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Cohen Addresses LGBT Issues of Black Community Nationwide

By Edna Guerrasio
On April 16, 2002

Thursday, April 11, Cathy J. Cohen, renowned author and professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, came to Trinity to speak of a recent study that examined the minority gay community. The lecture, entitled "Not Only Black, Not Only Queer: Our First Systematic Examination of Black Gay Public Opinion," focused on the results of a survey that was taken last year at Black Gay Pride events across the country.As a graduate of Miami University, Ohio, Cohen went on teach Political Science, with an emphasis on African American studies, at Yale University. After teaching at Yale for several years, Cohen has just accepted her most recent position as a professor of political science at the University of Chicago. In addition to passing on her knowledge in the classroom, Cohen has also written several books pertaining to the Black Gay community. Her most recent book, "Boundaries of Blackness" not only won numerous awards, but placed Cohen among the top 100 African American authors of the past century.

Last fall, Cohen and three of her colleagues created a 35 question survey that was divided into three sections: basic information, political behavior and discrimination. Since this was the first survey ever created to specifically target minority gays, the authors tried to be as thorough as possible in the least obtrusive way. The organizers of the survey used targeted sampling as the means by which they obtained participants. According to demographics and regional diversity, the group chose several cities across the country in which to administer the survey at Black Gay Pride events.

The results of the survey showed that population polled was 58% male, 46% female and 2% transgender. Of these numbers, 48% were single, 27% were in a committed relationship, 6% were married to someone of the same sex and 2% were married to someone of the opposite sex. The average income of the group was between $30,000 and $40,000 and average age was 34, however the ages ranged from 14 to 81 years old.

When asked about the problems of discrimination both in the black gay community and surrounding it, researchers found that 48% of those polled felt that racism towards them was a problem, especially in the white LGBT community. The groups also expressed that homophobia was an issue within the black LGBT community. However, the results also showed that the belief that African Americans are more homophobic that whites is false, with over 72% of blacks supporting gay laws and only 63% of whites.

The survey also touched upon the aspects of family life, personal identification and religion. When participants were asked about the reaction of their families towards their sexual orientation, the responses showed that 54% received a positive reaction, 24% received a negative reaction and 26% experienced both a negative and positive reaction from family members. When asked about the issue of religion, over 54% of the respondents said that their church views homosexuality as wrong and sinful, however an overwhelming 97% of participants claimed to have a religious affiliation. The last question on the survey asked participants to choose which label identifies their sexual orientation most accurately. Of those that answered, 46% chose gay, 24% identified with lesbian, 21% marked bisexual, 8% chose same-gender-loving, 1% picked transgender and 13% wrote in choices such as "I like what I like," questioning and fagot. Of all those that were listed, Queer was the least picked. The participants felt that the label queer identified with white college students who have a greater access to resources. "It holds a radical promise that has not yet found the black LGBT people."

In concluding her overview of the survey's results, Cohen said, "We know very little about the black LGBT community because there has been very little research done. Hopefully this will serve as a foundation that will enrich future surveys.

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