LGBTQI Community Survey Needs Your Input!

A new community survey is being conducted to better understand the needs of our local LGBTQI communities (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex). LGBTQI people and allies who live, work, study, or play in Sonoma County are invited to participate. The survey is available online.

The survey is being conducted by Colin Close, co-founder of FTM Sonoma County (www.FTMSC.org). When asked what prompted him to do the survey, Close said, “I know there are a lot of queer folks in Sonoma County. We are plentiful, but do we feel connected? Do we know how to find each other? Do we understand and support each other’s struggles for equal rights and social acceptance? Are we addressing the most critical needs and issues facing our various communities?”

That’s why a survey is needed, Close explained. “We have a huge information gap. The survey is designed to help us shed some light on these questions and provide useful information to individuals, community groups, nonprofits, and service providers seeking to make a difference.”

Before launching the survey, Close did some demographic research. “I wanted to better understand how many queer folks live in Sonoma County so that I can gauge the survey response rate. I discovered a recent Gallop poll which states that 4% of Californians identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (http://tinyurl.com/bzj9wmc). Doing the math, that’s nearly 20,000 LGBT people in Sonoma County.”

He’s not convinced that survey tells the whole story. “Frankly, I think that number is low. The 2010 US Census (http://tinyurl.com/clyfrt6) shows that Sonoma County has the second highest concentration of gay and lesbian couples in California (San Francisco County ranked number one). While we don’t have an accurate count, I think it’s safe to assume we have at least 25,000 LGBTQI folks in Sonoma County. But more importantly – where is everyone? And what are the most pressing issues facing our various LGBTQI communities?”

Close notes that Sonoma County was recently named the third most tolerant place in the U.S. by the Martin Prosperity Institute (http://tinyurl.com/bsjnkry), which based it’s assessment in part on the US census data about the high concentration of gay and lesbian couples here.

While this sounds encouraging, Close points out that large numbers do not necessarily result in a strong sense of unity, belonging, or well being. “In fact,” says Close, “Many LGBTQI people feel isolated, or they want to get involved in community-building efforts but are not sure where to go or who to contact or which priorities are most pressing.”

Close relates to these experiences. “I co-founded FTM Sonoma County in 2004 because I had no idea how to find local trans men for support and friendship. Plus I wanted to help make Sonoma County better for people of all genders.” As a result, for the past 10 years he has done as much advocacy work, public speaking, and community organizing as his free time allows. This has brought him into contact with many other LGBTQI people and allies.

“I’ve noticed that people all across the rainbow of sexual and gender diversity in Sonoma County sometimes feel disconnected,” said Close. “Or they might feel passionate about making Sonoma County a better place for LGBTQI people but they aren’t sure what work needs to be done. The point of the survey is to help us identify our local priorities and develop avenues for coming together to make life better for all of us.”

The results of the survey will be posted online (probably in July) and available for free download at www.FTMSC.org. “I’m hoping that at least 500 people complete the survey. Then I’ll do the number crunching and write a report. It sounds nerdy š but I love collecting data and turning it into useful information. Doing this sort of volunteer community service is really meaningful to me.”

On a final note, Close said, “I want to encourage LGBTQI people and allies to participate in the survey and share the link to everyone they know. The more people that complete the survey, the more meaningful the results will be. And a warm ‘thank you’ everyone who participates. Your input is invaluable.”