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Health dept. issues groundbreaking report on LGBT youth, adults
by Matt Simonette

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City officials released an extensive 89-page report on Chicago's LGBT community's health needs they said they hope will call attention to the community's needs and issues.

The report, according to Chicago Department of Public Health Deputy Commissioner Brian Richardson, "is the first time that we have data on LGBT health issues across the spectrum."

Among the data highlights of the report is an estimation of the total LGBT population of the city: about 146,000 persons, or about 7.5 percent of the population. About 80,000 of those persons identify as male, while 66,000 identify as female. Of the total LGBT, 10,500 identify as transgender ( .5 percent of Chicago's population ).

The report was unveiled to city officials, police representatives, service providers and advocates at a meeting March 23, to whom Richardson said, "We don't want this data to sit on a shelf."

At that meeting, Antonio King of CDPH said that the report "captured behaviors, health and quality of life issues" of LGBT Chicagoans.

But King also discussed the inherent difficulties in capturing information about particular parts of the LGBT community, specifically transgender Chicagoans, and acknowledged that the report would only scrape the surface of details required on the particular needs of certain community segments.

"We want to make sure that they know that we know that this is not enough information," he said.

Epidemiologist Kingsley Weaver, the chief author of the study, said that the report was not intended as a "life-course snapshot" of LGBT Chicagoans as they age, but rather a "broad, holistic picture of LGBT health."

Officials said that the report, an outgrowth of the Healthy Chicago 2.0 initiative, would be updated annually, with Kingsley adding, "The fact that we have a baseline … is pretty profound."

But an inherent hurdle to such a study is framing information so that the disparities discussed are not portrayed as the result of having a particular identity, but are framed as being caused by stigma and discrimination instead.

Richardson said that the authors "make it clear that the disparities we face are because of the stigma … . It's because of how they are treated because of their identity."

Meeting participants were largely supportive and enthusiastic, but said that implementing the data would require thoughtful and deliberate cooperation from CDPH.

"We need to know what specific CDPH resources and strategies are in place on issues such as bullying," said John Peller, CEO and president of AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

Francesca Gaiba, associate director of the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health at Northwestern University, said, "I just want us to continue to remind each other that this is a partnership … . Let's frame objectives and the strategies we need to do, and go after the funding."

Among other findings highlighted by CDPH in a March 23 summary: Lesbian and bisexual females are more likely to be current smokers than heterosexual females at all life stages; LGB youth are less likely to have had a wellness visit in the past year; male and female youth who identify as LGB are more likely to report being physically forced to have sex; and gay men are more likely to meet colorectal cancer screening guidelines and to have had an HIV test.

"We know that the only way to ensure a greater quality of life and access to services for LGBT individuals is to better understand the size of, and opportunities and challenges specific to Chicago's LGBT community," said CDPH Commissioner Julie Morita, M.D., in a statement. "This report is a first step, giving providers, elected officials and community leaders a deeper understanding of Chicago's LGBT population so we can in turn help better strengthen the community."

Data were collected for youth using the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Survey ( YRBS ) of Chicago Public School students grades 9-12 and for those 18+, the CDPH Healthy Chicago Survey ( HCS ), a random telephone survey. Charts and tables are provided to glean differences or similarities between ( 1 ) males and females who identify as LGB compared to their heterosexual peers ( GB in the case of male stands for Gay/Bisexual ), ( 2 ) between males and females who identify as LGB and ( 3 ) between LGB and heterosexual identified individuals overall.

The report also noted these key findings:

— Older LGB and older heterosexuals report similar levels of overall well being to each other. This is in contrast to differences that exist among young adults in both groups.

— Similarly, older LGB adults are far less likely to report psychological distress than younger adults.

— Male gay and bisexual youth report alarmingly high rates of substance use, particularly heroin and prescription drugs.

— Transgender and gender non-conforming adults are less likely to report good overall health and far more likely to report psychological distress than their cisgender peers.

The age breakdown for the CDPH report states there are an estimated 80,000 LGBT people age 18-44, and 56,000 age 45+. Some 97,000 are estimated to be single, never married; 10,000 member of an unmarried couple; 2,000 in a civil union; 24,000 married; 9,000 separated or divorced; and 1,000 widowed.

The racial breakdown is: Latino/Latina 28,000; Non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islander 7,000; Non-Hispanic Black/African American 44,000; Non-Hispanic Other 2,000; and Non-Hispanic White 65,000.

Full report at .

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