui, it was challenging to find research that described experiences beyond men and women.

"At the end of the day we do live in a binary society. Even if you are somebody who doesn't fit in that binary, those roles are still prescribed onto you," says Lui. 

Lui spent her summer primarily doing a literature review that looked at gender and identity through the lens of 2SLGBTQ+ experiences as well as immigrant youth to get a better understanding of the current state of research.

One thing was clear in all the research Lui did — everyone wants a place to belong.

"The most important thing is that you are able to have a space to feel like you belong. And to be able to address that and recognize that there is this group of people that exist and they need community support as well, I think is really important."

Lui's research supervisor, Dr. Paul Stortz, PhD, says this kind of research experience allows a student to follow their interests.

Emilie Lui, a student wearing glasses with dark hair and pink ends, stands beside Paul Stortz, a professor with grey hair and glasses wearing a blazer. They are standing inside with a glass wall into an atrium behind them.

Emilie Lui, left, stands with their PURE supervisor Paul Stortz.

Elyse Bouvier

"It's a catalyst for future research both in and out of the classroom. And Emilie is a very bright and curious student and this project gave her the opportunity to practice her research skills outside of the classroom," says Stortz, associate professor in the Department of Communication, Media and Film.

The short time frame of undergraduate research summer studentships hasn't deterred Lui from wanting to continue the project and do more research.

"Prior to this project, I didn't really consider myself wanting to go into research heavily. And then once I started working on it, I was looking at the opportunities in the field that have yet to be explored and I thought, 'That could be me, I could be doing that.'"

The Program for Undergraduate Research Experience (PURE) awards students up to $7,500 to lead a summer research project alongside a UCalgary mentor. Join us this Giving Day and consider a donation to support PURE and empower more student researchers.

UCalgary Giving Day is April 18. Whether you support research, student awards or another one of UCalgary’s innovative funds, your gift will help change lives and shape the future. Eligible gifts made from April 4-18 will be matched, up to $2,500 per gift, per fund (while matching funds last). 

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