‘More than one-third of all LGBTQ+ people in the United States are Southerners,’ — Dr. Austin H. Johnson, Director of the Southern Equality Research & Policy Center.

A new project known as the Southern Equality Research & Policy Center (SERPC) was launched by the Asheville-based political activism organization Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE) on August 20. 

According to SERPC Director Dr. Austin H. Johnson, this new research program was created with the intent to expand representation and information for and about LGBTQ individuals in the South. 

“More than one-third of all LGBTQ+ people in the United States are Southerners,” Johnson explains, “Yet there has historically been a distinct lack of research on the population. Less than 10 percent of social research on LGBTQ people has been focused on those in the South, and limited data underlines significant disparities in key areas of life, including families, workplaces, schools and public life.”

The Campaign for Southern Equality has conducted research-driven projects in the past. One of these was the 2018 Southern Trans Health Focus Group Project. CSE polled 48 individuals throughout North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi about HIV care and access to comprehensive healthcare in 2018. Another such study, “Southern LGBTQ Health Survey,” was conducted in 2019 and explored depression and anxiety in over 5,600 individuals in the queer community. 

Deputy Director of SERPC, Dr. Abigail Brown is enthusiastic about the future of the program as well as the information they hope to uncover through research. Says Brown: “The South is home to sustained legislative efforts to undermine the dignity and equality of LGBTQ people. As we continue to push back against these attacks, one vital tool must be inclusive data collection and analysis to understand the lived experience of LGBTQ Southerners.”

The developments of SERPC are sure to allow for further analyses of small towns to take place. And, in doing so, the program may be able to design outreach programs around the specific needs of LGBTQ persons in specific areas.

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