The Washington State Equity and Diversity Project: Voicing the Needs of LGBTQ People

by Ingrid Ulrey, Public Health – Seattle & King County Policy Director

What do we know that about the health and well-being of LGBTQ people in Washington State? We know a lot.

Local studies show that LGBTQ people face discrimination and experience higher than average rates of depression, substance use disorder and sexually transmitted disease. National data suggests that up to 40 percent of our homeless youth are LGBTQ; and that it is LGBTQ elders who are most likely to suffer from poverty and isolation.

Our recent LGBTQ Spotlight Report, illuminated how these challenges can make it difficult to effectively navigate the health care system.  As shared by one listening session respondent,

 “… this is my body, this is my mental health, this is me, I feel like I’m not in control of any of it.”

We know a lot and we need to know more.

That’s the focus of a group of researchers at the University of Washington who formed the Washington State Equity and Diversity ProjectVoicing the Needs of LGBTQ People. Their goal is to deepen the knowledge base in order to promote health equity and foster community resilience across this population.

Their survey – open to respondents until September 15th, 2019 – seeks to better understand the health, economic and social lives of LGBTQ people ages 18 and above across Washington State.  To fill out the survey yourself or share with your networks:  please click here.

The questions in this survey are probing and personal. They explore key indicators of well-being – such as how long it has been since someone has visited a doctor; whether they feel bullied at work; and whether they worry about having enough cash on hand to pay their rent or mortgage.

© Jonathan Fowler

I took the survey myself earlier this week and had to take a pause when I scrolled to question which asks, “have you told the following people about your sexual orientation or gender identify?”  Respondents are given option to check boxes for parents, siblings, best friend, current or more recent supervisor, neighbors, etc.

As someone formerly married to a man who fell in love with a woman mid-life, this query triggered memories of difficult phone calls and email exchanges.  Answering it left me with awareness that the unconditional love that ricocheted back to me when I shared my news is not what other respondents may have experienced, if they shared their news at all. 

A primary goal of the project is to tease out the range of diverse experiences that LGBTQ people face by assessing the intersectionality of disparities by race and ethnicity as well as by sexual and gender diversity.

Data from the survey will be used to answer questions such as:

  • For which LGBTQ groups are the disparities narrowing and where are they most pronounced? 
  • How accepted by their communities do transgender people in our rural Washington communities east of the mountains feel?
  • Is housing affordability a particular challenge for sub-sets of this population, such as Latinx lesbians or older or African American gay men? 

This understanding and data will help our community drive resources to where they are needed most.  And it will create a baseline for future surveys, so that we can measure change over time.

Will the younger generation of LGBTQ people– who grew up with gay marriage, Gay-Straight-Alliance student groups and gender-neutral bathrooms – have the same rates of depression and substance abuse as their middle-aged and older LGBTQ peers, who are more likely to have experienced direct discrimination and trauma? 

Will any improvements we see be shared equally, across race, income level and geography?

How will the current administration’s policies to restrict LGBTQ rights impact generations to come?

Help push out this survey so we can find out. Together we can celebrate gains, identify set backs, illuminate inequities and steer improvement. Cut and paste the simple message below and send it far and wide to LGBTQ people through your professional and personal networks. The survey will be distributed and data collected through September 15, 2019.

The Washington State Equity and Diversity Project: Voicing the Needs of LGBTQ People is a collaboration between the University of Washington’s School of Social Work, School of Medicine, School of Nursing, and the School of Public Policy and Governance, and 44 community partner organizations, including Seattle/King County Public Health.

Originally posted on June 5, 2019

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