This blog post was written by Erin Sclar, a summer legal intern with the Health Law and Policy Clinic of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation.
The LGBT community in Massachusetts is growing, but many LGBT people face discrimination and disproportionately suffer from depression according to a new report from Boston Indicators and The Fenway Institute. The report, Equity and Equality: Advancing the LGBT Community in Massachusetts, was released at a May 24th event, during which LGBT advocates discussed strategies for moving from data collection to action.
According to the report, Massachusetts has the second highest share of population that identifies as LGBT, following Vermont. The Massachusetts LGBT population is young–about 16% of 18 – 24 year olds identify as gay, lesbian, or “something else,” compared to 3% of 65 – 74 year olds. Mason Dunn, executive director of the Massachusetts Trans Political Coalition, commented that these demographics show why it is therefore critical for institutional systems to respond to youth who connect to their identity at a young age.
The Equity and Equality report also described how sexual minority youth are especially diverse. Almost a third identify as people of color, as compared to about a quarter of non-sexual minority youth. Similarly, 10% are recent immigrants, as compared to 5% of non-sexual minority youth. As a result, many LGBT youth face many layers of discrimination. In fact, almost 90% of LGBT youth of color experienced discrimination in the past year. This treatment contributes to increased depressive symptoms. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are more than twice as likely to report feeling sad or helpless and almost half considered attempting suicide.
While Massachusetts has led several advocacy, philanthropic, and social service efforts to support the LGBT community, this report shows there is more to be done. For example, with such a large, strong, and diverse LGBTQI population, we must expand data collection efforts. Kevin Cranston, Assistant Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, commented that sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) data is particularly important to learning more about the LGBT population. As such, the Department of Public Health is currently working towards applying SOGI standards in its data collection efforts.
Fenway Institute and Boston Indicators hope that the report will promote continued engagement around efforts to advance LGBT rights in our community. In light of a federal administration that rolls back LGBT protections, state and local advocates will need to work together to defend these rights and to continue the push forward.