Wicked Problems in the LGBT Community

Wicked Problems, as outlined by Martin Carcasson, are technically without solution. This is because there are always competing underlying values on two typically dichotomized sides. Carcasson also offered a three step solution to these problems via the “Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision Making:” divergent thinking, working through the “groan zone,” and convergent thinking. In order to work through this three step solution, both citizens and government must constantly communicate and problem solve with one another – an optimistic, but workable, solution.

What Carcasson didn’t do much of in his article was give a whole lot of examples of what Wicked Problems are, though any American citizen could list off dozens of them that are gridlocked in government at this very moment. There’s the Wicked Problem of abortion, which has such strong ideological stances on both sides that reaching a solution without the three steps seems impossible. Then there’s the Wicked Problem of government spending, where both sides have equal but unflinching merit, and without solution we’re constantly stuck in a stand-still that doesn’t offer much to the country in terms of progress. There’s even the Wicked Problem of climate change, where one side has almost no merit, but the strong ideologies of both sides make it impossible to move forward without radical change in discourse.

There are Wicked Problems involving the LGBT community as well. For a long time, gay marriage was a Wicked Problem where, despite the total constitutional legality for same sex couples to get married, it was still argued against based on religious reasoning. This Problem wasn’t solved by constant communication between government and citizens, rather it was solved by the Supreme Court in a sweeping decision.

There’s the issue of transgender bathroom use, where one side is concerned about the safety of non-trans people using bathrooms, and the other side is concerned with not only safety for trans people, but for the ability to fulfill their chosen gender roles. It’s a Problem that won’t be solved easily, and could use more critical and group problem solving, particularly in the third and final stage.

There’s even a Problem with gay men donating blood. Though the law was recently changed for men who have had sexual interactions with other men being banned for life from donating blood, there’s still a ban that states gay men can’t donate blood if they’ve had sexual interactions with another man within the past 12 months. A married, committed gay man who has proven to be STD free can’t donate blood with this rule in place, and the Problem isn’t going to change because people on the other side of the ideological spectrum have safety concerns. It’s another Problem that could use extensive discourse.

Wicked Problems are tricky, but everything has a solution. It’s tough being part of the LGBT community when there’s a huge swath of the population that will be against us no matter what, but this constant communication, this dynamic discourse is certainly enticing, and I hope it’s considered by both government and citizens moving forward. Even though it’s hard for me to hear out the other side of the argument sometimes, I think it’s healthy for both sides of any Wicked Problem to come together and suss out a solution,  no matter how hard that may be sometimes.


One thought on “Wicked Problems in the LGBT Community

  1. I also hope that people encourage constant communication throughout discourse, because lately it seems that no one wants to talk to the other side about a wicked problem. This seems to occur most often when the wicked problem is offensive to a minority group, like the LGBT community, as you point out. It can be really difficult for marginalized groups to communicate about wicked problems that perpetuate offense toward them. But, if we stop talking to each other, we will stop learning. Great post!


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