Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2020-07-08
About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



Dr. Tonda Hughes talks 20 years studying queer women's health, future plans
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Nursing professor Dr. Tonda Hughes has devoted much of her professional life to researching health issues that affect women; alcohol consumption among sexual minority women, for example, has been among her interests.

"It was like starting with a blank slate, because almost no research had been done with lesbian women, and bisexual women were almost completely invisible," said Hughes

She is the principal investigator for the Chicago Health and Life Experiences of Women ( CHLEW ) study, which launched in 1999 and was the first federally-funded study of its kind. Over the past 20 years, the project has grown into the longest running study of sexual minority women's health worldwide.

Hughes applied for the original grant when she was a relatively new assistant professor at University of Illinois at Chicago ( UIC ), and the CHLEW study has been housed at the university ever since.

According to CHLEW Project Manager Kelly Martin, the project is unique in that it includes a much more diverse group of participants than many studies of its kind. Researchers made concerted efforts to include women of color, older women and women with lower levels of education, all groups that have been underrepresented in studies of sexual minority women's health. In the 2010-2012 phase of the study, 373 women were added to the original 447 women who participated in the 2000-2001 and the 2003-2005 phases of the study.

Currently, the CHLEW study is conducting a fourth round of interviews. The team wants to expand the study to eventually focus more on issues such as parenting, aging and care-giving.

Due to the longitudinal nature of the study, Hughes and her team will be able to evaluate the impact of the 2015 landmark decision to legalize same-sex marriage in the U.S.

"I want participants to understand what an historic and important study this is, and how their participation is vital for understanding more about sexual minority women's health," said Martin. "Dr. Hughes was quite brave to begin this study 20 years ago and I am proud to have contributed to its success."

Another historic event that may influence CHLEW findings is the 2016 presidential election. To prepare for the current phase of the study, collaborator and postdoctoral fellow Dr. Cindy Veldhuis helped develop an online study of sexual minority women and trans people.

The survey was launched in December 2016 and over 1000 people responded. The respondents reported high levels of depression, anxiety and concerns as a result of the election. Not only were they worried about the possibility that LGBTQ rights would be rescinded, they were also deeply concerned about the rights of other marginalized groups, the ACA and losing healthcare.

Veldhuis said, "We need more research, particularly longitudinal research such as the CHLEW study, to better understand whether the negative effects of the 2016 election grow larger over time, and how the more positive effects of marriage equality might buffer fears and concerns arising about the current administration."

Currently, Hughes is a UIC professor emerita and a senior scholar in lesbian and bisexual women's health at Columbia University's School of Nursing where she also serves as director of Global Health Research. She hopes to use these two roles to increase visibility of LGBTQ people and their health across the globe. She is currently working with researchers in Africa, Asia, Australia, Latin America and the Middle East on sexual and gender minority-related health projects.

When asked if she had encountered any obstacles or pushback on the CHLEW study, Hughes said, "In the beginning some of my well-meaning senior colleagues advised me not to focus on sexual minority women's health—at least until I received tenure."

She ignored that advice.

Another hurdle that Hughes overcame occurred in 2003, when her study was one of a number of other LGBTQ studies funded by the National Institutes of Health ( NIH ) that was included on a conservative religious coalition's "hit list." The coalition demanded that NIH offer proof that studies on the list had the potential to improve the public's health.

"Although I was in good company with other researchers from major universities in the U.S., the effects were chilling, because at one point it seemed that the NIH might be forced to withdraw funding from some of the studies," said Hughes. "Over the years, I have received a great deal of positive press, especially from your publication. I have also received negative press from conservative newspapers and blogs about my research. Despite these 'bumps' along the way, I feel extremely fortunate to be living in these historic times and to have the opportunity to contribute to the improvement of sexual minority women's health."

Hughes expressed gratitude for the continuing success of the CHLEW study—including recent promising news of new funding that will allow inclusion of the partners of CHLEW participants.

When asked if she thought she would ever reach this 20-year milestone, Hughes said, "Not at first, but because I was mentored by an incredible woman, Dr. Sharon Wilsnack, who was conducting a 20-year-long study of drinking among women in the general U.S. population, we had the foresight to ask women who participated in the first phase of the CHLEW study if they would be willing to be re-contacted in the future should we be able to obtain funding for follow-up studies. And, as they say, the rest is history."

Hughes said the success of the study has everything to do with those participants' willingness to be interviewed over the years. She is proud of the CHLEW study and what has been accomplished and hopes that participants share in that pride.

Both Hughes and Martin told Windy City Times that they have lost touch with some of the participants over the years and are asking them to call 312-355-3657 or send an email to so they can be added back into the study. This request only applies to the people who were already recruited for the study, not new participants.

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

Welbon invited to join Motion Picture Academy 2020-07-09 - Local Black lesbian filmmaker Yvonne Welbon was among the 819 artists and executives invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and ...

Gay News

Bisexual actress cast as new lead in 'Batwoman' 2020-07-08 - God Friended Me co-star Javicia Leslie has been cast as the new Batwoman, succeeding Ruby Rose, who exited the role after the end ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Paris Jackson, GALECA nods, Halle Berry, Jennifer Holliday 2020-07-07 - More than 274,000 people have signed a petition to prevent the distribution of the indie film Habit, which critics say is "Christianophobic ...

Gay News

WORLD African country's pro-LGBT move, Pride marches, lesbian singer 2020-07-07 - In a landmark decision on July 6, the Senate of Gabon voted to decriminalize same-sex relations with 59 votes in favor, 17 against ...

Gay News

Chicago Sky hosts 'Unapologetically You' Pride virtual panel 2020-07-02 - In honor of Pride month, the Chicago Sky held a virtual panel "Being Unapologetically You" June 23 focused on success stories from three ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Athlete/ex-servicemember dies, Stonewall Inn, Pride attendees arrested 2020-06-29 - Angela Madsen—a member of the LGBTQ community whose remarkable life included a spell in the Marines, several medals ( including a bronze in ...

Gay News

Illinois' LGBTQ cabinet members discuss equality, coronavirus 2020-06-24 - Among those conte=nding with coronavirus preparedness, not to mention the effects from the resulting shutdowns, were numerous state government officials. They were tasked ...

Gay News

she crew leaders reflect on feats, end of organization 2020-06-24 - Six years after its founding, {she crew} has announced that the organization will be ending later this year. Co-founders Meredith Montgomery and Jess ...

Gay News

LGBTQ artists' installation being moved to Chicago 2020-06-23 - For the closing ceremony of last summer's World Pride in New York City, a work of art celebrating the LGBTQ community was wrapped ...

Gay News

81,000 'Dreamers' identify as LGBT, 39,000 of them have participated in DACA 2020-06-18 - There are an estimated 81,000 LGBT Dreamers in the U.S., including 39,000 who have participated in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals ( DACA ...


Copyright © 2020 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.