The Network

for LGBT Tobacco Control

LGBT Population Research Center Mtg on Intersectionality – part 1

Scout, Network Director
Reporting from the Intersectionality Working Group Meeting
of the LGBT Population Center at The Fenway Institute
Boston, MA

Meeting Background

The Fenway Institute has another really cool project (in addition to ours), the LGBT Population Research Center. This is the first federally funded population research center that focuses on us. It’s a really fascinating concept where the Center works to help convene and support LGBT population researchers to share information and grow new collaborative research projects. I’m lucky enough to be a faculty member, so I get to go to those cool meetings that bring the researchers together to confab and plan. I’ll tell you, they’re always valuable, there’s nothing like an occasional face to face to really jump ideas forward. So now, how does that lead us to today? Well, at a recent population center meeting Ilan Meyer and our own Steering Committee member, Phoenix Matthews, both started talking about the issues related to LGBT research on race and ethnicity. This germ of an idea has now grown into a specially convened meeting on Intersectionality. So now we’re here in the room with about 25 LGBT researchers who’ve specialized in research on LGBT race, ethnicity, or other facets of intersectionality. You know we’re all about sharing information here at the Network, so let me see if I can speedtype and try to give you a birdseye view of the meeting. Excuse these longer than usual posts, but there’s an amazing amount of expertise in the room and this is a too rare type of gathering to let the discussion float off into the ether.

Just a note, within the first twenty minutes alone it was clear the meeting was exceptional, the excitement was palpable. In the words of one researcher “I’m literally choking up because I’m so happy I’m not the only Black researcher in the room.”

Caution High Gobblygook Ahead: While we tried to translate into plain language, there’s no escaping this was a dense scientific meeting.

Lisa Bowleg, PhD

Margaret Rosario, PhD

Panel 1: Theoretical Conceptual Issues for Intersectionality

Panelists: Lisa Bowleg, Hector Carrillo, David Chae, Margaret Rosario, Bianca Wilson

Hector Carrillo, DrPH

Bianca Wilson, PhD

The day kicks off with a rapidfire panel asking “What is Intersectionality?” “Who should be involved?” “How does it help us think about LGBT health?” Perfect for me, because I think I’m a bit weak on question 1, what is intersectionality? David Chae gives the definition below. He notes that it’s traditionally been interpreted as being the study of the intersections of race and gender.

Intersectionality: Traditionally used to describe a structure of interlocking oppressive systems.

Lisa Bowleg frames it up fast, “We’re not interested in identities alone, we’re interested in social justice and power.” “And so often, data we get doesn’t help us. I’m looking at the Census tables and I’m looking for intersections, and I just get the table on Blacks or on women. That doesn’t help me.” As David says, intersectionality is really about disentangling that “Matrix of Oppression”, in some cases social identities may be more important than others and intersectionality between them may be more or less relevant.

David points out that identity is both internally adopted and externally ascribed. There’s some evidence that the externally ascribed identity might impact people more than internally ascribed for both race and sexuality. (In plain talk: what folk think you are might affect you more than what you think you are.) “Disease emergence is a socially produced phenomena” -Paul Farmer. David has some great graphics showing how socially oppressive systems, group identity and discrimination all feed into health outcomes.

Margaret Rosario uses an interesting term, she asks “How are identities arranged? Does this give us information about their health?” Some people arrange their identities hierarchically. They are usually ranked in importance by a few factors: “salience or likelihood of being activated by others”, individuals own subjective basis, or temporal grounds. What are temporal grounds? That might be something that is designated in certain contexts, like a researchers deciding “you may not identify as ____, but I think you belong in that group.” Now we can consider identities as intersecting, like in a venn diagram, but we could also consider them as nesting, so we need to explore intersectionality as one possible model.

Bianca Wilson talks about how she sees intersectionality as potentially three different constructs. She’s done a lot of work exploring these contexts with black lesbians. First, it’s the Matrix of Domination (I want to get that slide). Where the “holy trinity” of oppressive factors (race, sex, class) interact with other factors like fat-based sizeism, and heterosexism. All stand alone, plus potentially interact with each other, each independent unit or interaction flowing into the total health of a person. There where some interesting discussions here about a threshold effect in discrimination. There have been studies showing white people react more poorly to adverse incidents than people of color, the hypothesis is that experiencing something more routinely raises your threshold of tolerance. But what other effects does it have? Second, intersectionality represents interlocking sources of socialization. You are both socialized and trained by the different communities you’re affiliated with, that socialization often builds resiliency and sets standards for what is “routine”. Third, intersectionality represents multiple community affiliations, the different current social experiences you have continue to build your health context all throughout your life.

Hector Carrillo talks a bit about the potential pitfalls of intersectionality. According to him, as we explore this we run the risk of essentializing the sexuality of the people we’re studying. He worries that essentializing the sexual culture within these communities is the same phenomena that has led to the ‘othering’ of LGBT people of color too often. (cripes he talks fast) He also says, when we study the multiple lines of oppression, we run the risk of exaggerating their overall impact. We know people display amazing resiliency, that’s hard to measure. He cautions that to use intersectionality as a frame, we need to not only look at oppression, we need to really look at the different contextual factors. He’d like to suggest that we can approach research and programming not by directly asking about identities, that we instead ask about their lives, and look at the emphasis areas, then do the analytical work to see what is relevant to them in different contexts. Juan Battle heartily agrees “I really like the idea of adding intersectionality on the back end, because otherwise, it’s kinda like asking a fish to describe water. You can’t do it because you’ve never been out of it.” Lisa Bowleg also concurs, “The onus is really, really on the analyst for intersectionality. Data do not stand on their own, they have to be interpreted. The analyst has to have a voice in this work.”

Margaret really sums it up, “The body and the mind remember, we may forget the many insults to us, but the body and mind remember, and those memories can be activated when they get to a certain threshold.

Whew, and that’s it, time for a break. Back with more later!

Advertisements

March 25, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

LGBQQ Youths Wanted: For Online Health Behavior Survey

by John Blosnich, guest blogger

Greetings,

A research study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at the West Virginia University (WVU) Department of Community Medicine seeks participants to complete an online survey about sexual orientation, health behaviors and life experiences.  We are looking for people who:

•     Are between 18-24 years of age

•     Identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, or questioning (i.e., sexual minority)

•     Have 15-20 minutes to complete an anonymous, online survey

The survey website is: www.lgbhealthsurvey.com

If you deem it appropriate, we would greatly appreciate it if you could pass along this information to others who might qualify to participate.  For more information, contact John Blosnich at 304/293.1702 or email jblosnich@hsc.wvu.edu

This study has been reviewed and approved by the West Virginia University Institutional Review Board and approval is on file.

Thanks for considering,

John

John Blosnich, MPH

PhD Candidate, Public Health Sciences

West Virginia University Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center

Department of Community Medicine

Translational Tobacco Reduction Research Program

March 10, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Action Alert- Attn Orgs! Sign on to Create an Office of LGBT Health

Action Alert from the National Coalition for LGBT Health

The federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is considering creating a dedicated Office of LGBT Health. This would be an incredible affirmation of the importance of LGBT health and would help keep LGBT health concerns high on the list of priorities for attention, funding, and programming.

HHS is expected to make this decision before Thanksgiving. Due to the tight timeline, we are asking groups and organizations to sign on to the letter below by not later than 1 PM EST tomorrow (Friday, 11/20).

If your group or organization would like to sign on, please email Kellan Baker Policy Associate at the National Coalition for LGBT Health. Please do not hesitate to contact Kellan with any questions.

Please join us in supporting an Office of LGBT Health and a healthier future for the LGBT community!

November 19, 2009

The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius
Secretary for Health
Department of Health and Human Services
Washington, D.C. 20201

Dear Secretary Sebelius,

The undersigned organizations are writing to you in support of the creation of an Office of LGBT Health to address the health disparities facing the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. An Office of LGBT Health at the highest level of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is critical to creating a lasting infrastructure that will allow for a focus the health concerns of the LGBT community. This office would take the lead in coordinating a consistent, scientifically driven, and substantive response across HHS to LGBT health disparities.

For LGBT people, systemic discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression has led to decades of obstructed access to health care and has significant negative impacts on the overall health of LGBT individuals. LGBT people suffer disproportionately from the adverse health effects of stigma, stress, and violence, further compounded by the barriers that prevent them from accessing vital health care services even for routine care: research has consistently shown that being LGBT substantially impacts whether or not a person receives care and, when they do receive care, whether that care effectively speaks to all aspects of their lives. Moreover, many members of the LGBT community are members of other communities that also face substantial health disparities and are thus vulnerable to cumulative negative outcomes. For example, an African-American gay man faces disparities common to the African-American community as well as those suffered by the LGBT community, and a transsexual Spanish-speaking woman, regardless of her sexual orientation, must navigate multiple instances of discrimination based on language, ethnicity, and gender.

These health and health care disparities are now recognized by numerous divisions of HHS, including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The HHS Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Healthy People 2020 has also acknowledged the imperative to address the disparities in health status and health care access that impact the LGBT community. An autonomous Office of LGBT Health within HHS is a key step in coordinating and streamlining the agency’s efforts to address LGBT health disparities and would be a laudable demonstration of the agency’s commitment to the health and well-being of the LGBT community.

We look forward to your reply. If you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact Rebecca Fox at the National Coalition for LGBT Health at (202) 436-0228 or Rebecca@lgbthealth.net.

Sincerely,

CC: Assistant Secretary Howard Koh

November 19, 2009 Posted by | Action Alerts | , , , | 15 Comments

   

%d bloggers like this: