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New Mass. Public Health Survey Says Pandemic Hit LGBTQ+ Adults Especially Hard

Pride parade participants march through downtown Northampton, Massachusetts, on May 4, 2019.
Steve Smith
The Republican / masslive.com
Pride parade participants march through downtown Northampton, Massachusetts, on May 4, 2019.

A new survey published by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health shows that LGBTQ+ residents continued to face significant barriers to health care, jobs and housing stability during the pandemic.

Findings from the survey, conducted online between September and November 2020 with more than 33,000 adult LGBTQ+ respondents, were presented at the state's Public Health Council meeting on Wednesday.

Their concerns include gaining access to helpful economic resources with several million first-time unemployment claims filed in Massachusetts amid the pandemic. One out of five working nonbinary and transgender adults became unemployed, versus one out 10 cisgender adults during the pandemic, according to the analysis.

Out of employed adults, 23% of transgender people as well as 20% of nonbinary and pansexual adults reported reduced hours of work or took leave — significantly higher rates than straight and cisgender adults.

Economic and employment instability affected LGBTQ+ individuals' ability to maintain safe housing, according to the survey. Transgender and nonbinary adults were three times more likely to report needing housing resources than straight residents.

“We’re working on a conceptual model for how we think about housing prevention that really goes beyond housing and eligibility requirements, but really thinking about housing as a spectrum from safe, stable housing all the way to homelessness,” said Sabrina Selk, the state's director of the Office of Health Equity. “We’re really trying to be intentional in our work to increase the number of programs that are asking about housing status.”

The survey also revealed that one out of four transgender and nonbinary adults reported needing better technology to access telehealth services — a much larger rate than reported by cisgender and male adults. 

Selk said she and her team are committed to continuing to update the survey.

“We see this as a model to continue [because] it will be really critical for us to understand the changing nature of the pandemic and to continue to meet needs and people where they are,” Selk said.

Nirvani Williams covers socioeconomic disparities for New England Public Media, joining the news team in June 2021 through Report for America.
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