Conducted by the LGBTQ Institute at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, the findings illustrate challenges and progress for LGBTQ+ Southerners; gathers in-depth BIPOC qualitative focus group research.

ATLANTA — In a new survey released today on LGBTQ+ Southerners, all respondents – 100 percent of those surveyed – reported stigmatization in their lives: slurs and jokes, poor service in restaurants and hotels, or feeling unwelcome at a place of worship or religious organization because of their identity.  

Even while facing discrimination, the survey also highlights the resilience and strength of the Southern LGBTQ+ community, with respondents reporting high levels of community engagement: nearly 82 percent of respondents attended a rally or march supporting LGBTQ+ rights and nearly 58 percent said they belonged to a state or local LGBTQ+ organization at some point in the past. More than 95 percent of LGBTQ+ Southerners are registered to vote and 92 percent voted in the 2020 Presidential election. 

The survey also showed that LGBTQ+ people in the South are more willing to exercise political and economic power to address ongoing challenges in the areas of education, employment, and healthcare: 93.4 percent of respondents reported to have refused to purchase products from companies who are unsupportive of LGBTQ+ rights. 92.5 percent rewarded companies supportive of LGBTQ+ rights by purchasing their products.

The LGBTQ Institute at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, in partnership with Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, conducted the 2022 Southern Survey. It examines a range of facets in LGBTQ+ life – from early life experiences and education to work, health and wellness, political involvement, and community engagement. The survey also illustrates their economic impact in sectors like travel and leisure. 

The Institute, and a large network of community and academic organizations, collected data from 1,326 LGBTQ+ individuals across 14 southern states from Texas to Virginia between June 2021 and March 2022, which coincided with the introduction of scores of anti-LGBTQ+ bills in 2022. Importantly, in addition to the quantitative data, the 2022 Southern Survey includes qualitative interviews from Black, AAPI, and Latinx LGBTQ+ Southerners that further contextualizes the results. Highlights include:

  • Education Twenty percent of respondents reported having skipped school to avoid discrimination. Twenty-five percent of transgender respondents reported skipping school to avoid or minimize discriminatory treatment for being LGBTQ+ in high school. Less than twenty percent of respondents ages 18-29 described faculty and staff as having been supportive or very supportive.
  • Employment / Workplace – Sixty-seven percent of respondents who identified as bisexual/pansexual and 75 percent transgender respondents said they avoided talking about personal topics with coworkers, supervisors, or bosses in order to avoid discrimination or harassment at work. Respondents who identified as bisexual/pansexual (46 percent), and over half (52 percent) of transgender respondents said they actively tried to pass as not being LGBTQ+ in order to avoid discrimination or harassment at work.
  • Healthcare Nonbinary and transgender respondents were, respectively, more than two and four times as likely than male or female-identified respondents to report avoiding accessing health care over the past year for fear of a negative reaction or unequal treatment. Thirty-one percent of transgender respondents reported avoiding healthcare.
  • Economic and Political Power – A large majority of respondents are politically active, informed on current events, and contribute financially to candidates. Seventy percent of respondents donated to campaigns in the previous twelve months or earlier, with 71 percent saying they donated to candidates who supported LGBTQ+ rights. Respondents confidently exert economic power – 93.4 percent of respondents refused to purchase products from companies who are unsupportive of LGBTQ+ rights. Nearly 93 percent rewarded companies supportive of LGBTQ+ rights by purchasing their products.

“The 2022 Southern Survey provides valuable data for advocates, policymakers, and community members working to advance LGBTQ+ rights in the South,” said Tim’m T. West, Executive Director of the LGBTQ Institute. “We are heartened by the public response allowing us to gather a large sample size even during a pandemic. More LGBTQ+ people live in the South than any other U.S. region although they have been underrepresented in previous national surveys. Discrimination remains pervasive, but we remain committed to harness the energy of this community and be a resource for advocates of justice and equity.”

West said data underscore the need to amplify the political voices of LGBTQ+ Southerners and allies, particularly for transgender rights. The 25 percent of overall survey respondents (332) who were transgender consistently reflected higher levels of discrimination than cis-gender respondents across most categories.

– Twenty percent of transgender respondents reported receiving inappropriate curiosity from health care staff when trying to access health care in 2022.
– Forty percent of transgender respondents reported being misgendered or inappropriately named when trying to access health care in 2022.
– More than 75 percent of transgender respondents reported having avoided talking about personal topics with coworkers, supervisors, or bosses to avoid discrimination or harassment at work for being LGBTQ+. 

LGBTQ+ communities in the South suffer from a lack of diversity, according to a post-survey focus group of 37 queer people of color (QPOC) conducted by the Institute and Dr. Ashlei R. Petion, assistant professor at Nova Southeastern University’s counseling department. “The overall LGBTQ+ community treats whiteness as the default, with spaces made by and for white queers with QPOC being at best an afterthought,” said one participant. “In these white-centered spaces, there’s a fear of always having to pick one (ethnic or queer identity) over the other… You have to pick and choose what parts of your identity to represent.”

“From purchasing power to political involvement, the LGBTQ+ community has significant influence on business and society,” said Giacomo Negro, professor of organization and management at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. “By developing a clearer picture of the members of the LGTBQ+ community and their experiences in critical areas such as healthcare, politics, community engagement, and the workplace, we are able to highlight progress and identify barriers that this group faces. We are proud of the data we discovered in partnership with the Institute and we hope it will inspire future research.” 

Access the full 2022 Southern Survey report and QPOC focus group at lgbtqsouthernsurvey.org. Additional key findings:

LGBTQ Identity 

– 22.5 percent of respondents reported being under 10 years old when they first felt that they were LGBTQ+, with a majority (58.1%) feeling this way by age 14.
– 55 percent of respondents reported telling someone else that they were, or might be, LGBTQ+ before they were age 20.
– 78 percent of respondents think their LGBTQ+ identity is something positive in their lives, and 56 percent consider this identity as important to how they see themselves. Yet, more than 83 percent of respondents reported having been subject – a few times or more frequently in their lives – to slurs or jokes because they are, or are perceived to be, LGBTQ+.

Education

– Fifty-four percent of respondents reported having been harassed or bullied for being LGBTQ+.
– Multiracial/Other identified respondents were most likely to report having changed schools to avoid or minimize discriminatory treatment.

Workplace

– More than 56 percent of the respondents view their workplace as very accepting for LGBTQ+ employees, and 71 percent of the respondents answered having more than one individual that they consider an ally at work.
– But 55 percent of respondents avoided talking about personal topics with coworkers, supervisors, or bosses to avoid discrimination or harassment at work for being LGBTQ+. 
– Black respondents were less represented in our sample. At the same time, their experiences of sexual assault by a coworker, boss, client, or customer constitute with the experiences of Multiracial/Other respondents the majority of sexual assault experiences within our survey cohort (six percent and eight percent respectively).

Political Attitudes and Voting Behavior

– Respondents’ top priorities for LGBTQ+ community advocates and state political leaders were protecting marriage for same-sex couples, health care coverage for transgender people, adoption rights for same-sex couples, and stopping laws that permit discrimination against LGBTQ+ people on the basis of religion.

Travel and Leisure

– The most important factor for respondents, when considering travel in the South, was the things to see and do (57%), with concerns about safety and security being the second most important factor (27%) when traveling.
– The majority cited Atlanta, Georgia as the most accommodating destination; followed by Asheville, North Carolina; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Key West, Florida.

###

Previous article“MBA students need a ‘business-plus’ degree focused on emerging tech, Emory Goizueta dean says,” Fortune
Next article“How much is an early presidential primary worth? Georgia hopes $1 billion,” NBC News
We offer insights from Emory University's Goizueta Business School. EmoryBusiness.com is an extension of a long-standing print publication of the same name.