Gendered Spaces, Gendered Friendship Networks? Exploring the Organizing Patterns of LGBTQ Youth
Research has found a tendency for youth to develop friendships with same-gender peers. Whether this is due to a preference for same-gender friends or is an outcome of communication constraints from gender-segregated physical spaces and social practices is unclear. The current study is among the first to examine the role of emerging gender-inclusive spaces in adolescent friendship network patterns. A network of 111 LGBTQ adolescents interacting in a summer camp featuring gender-inclusive housing is examined using social network analysis techniques. Exponential random graph models found that campers’ assigned cabin was significantly related to friendship ties. Notably, the probability of a friendship tie was approximately 6 times greater when campers were assigned to the same cabin. Gender identity and birth sex had no significant influence on friendship patterns, in contrast to prior studies. Our findings highlight the potential for gender-inclusive spaces to integrate youth’s friendships across gender identities.