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RTI: 20-Year Study Shows 'No Evidence' LGBTQ People Pose A Public Threat

a young man holding a pride flag
Flickr, Creative Commons
A report from the non-profit research institute RTI International says violence and harassment against LGBTQ people has remained prevalent in recent decades.

LGBTQ people face a high risk of physical and sexual violence and harassment, according to Triangle-based nonprofit research institute RTI International.

Social Scientist Tasseli McKay analyzed 20 years' worth of research on violence perpetrated by and against members of the LGBTQ community. She says she found no evidence of transgender people abusing cisgender people, whose sex matches their gender expression.

McKay said her victimization study explores bias-related violence experienced by members of the LGBTQ community. She said North Carolina's House Bill 2 was the impetus for the research. That law restricts local anti-discrimination ordinances anti-discrimination ordinances. It also requires transgender people to use public bathrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates.

HB2 supporters say the law is intended to protect women and girls, but McKay said the law was not founded on data.

McKay said found that students who seem to be queer—whether or not they are—are more likely to be targets of assault and bullying. This often leads to poor performance in school, depression and self-harm, she said.

"LGBTQ youth, or youth who are perceived as LGBTQ youth who experience victimization, are anywhere from two to four times as likely to attempt suicide compared to other youth," said McKay.

She also found that even though the public seems to be more aware of issues facing gay and transgender people, LGBTQ people face just as much violence and harassment as ever, if not more. McKay said that could be because queer people and characters are more visible in pop culture and media.

"I think we're in this very potent and fraught moment in history where young people are getting a message where maybe it's okay to be themselves and then facing violence and harassment when they are," she said.

McKay said her research also showed that members of the LGBTQ community tend to feel safer when public policy protects them, as when certain states legalized gay marriage. She said transgender people in Durham reported that HB2 made them feel less safe in public.


Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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