In the 1980s, the nonprofit organization Identity, Inc. conducted two major research efforts to profile Alaska’s lesbian/gay/bisexual community and to document sexual orientation bias in Alaska.
One in Ten: A Profile of Alaska’s Lesbian & Gay Community (1986) provided the first statewide portrait of Alaska’s lesbian and gay (and to some extent bisexual) population, describing our experiences of coming out, of discrimination, our physical and emotional health, religious and political affiliations, demographic characteristics, and a general needs assessment. Identity Reports: Sexual Orientation Bias in Alaska (1989) focused on discrimination and bias, documenting 84 actual instances of antigay bias, discrimination, harassment, or violence (including three murders) around the state, as well as the positive willingness of 20% of landlords and 31% of employers in the Anchorage area to discriminate against persons who were — or were perceived to be — gay or lesbian.
A lot has changed in the two-and-a-half decades since. There’s a lot more live-and-let-live, a lot more acceptance of lesbians and gays. Yet the continuing legacy of antigay prejudice and discrimination persists. Arguably, prejudice against transfolk is even more virulent — often even within our own community.
One of the chief arguments used by opponents of last year’s Anchorage Ordinance 64 — which would have added sexual orientation and gender identity to the Municipality of Anchorage’s equal rights code — was that there was no evidence of discrimination against LGBT people. This claim was made in spite of the weight of evidence provided in One in Ten and Identity Reports. But of course, that evidence was two decades old, so ordinance opponents found it easy to ignore; and they found it just as easy to close their ears to the public testimony of Anchorage LGBT residents who stepped forward to testify to very recent experiences of discrimination and bias — even as one opponent openly told the Assembly that he’d once beaten a gay man so badly that he put him in the hospital.
And so — we’ve decided to bring One in Ten up-to-date by conducting a new statewide survey — the Alaska LGBT Community Survey. Like its predecessor, the Alaska LGBT Community Survey aims to create a profile of our community in all its diversity and with all its diverse concerns; and as we did in 1985-86, we’ll use the survey as vehicle to solicit case histories to document our community’s continuing experiences with discrimination, harassment, and violence. Unlike One in Ten, the Alaska LGBT Community Survey will include transfolk as well as gay, lesbian, and bisexual folk, in the design of the survey questionnaire as well as in filling it out.
We’re in a very early stage right now. We just made the firm commitment to do this last week! But we wanted to tell you about it right away.
We aim to have at least initial results of our survey by April 2011. For more and continuing information as we go along:
- subscribe to our blog at alaskacommunity.org;
- “like” our Facebook page;
- follow @alaskacommunity on Twitter; or
- do all three!
We’ll also doing our best to keep you updated through our regular LGBT news channels such as Bent Alaska, TransAlaska Pipeline, Grrlzlist, the Alaska GLBT News maillist, and — well, yeah, my own blog, Henkimaa.
— Melissa S. (Mel) Green