LSU class targets sex discrimination with new survey
Students in an LSU social work class will begin collecting data that could help protect the rights and improve the treatment of a slice of the Baton Rouge population.
LSU associate professor Elaine M. Maccio has taught the Social Work with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) People class at the university since 2007.
Each year, the class joins with a nonprofit group for a service-learning project.
Sometime before mid-November, the 20 students in Maccio’s class will begin to collect data in a survey for the Capital City Alliance. The alliance is a nonprofit organization that works to improve the quality of life of LGBT people in Baton Rouge and surrounding parishes.
The class’s focus with this survey is discrimination against the local population in housing, employment and public accommodation.
The survey will be the fourth service learning collaboration between Maccio’s class and CCA.
In 2007 and 2011, Maccio’s class conducted quality of life surveys of the Baton Rouge area’s LGBT population. Although the conclusions and data from the 2011 quality of life survey have not been released, the 2007 data showed about seven in 10 respondents said discrimination against them was common in and around Baton Rouge, and four in 10 said they had been victims in the preceding 12 months. There were 350 respondents to the 2007 survey.
The discrimination cited in the results was overwhelmingly nonviolent and largely consisted of public name-calling, the respondents said.
Two respondents, both LSU students, said they were victims of assault.
Still, 16 percent of the respondents in the 2007 survey said they personally felt unsafe, and 15 percent thought law enforcement treated them unfairly.
“In order to help illustrate the fact that LGBT discrimination is still a big problem, we wanted to have stories, not numbers, to help people make that personal connection,” CCA Education and Advocacy Committee Chairman Matthew Patterson said when asked why the need for a new, more-specific survey.
Patterson said he hopes the survey will help his group find personal stories that can be used for advocacy efforts and in conversations with policy makers around the issues.
“It’s very difficult for someone to refuse to believe that a problem exists when there’s a face and a story they can associate with it,” Patterson said. “It’s also important to CCA to make sure that we’re advocating for the right people in the right way — we want to make sure that we’re arguing for changes that will benefit everyone in the LGBT community rather than accidentally leaving some people out just because we haven’t done the right kinds of outreach.”
“I can tell you beyond the shadow of a doubt that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is absolutely a big problem in Baton Rouge, as well as around the state. We have no state or federal laws providing protections from this kind of discrimination,” he said.
“I have lost count of the number of people who have come to me or other leaders in CCA and told us their boss was making anti-gay remarks, or that they feared losing their job if their co-workers found out that they are transgender, or who have been sexually harassed and had their complaints blown off,” Patterson said.
The class has come up with a 13-question survey that respondents can fill out anonymously online.
The participants may have the option to participate in a future audio- or videotaped interview in which they describe discrimination.
For information about the survey, visit http://www.ccabatonrouge.org.
Steven Ward is a general assignment reporter at The Advocate. He can be reached at (225) 388-0303 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.