Taking an outlook on the LGBTQ community

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The KW region is getting to know its LGBTQ neighbours. A new comprehensive survey will address the experiences of *LGBTQ members of the KW region. The data will impact regional policies, programs, and services designed for LGBTQ people.

The Outlook Study is being run in co-operation with researchers at Wilfrid Laurier University, Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services, and The AIDS Committee of Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo, and Area (ACCKWA). Its aim is to look critically at issues in the LGBTQ community regarding healthcare, support, and violence.

“By highlighting what our experiences of being queer in the region are like, we can begin the important work of trying to address the inequities we face on a regular basis,” Colin Boucher, the men’s health co-ordinator at ACCKWA, explained.

KW, and by extension the University of Waterloo, is an important region to focus on because of the strong history of queer activism at UW, starting with GLOW’s predecessor, the Waterloo Universities’ Gay Liberation Movement (WUGLM) in 1971. From WUGLM’s inception until the present, “many *LGBTQ folks, especially older ones, have lived much of their lives in the closet. They faced losses of employment, housing, family, [and] friends [along with] police brutality,” Boucher said.

These same difficulties are what the survey hopes to address. Violence against LGBTQ people is prevalent across North America and is not a foreign concept to KW. According to Boucher, “this kind of activism was born out of a climate of intense hostility and violence directed at the queer community.”

The survey is not only well-timed with the coinciding Pride Week in Toronto, but is even more important due to the recent LGBTQ mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

“When LGBTQ people are the targets of hate crimes, those crimes tend to be more violent than any other identifiable group,” Boucher said. “Fear of violence, harassment, and having to sometimes conceal one’s sexual orientation [and/or] gender identity can have a negative effect on one’s mental and physical health.”

The trans community is especially vulnerable. According to a large TransPULSE study of the trans community in Ontario, 77 per cent of all age groups have considered suicide while 80 per cent of respondents have experienced emotional, sexual, or physical abuse by a partner or ex-partner. The high percentage of abuse and mental health issues in the trans community show another gap that the proper utilization of services could potentially fill.

The Outlook study will continue to take responses confidentially until November 2016, with a goal of reaching 400 local respondents. Additional qualitative research will commence later this year and continue into 2017.

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