by James Whitely -
SGN Staff Writer
The Rainbow Center of Tacoma, an LGBT community space in Tacoma, Washington, conducted a survey of LGBTQ people in the greater Pierce County area from March 1, 2010 to April 10, 2010. The survey was conducted under the direction of Paula Frederick, PhD., a sociologist with expertise in the fields of sex, gender, and sexual orientation. The Initial Summary of Results were released on April 20, and served as a window to a population in which very little comprehensive data exists.
The primarily online survey questionnaire was developed over several months and involved research on existing LGBTQ surveys to help formulate questions. The idea behind the survey was to provide a needs assessment for the Tacoma Rainbow Center in regards to programming and funding, to gain greater knowledge of the LGBTQ population in the area, to provide a working blueprint for other LGBTQ organizations and communities around the country, and to gather data on LGBTQ people in their localities, according to Frederick's report.
The survey consisted of 70 questions, some basic demographical questions - i.e., sex, race, age, income, etc. - and questions about sexual orientation, gender identity, LGBTQ discrimination, and interest in politics.
The survey results do not necessarily constitute a representative sample of the Pierce County LGBTQ population in the statistical sense, because "the overall parameters of the LGBTQ population are not known," according to the report.
"One of the major findings to emerge from the survey results is simply how diverse the LGBTQ population is," the report read. "Such diversity is shown in terms of all kinds variables, including income, age, LGBTQ status, education, household composition, among others - and this will go a long way to challenging stereotypes held about who comprises the LGBTQ population."
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
The survey found that participants were comprised of a broad range of ages, the most common by only a small margin being 18-25 (24%). The education level reflected these results showing that 25% had at least a high school diploma or GED, and 29% had at least a bachelor's degree.
Participant's biological sex appeared fairly even between males and females: 47.6% female, 51.7% male, and .6% Intersex.
The results from the sexual orientation category yielded that 34% of those surveyed indentified as same-sex-oriented males, 32% as same-sex-oriented females, 16% both-sex-oriented females, 11% as both-sex-oriented males, and 7% other.
While 13.94% of participants considered themselves to be Transgendered, 7.74% indicated that their current sex is different from what they were assigned at birth.
Race/ethnicity was the single variable in the survey's results that did not reflect broad distribution, as 77.77% of those surveyed identified as Caucasian. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2008, 79.8% of Pierce Country residents consider themselves white.
Household composition results showed that 50.69% of those surveyed lived with their partner or spouse, 27.89% lived with roommates, and 10.2% lived with their parents.
Participants who have children (as a parent or as a legal guardian) accounted for 26.5% of those surveyed, and 12.24% of those who have children live with them full time. The most common age bracket for those with children was 46-55 (30.5%).
As far as voting was concerned, 86.8% said they were registered to vote in Washington state, 7.4% said they were not, and 5.9% said they were not eligible due to age or another variable.
An impressive 83.44% of those surveyed said they were out to their family, while 56.92% said they were out to their primary care physician. In a school environment, 64.29% said they were "generally open," 15.94% said they were "somewhat open," and 19.78% said they were "not at all open" about their sexuality.
In a work environment, 53.88% reported they were "generally open," 17.29% said they were "somewhat open," and 13.28% said they were "not at all open."
More participants reported they had experienced some kind of discrimination in Tacoma than in Pierce County overall, with 30.68% reporting being discriminated against in the Tacoma area, versus 14.74% reporting discrimination outside of Tacoma but within Pierce County.
Results showed that most discrimination occurred in the workplace. Reports of experiencing harassment and/or violence were given by over one-third of the participants.
The survey reported 10.09% of those surveyed experienced unfair treatment or discrimination by police (it is important to note that the survey does not specify Pierce County police), 17.11% reported discrimination or unfair treatment in the health care sector, and 37.91% reported actual harassment and/or violence.
Only 25.18% said they feel "very safe" on Tacoma streets, 45.56% said they feel "somewhat safe," 19.18% said they feel "neither safe nor unsafe," 9.11% said they feel "somewhat unsafe," and 0.96% said they feel "very unsafe."
"Counting the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender population is a tough nut to crack," said Aimee Welch, executive director of the Tacoma Rainbow Center. "Research counting the largest number of people within this population has been the work done on the U.S. Census by Gary Gates, who used the 'unmarried partner' category on the census to count same-sex couples residing together. But this count leaves out LGBTQ people who do not fit that profile, including singles, couples not residing together, and many Bisexuals and Transgender Individuals."
"The Rainbow Center Community Survey is the only survey to have attempted and succeeded to count the diverse elements of the Pierce County LGBTQ population," said Welch.
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