As a member of the LGBT community what could possibly affect your access to healthcare, your educational experiences, family planning and so much more? What could help determine your ability to find non-discriminatory physicians, the policies in place to protect your child from bullying and your freedom to marry the love of your life and even adopt a child one day?
With the presidential election nearing, many forget or simply do not know that research is often the bolstering force behind policy change, and can form a strong base of support to overturn discriminatory legislation. Most recently in the media has been a study about the effect of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. This study found that the repeal did not negatively impact the readiness of the military, recruitment, harassment, or morale. Such results not only let us know that the right decision was made to repeal the discriminatory policy, but they also help support the repeal remaining in place for future lesbian and gay military personnel.
Research is also used to form community action plans both locally and nationally. The Chicago LGBT Community Action Plan uses research to form plans to ensure the health of the LGBT community is included in Chicago’s health priorities. For instance, research has shown that obesity prevalence is higher among lesbian women of color, men who have sex with men are more likely to be impacted by HIV and there is a higher prevalence of tobacco use among the LGBT community than in the heterosexual community. These findings help the city ensure that these health concerns are addressed and also help formulate outreach programs to educate the public.
Additionally, the media attention on LGBT suicides over the past few years has sparked important research regarding school bullying. Numerous studies have found that gender nonconformity can be linked to sucidality and is further exacerbated by bullying. Such studies show the extreme importance in schools adopting no bullying policies that include protections for LGBT students. This research shows schools how detrimental it can be to not recognize the impact bullying can have on the safety of its students. So if you are a parent and you get a note from your child’s school one day asking if they can participate in a research study, please read it carefully.
Many people turn down the opportunity to participate in research when solicited, but your participation helps us gather information to help our community. Research directly affects every member of the LGBT community at some point in their life, whether it is when you seek out medical services, or decide to adopt a child, you eventually will seek out a service that has been supported by research. The more people who participate in research, the better we can analyze the needs of our community and how to provide the necessary services. The needs of the LGBT community are important, and researchers depend on the public’s participation in our studies to help us urge cities and the nation to support those needs.