The Southeast is home to roughly 35 percent of LGBT people in the U.S., the largest LGBT population in the country, according to data compiled by the Williams Institute at UCLA. This find might seem surprising to some since most Southeastern states have few or no policies protecting LGBT people. A team of researchers in Georgia are seeking to learn more about the lives of LGBT people in the South. Eric Wright, who chairs the sociology department at Georgia State University, says there are a number of reasons why so many LGBT people call this region home.
"One of which is that the cost of living generally speaking is lower in the U.S. South than in other parts of the country," he says. "There's also been what some researchers have called a reverse migration, particularly of minorities."
That means many Southern LGBT people who migrated to more progressive areas of the country are returning to the Southeast. To find out why so many call this place home, Wright and his research partner, Ryan Roemerman with the LGBT Institute created what they call the Southern Survey. It's a comprehensive study that seeks to examine the lives of LGBT people across 14 Southern states.
"One of the things that we want to be able to accomplish through this survey is to be able to provide our non-profit partners across the South with data that they can use for policy development, grassroots organizing and fundraising," Roemerman says.
The survey is by and for LGBT people in the South. This may help them better understand individual needs of the community, such as housing for transgender people or health services for lesbians living in rural areas, Wright says . And, he says, it will also help decipher the needs of this community in different Southern states. According to the LGBT Institute, more than half of the 100 anti-LGBT bills proposed this year were drafted in Southeastern states.
The survey is open through this month and the team expects to release its findings early next year.
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