ERC funded research investigates social polarisation around sexual and gender rights

Posted 9 March, 2020

Professor Orla Feely, UCD vice-president for research, innovation and impact, at the launch of Beyond Opposition alongside Professor Kath Browne, UCD School of Geography, its lead researcher

A research team at University College Dublin is exploring how recent social and legal changes to sexual and gender rights impact on the everyday lives of people living in countries where these rights have been written into law.

Focusing on Canada, the UK and Ireland, the research is taking place at a time of increased polarisation on these issues.

One of the central aims of the Beyond Opposition research project is to understand the experiences of individuals or groups in these countries who do not support these changes.

This includes those who believe that marriage should only occur between men and women; those who think that families should be based on a heterosexual union; those concerned about the legalisation of abortion; and those who disagree with, or question, transgender inclusion policies.

“There can be little doubt that social polarisation is a key issue of our time,” said Professor Kath Browne, UCD School of Geography, the lead researcher on the project.

“While there is extensive research on LGBT+ experiences of legal changes, such as same sex marriage, there is very little about those who do not support, or who are concerned about the impacts of these changes,” she said.

“This project is about addressing this social polarisation by looking at how we might create new ways of engaging with differences, without compromising people’s core values”.

“This project, supported by highly competitive European Research Council funding, is timely and important.  I congratulate Kath on her success to date and look forward to the positive impact that can be delivered by this work,” said Professor Orla Feely, UCD vice-president for research, innovation and impact.

The research aims to gather insight into how sexual and gender rights and equalities affect people, how society has transformed and how those who do not agree with changes to sexual and gender rights experience this change.

Later in the project, researchers will bring together those who do not agree with these changes with those who do in order to consider how to address the emergent social polarisations without seeking to change people’s minds.

Professor Catherine Nash, Professor Emeritus at the Department of Geography and Tourism Studies, Brock University, Canada, is the co-researcher on the project.

The Beyond Opposition research project is funded by the European Research Council. It does not have any affiliation with any organisations.

By: Dominic Martella, External Communications and Media Relations Manager, UCD University Relations