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LGBTQ historians reveal survey results at confab
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times

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The LGBTQ historian task force open forum took place at the 126th annual meeting of the American Historical Association (AHA), held Jan. 5-8 in Chicago. There, it revealed the results of a survey to approximately 25 people.

The survey, which garnered 383 responses from AHA members from all over the United States and Canada, asked demographic questions covering a person's gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and race, among other things.

Leisa Meyer, chair of the history department at the College of William and Mary and co-chair of the LGBTQ task force for the AHA, explained the mission of the task force, which was created in 2009 by the AHA council on a joint recommendation of the AHA professional division and the committee on LGBTQ history as a three-year endeavor. Meyer said the goal was "to investigate the policies and practices of other professional organizations and make recommendations to the AHA for best practices concerning LGBTQ members and those doing LGBTQ history, conducting a survey of LGBTQ historians and those doing LGBTQ history and make recommendations to improve the status of these groups in the profession and, finally, to produce a guide for teachers who are teaching LGBTQ courses."

Mark Stein, associate professor of history at York University, explained the details of the survey results. He noted that on the issue of educational and employment experiences, respondents said they had strongly negative experiences when it came to the academic job market, their retirement and finally benefits.

Experiences as researchers, writers or scholars were generally positive, except when it came to gaining access to internal research grants and being able to conduct research or scholarship outside of the United States and Canada. Campus and workplace experiences garnered the most negative responses, including access to medical/health leave, campus climate, emotional safety and comfort, access to spousal or domestic partner benefits and access to health care.

When asked what the most important issues the AHA LGBTQ historians task force should address to support the professional interests and concerns of LGBTQ historians, the top three involved employment issues; campus climate; and teaching, education, curriculum and pedagogy.

Jennifer Brier, associate professor of history at University of Illinois-Chicago, closed out the panel by discussing the impact of the survey results and what task force members plan to do with the information.

Debbie Doyle, administrative manager and public history coordinator at the AHA, was also among the attendees.

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