Originally published in the Ohio Journal of Public Health
An increasing number of individuals are openly identifying as les- bian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender nonconforming, or queer (LGBTQ+), with Ohio patterning national trends.1 Dr. Gary Gates, a forefront expert in LGBTQ+ demography, estimates that 4.5% of Ohio’s total population self-identify somewhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Despite increasing numbers of LGBTQ+ Ohioans with very specific health and social service needs, few Ohio cities are engaging in LGBTQ+ specific community needs assessments, and even fewer rural areas engage in the practice at all. Capturing in- sight about the health status, strengths, and weaknesses in com- munity services and resources designed for members of the LGBTQ+ communities in Ohio, including its marginalized commu- nities (eg, rural, low income, people of color), would better inform key stakeholders to serve and support the LGBTQ+ community in all domains of life.
Traditionally, community needs assessments are geographically bound; however, this strategy is not sufficient for assessing LGBTQ+ community needs. Published literature documents a his- tory of gentrification in gay districts and ‘gayborhoods’ as well as a painful history of exclusion and discrimination resulting in the diffusion of specific LGBTQ+ subgroups from these geographically bound built gay communities into surrounding neighborhoods. Geographically binding LGBTQ+ specific community needs assess- ments to known gay districts and noninclusive gay community structures leads to the exclusion of marginalized LGBTQ+ individ- uals from engaging in the community needs assessment data collection process. Overlooking the importance of intentionally capturing inclusive data, caters to a predominately white upper- class and middle–class gay male demography, yielding a misrepre- sentation in the actual health status and needs of the entire population. This results in disproportionate distribution of resources to marginalized members of the LGBTQ+ community, specifically people of color and low-income communities.