The study was the result of surveys, interviews and focus groups involving over 2,000 Chicagoans inquiring as to what are the most pressing issues for the LGBT community so that the organization can determine targeted areas for future funding decisions.
Mary Morten, president of the Morten Group, which conducted the surveys and analyzed the data, however noted the tension brought about by the use of the term LGBT “community.”
“We know at the end of the day the LGBT community is not monolithic,” Morten said. “[The term community] is used for convenience.”
Morten went on the explain that the issue was brought up many times in the data, particularly by youth and seniors who don’t feel a part of a community.
The major findings of the report ranked the top five issues participants identified such as access to healthcare, employment and benefits. When survey respondents were asked to identify the top LGBT community issues they think need to be assessed, 66 percent chose access to healthcare. Forty-three percent chose access to government benefits (for example, marriage equality), 33 percent chose employment, 25 percent said community safety and 21-24 percent said discrimination based on class, race or age. The full report can be downloaded here.
Additionally, the assessment noted significant barriers to overcome when addressing those issues based on race and geography.
“We need to provide community services to other parts of the city, not just the North Side,” said James Alexander, co-chair of the LGBT Community Fund.
This requires increased support for existing, but underfunded community service organizations on the South and West sides, said Alexander.
These issues come as no surprise to those involved in Chicago LGBT advocacy and the study attempted to compensate for those issues ahead of time.
Morten described the technique of “ground theory” used by the report, which involves looking at collected data part way through the process and altering the approach in order to get a more diverse sample.
“Seventy-eight percent [of respondents] were Caucasian by the third week,” Morten said.
This prompted a more concerted effort to move into other areas of the community. The online survey was in English and Spanish. The data cards, located around the city were in English, Spanish, Chinese, Hindi, Korean and Vietnamese with the help of Liz Thomson, the Asian Languages Coordinator.
The data cards provided the highest representation of people of color in the survey.
In many ways, the results of this report are preliminary and the organization will continue to analyze them in the months to come to determine where money will be allocated.
The fund has already raised $122,500 in matching funds for a total of $245,000. The fund also boasts a healthy $85,000 budget for operating funds alone and hopes to be able to start allocating $1 million to the areas targeted by next year.
Where those funds will be allocated is informed by the survey but also informed by the steering committee of the LGBT Community Fund. Eight members of an expected 12 have been selected.
Representation of a diverse community was a key identified theme in the presentation, but there were still concerns raised.
Brother Michael Oboza, founder of Bisexual Queer Alliance, asked if there were any bisexual or transgender-identified members of the committee.
Alexander, LGBT Community Fund co-chair, responded that, no, there was not at this time, but the Fund is open to suggestions for additional members from those communities.