News

Oxford County Rainbow Coalition releases results of 2016 survey of 137 members of the LGBTQ community

By Heather Rivers, Woodstock Sentinel-Review

A recent report compiled from a survey of the Oxford County LGBTQ community suggests that group of residents still feels much more marginalized than the rest of the population.

In a survey conducted in 2016 by Oxford County’s Rainbow Coalition of the LGBTQ community, only 25 per cent of 137 respondents aged 16 years and older felt a strong sense of belonging to the community.

This is in stark contrast to the 55 per cent of residents in Oxford County who felt a strong sense of belonging, based on findings in the Oxford County Community Wellbeing Survey.

“We felt this was low,” explained Oxford County public health nurse and coalition member Gayle Milne. “We felt that (this statistic) was important to pay attention to. It is something to talk about and measure in the future.”

The survey was commissioned by the Oxford County Rainbow Coalition to better understand the experiences and needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people in Oxford County.

It is the first comprehensive report to provide local data on the health and wellbeing of the Oxford County’s LGBTQ community.

The 66-page report was completed through a collaboration between the Oxford County Rainbow Coalition and the Equity Sexual Health and HIV Research Group at Wilfrid Laurier University, with support from the Oxford County public health.

The survey was also the bearer of relatively good news for the LGBTQ community with over 90 per cent of survey participants reporting that people in their lives — such as friends, partners, teachers and classmates — were somewhat or very supportive of their sexual orientation.

“Ninety per cent is a good response rate, we thought,” Milne said. “Hopefully in the future surveys it will be closer to 100 per cent.”

About half of the 137 survey respondents said they had five or more close friends or relatives that they felt comfortable with and could talk to openly.

Other findings included the fact 85 per cent of participants had a regular primary health-care provider or had access to a walk-in clinic.

However, only 56 per cent of LGBTQ participants had revealed their sexual orientation to their health-care provider, and almost half had dealt with a health-care provider who assumed they were heterosexual.

The report can be reviewed in its entirety at oxfordcounty.ca//Partners-professionals/Reports-and-publications.

Oxford County Rainbow Coalition is a working group that recognizes the importance of providing support to Oxford’s LGBTQ community and addressing issues of homophobia and heterosexism.

The group's mission is to create a safer and more supportive environment for all people in Oxford.

Milne said recently they have been working with local businesses and organizations in a “safe space” program.

The program, she said, shows how “small changes can make a difference.”

This Saturday the coalition is sponsoring a Family Pride Day at Southside Park where members of the LGBTQ community, friends, family and supporters can take part in “a positive and fun event.”

The event takes place from noon to 4 p.m.

An adult only Pride Party will follow at Riffs Music Lounge featuring BACA at 8 p.m. Cost is $5.

For more information visit the Facebook page Oxford County’s Rainbow Coalition.

HRivers@postmedia.com